Do you ever get to the end of the day and wonder – what happened! Have you been running round reacting to things going on and haven’t even looked at your own priorities? You are not alone! If you want to learn how to get more done in the day, this is for you. I found that even in lock down I wasn’t getting any more done than when I was at work. This post is therefore as much for me as you! (I have seen a big improvement already.)
Find out where your time goes
This is a little bit of a pain to start with, but trust me, it is an absolute eye-opener and essential if you want to see exactly what you are doing now. Ideally on an excel spreadsheet, either on your computer or printed off depending on your preference, make up a page for each day and put a list of half hour time slots down the left-hand side for all of your waking hours. Opposite each time slot, write down what you did in that time and at the end of the row, make a column for each of the following categories 1=Important & Urgent, 2=Important but Not Urgent, 3=Urgent but Not Important, 4=Not Important & Not Urgent. At the end of each day, total up the number of time blocks.
Keep a note of how you spent your time for at least one week. The area you want to spend most of your time is on number 2 – important but not urgent – this is where the crucial work towards your goals takes place. If you are a fan of personal development or perhaps taken a course in time management in the past, you will have seen this before. However, how many of us actually do this?
I put things like cooking, eating, showering etc in number 1 but naturally you would include firefighting – quite possibly situations you have created by not managing your workload. The important work towards my goals (like writing this post!) goes squarely in number 2, also, anything you do in the way of personal development and exercise goes in here, I never have anything in number 3 but it’s likely to be something that someone else wants you to do in a hurry (so it’s important to them but not you!), and number 4 is doing things like scrolling social media and watching TV. Of course, you are allowed to do things like scrolling social media and watching TV! Just not at the expense of the more valuable things you need to do. By the end of the week you will be able to see very clearly where you are spending your time and what needs to change.
Make a not to do list
Do you have habits that you know are eating up your time? Have you ever picked up your phone to check for a particular email but noticed you had a Facebook notification, which led onto a YouTube video and half an hour later you remember what you were looking for? That would certainly be one bad habit! (There are apps like RescueTime that will show you exactly where you have spent your time online.) Or could it be that you constantly want to make yourself a cup of tea and don’t stay still long enough to get things done? Make a list of all of these insidious seemingly small bad habits that you have. Look at them in the morning to remind yourself what your are committing to.
At the end of the day, review your list and ask yourself how you did. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t do too well but vow to do better the next day. All of this is geared towards raising your awareness of where your time is going and why you don’t make progress.
On my list is not watching YouTube for more than half an hour (even then it has to be valuable and relevant to what my goals are) and not sitting still for 10 minutes! I have committed to sitting for 2 hours of focused time and working on my website, either writing, learning or looking for value to offer visitors to my site.
Make sure your most important tasks get done
It is natural to want to ease yourself into your day by doing some small or simple task but it won’t help you to be productive. Make a list the night before of all the things you want to get done but make sure that the most important, must-do tasks go to the top of the list and start on those as early in the day as possible. (If you are not sure, then you need to re-visit your goals.)
In a previous post, 10 Ways To Stop Procrastinating, I wrote about the Pareto Principle which states that 20% of your efforts create 80% of your results, so make sure that you are spending time doing the things that will make the biggest impact. If you make this an absolute must you will see big changes in your results. In his book, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behing Extraordinary Results, Gary Keller says that you have to get rid of the clutter and get very specific about focusing on literally the one thing that will move the needle.
Start your day right
Jim Rohn used to say ‘Run the day or the day will run you’ and in my experience, if I don’t start my day purposefully, that is 100% what happens. If you have followed my posts before, you may have seen that I am a devotee of The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod which is both a book and a practice using S.A.V.E.R.S. – 6 of the most effective personal growth strategies ever. You simply get up an hour earlier than you would (actually, that bit is not simple at first but it gets easier!) and the practices of Silence, Affirmation, Visualization, Exercise, Reading and Scribing really get you starting the day full of energy and intention.
If you don’t want to commit to the Miracle Morning routine, then another practice that will still have a massive impact is taking 15 minutes or so to meditate. If you meditate already, you will know why I recommend it, if you don’t, please keep an open mind as it is the best thing you can learn, both from a reducing stress point of view and for creating new ideas (not necessarily during meditation but in moments throughout the day). The peace and stillness you can achieve by meditating is absolutely priceless. (And don’t worry, you won’t have to sit cross legged!)
If you have never meditated before, try the Headspace app. They have a number of free lessons that you can access which I used when I was getting started with meditating. It’s really helpful, plus they have some great explanations about how the mind works and what to do with the thoughts that keep coming.
The (not so) secret sauce that makes all of this happen though, is discipline. If you haven’t exercised your discipline muscles for a while, this is your chance! I was inspired to write this post by Robert Kanaat who writes a wonderful blog, Wanderlustworker.com. Robert had a link on his Blog to a 30-day discipline challenge that I signed up for. I have to say, I have seen a big improvement already so if you need help in the discipline area (and who doesn’t!), check it out.
Have you found ways to access that hyper-productive part of yourself? If so, how did you do it? Or do you struggle to get anything done at all? Either way, I would love to hear about it in the comments below.