I’m going to show you step-by-step how to frame your day in such a way that you get STUFF DONE but more importantly, that you finish your day feeling like a winner – no matter how fast paced the industry is you work in.
Do you feel overwhelmed most of the time? Do you want to be more productive? Are you a professional multi-tasker? Are you always stressed? Or what about your bigger goals – do you have them in sight or achieve them often?
I’ve been there. I have answered yes to all of those. I remember days where I was all over the place doing multiple things at the same time – emails, phone calls, admin work and let’s not forget the god awful, MEETINGS. There’s been many times when I’ve rarely even had a time for bite because I felt I had “so much STUFF do do”.
I call this, the Reactive Management Syndrome. You find yourself being controlled by your daily workload and not the other way around.
That is not the way of a high performance person and it’s not how I want you to do it.
If this sounds like you, then now is the time to pay some attention.
In this post, I’m going to show you how to get back on track. I’m going to show you how to kick-start your day with laser focus and to put in place a fail safe mechanism to make sure you remain on track.
I’m going to show you a systematic approach for getting stuff done but more importantly, actually achieving some goals for a change. This process, once implemented, will have you experience less stress and make you a happier person.
Here is my 5 step process for eliminating stress, improving productivity and achieving goals.
Step 1: Don’t start with email
Don’t get a heart attack. I know checking email is important, but what I mean by this is that in order to start your day off on the right foot, you cannot open up your email app first thing after switching on your computer. This is one of the biggest causes for ‘spiral days’ – you know, those days where you start and then your inbox literally dictates how your day plays out. It’s terrible, so don’t do it to yourself.
Step 2: Write down a specific goal for the day
This is an incredibly important step. Get a notebook or a clean piece of paper. It’s time to write down some stuff. Ask yourself, what is the most important thing you want to achieve for the day? Write down, “Goal for the day” along with your goal. This should be an achievable goal. Even if it’s a step in part of a bigger goal – it’s still going to be your goal for the day. It needs to be significant enough so that you can give yourself a pat on the back when you achieve it.
Step 3: Create a catch-box
Make a list of absolutely everything that needs to get done for the week. You shouldn’t be able to think up any more items after doing this. You need to CLEAR your mind. Make sure that whatever you write down here are actionable. If you really need to go into your inbox to find those actionable items, that is fine. Just don’t start replying to any emails yet.
By “actionable” I mean don’t just write down “Sales report”. Make it an actionable item, like “Send requirements for Sales report to the team”. It needs to have a specific action to it so that once it has been done, you can strike it off your list.
Step 4: Prioritize your activities
The biggest reason you are multitasking like a crazy person, is because you probably believe that every item on your list carries equal weight. That simply isn’t the case. Some things are more important than others, and you should be able to highlight them. How do you know if something is really important? Simple. You decide what is.
Stephen Covey’s time management matrix makes this easy. Take the items from your catch-box and categorize them according to Covey’s quadrant.
Urgent doesn’t always mean something is important. IMPORTANT things are what delivers results. Urgent things are usually interruptions unless it’s like a project deadline or big crises. Remember that.
According to Covey, activities fall within one of the following quadrants:
- Important and Urgent
Things like a real crises or deadline driven projects carry the biggest weight.
- Important but Not Urgent
Prevention activities such as new processes, relationship building, recreational activities or new opportunities are important but not necessarily urgent.
- Not Important but Urgent
These activities usually hinders your ability to achiev your daily goal. They have to get done though! They require the most amount of prioritizing in your daily schedule as this area can disrupt your day quickly. Things like interruptions, urgent phone calls, emails and meetings can be urgent but not important.
- Not Important and Not Urgent
Then you have these. They’re not important to you nor are they urgent. Don’t let this list pile up though. Every week or two make sure you action at least one of these activities.
I highly recommend you read the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It’s a mind blowing good book on how to achieve more in life and it goes into much more detail about time management.
Step 5: Time block your activities
Assign specific time blocks in your calendar to deal with your “to-do” list. This step alone is critical in organizing your day.
What is absolutely critical in this step is that you assign at least one 30 minute slot to dedicate yourself to working towards that Goal you highlighted. Achieving your goal for the day is a step forward. Sometimes you won’t have time, but when you have, go at it full force.
Feel free to download the daily diary template I have created for you. Print out as many copies as you can. You are going to use one every single day.
If you are sharing calendars with others in an organisation, remember to block out time so that you limit the amount of interruptions you get during the day.
N.B - block out at least 1 hour a day for a meeting. How many, and how long for is up to you, but try to not always block out your entire calendar with tasks. Meetings are sometimes very necessary.
Step 6: Focus & Break
There is a reason why you feel tired at the end of every work day. It’s because your mind is sapped! The majority of people cannot focus for long periods of time. If you work in a fast paced, noisy, high energy environment it becomes really difficult to get ‘stuck in’ your work. In the end it saps your energy.
To solve this problem, you have to channel your focus and energy into short time bursts followed by short breaks. It’s known as the Pomodoro Technique. This is a PRINCIPLE which can apply to any type of work. I’m going to show you how to do this immediately.
Here’s how to get your focus on!
- Download FocusBooster
- Set the timer to 25 minutes with a 5 minute break.
- Close your email and everything else (no distractions!) and then FOCUS to do your task for that 25 minutes. It’s only you and the task at hand. Give it your all. I promise you, you will feel zoned into it like you’ve never felt before.
- Take a proper 5 minute break. GET UP from your desk and take a walk or something.
- After about 4 of these rounds, you can increase your break time to 10 minutes.
Remember to check off your completed activities in your daily dairy. If you couldn’t finish a task in time, then don’t tick it off. Either add it to another slot, or postpone it to another day.
- Spend less time in your inbox from now on. We all tend to let a mailbox run our life at one point or another. For most, it’s a sad daily reality. I was lucky enough to step back and realise it’s not the way I want to do things. It causes stress and constantly has me on the back foot. No more! From now on, I challenge you to only open your mailbox 3-4 times a day. Use those times to put new things on your to-do list or to action your tasks. Don’t give in to the urge to sit on your email.
- Don’t become a wall by making yourself completely unavailable to others. Make time for interruptions or meetings and let other know you are available during those times. I actually block out 30 minutes a day on Mondays where I’m completely available for interruptions and I make sure others know this.
Don’t be controlled. You are the captain of your ship. You should be controlling the outcome.
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