I lost two hours of my life yesterday. How did I let this happen? I give presentations on how to Do Less and Achieve More. I’ve read countless books on personal growth, productivity, and time management. I know how to focus on what’s essential in my life and business…and I wasted two hours of my life yesterday.
I work from home in the mornings and I had great plans on important things to do. But, first I decided I needed to merge my domain email with my Gmail account — 40 minutes gone.
Next, I decided I needed to upload the video of my daughter’s theatre performance to YouTube. My phone didn’t sync with my Mac, so I had to download a program – 30 minutes gone.
Then I noticed a few hundred photos on my phone that were taking up space so I decided I needed to upload select photos from my phone to my Mac – another 20 minutes gone.
And so it went:
- Send YouTube video I created to a contact (and watch some of my old ones) – 30 minutes
- Check and reply to FB messages and notifications – 10 minutes
- Check my LinkedIn account and reply to messages – 10 minutes
- Renew my library books online – 5 minutes
I finally shook myself and realized that although I felt like I was working I had spent almost 2 hours doing absolutely no work on my most important thing. Not good. I felt like the Office Space stapler guy mumbling about stuff no one cares about.
I hadn’t planned well, and I wasn’t even sticking to my not so great plan. It wasn’t that the things I was doing were bad, it’s just that they were taking me away from the essential things I really wanted to get done.
Focus, Grasshopper, focus.
At the end of the day we’re usually tired. If we’ve run around all day chasing our tail, putting out fires and just doing “work” we will experience an empty, dissatisfied, frustrated kind of tired.
If we focus on what’s essential and make great progress on that, we will experience a job well done, life is good, now I’ve earned some relaxation time kind of tired.
Here’s how to make sure you don’t lose hours from your life every day:
“Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?'”
— Marcus Aurelius
Focus on your most important thing:
At the end of your work day plan out what you’re going to do tomorrow. Ask yourself, “What is the most important thing I can do today that will have the biggest impact on my life and work?”
Focusing on the most important thing we need to do is the key to a productive, rewarding day.
In the book, The One Thing, Garry Keller talks about setting aside time every day for your most important work. I call it your Concentrated Focus Time.
The best time to do this is first thing in the morning. Even is you’re not a morning person, the best time to get uninterrupted alone time is the morning. Most successful people do their best work in the morning.
Imagine getting up at 5am and having two hours to focus on your most important thing for the day. You don’t even have to feel guilty that you aren’t with you family because they’re still asleep! If that doesn’t work for you, can you get to work a little early and set up the first two hours there to focus on your most important work?
You might think this is nuts, but once you try it and see the results you are going to wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
Rules for CF time
Explain to your manager and coworkers why you’re creating this special time. Let them know it’s so you can work more effectivley and efficiently at your most essential work, that it’s only for two hours each morning, that (except for emergencies) you won’t take any calls/emails/meetings during this time, and that you will immediately check in and be available again when the two hours are up.
Ask yourself, “What is the most important thing I can do today that will have the biggest impact on my life and work?”
Do that first.
I know sometimes, “things come up.” But you need to schedule time for your most important activities or something will always “come up.”
During these 2 hours there are no interruptions.
• Close your door if you have one.
• Put a “Deep in concentrated focus time out at ______ (time)” Post-it note outside your office or cubicle.
• Close all email programs.
• Mute all chimes, ringers, and pings.
• Turn off visual alerts and social media messaging.
Set a timer for one hour.
Do nothing else except your most important thing. When the timer goes off, take a break to stretch, walk around the building (or up and down the stairs), and just clear your mind and think for 10 minutes.
Then repeat the process. Do it for 2 hours of each morning.
We all work hard and it seems like there’s always more work to be done. Focusing for a limited period of time on our most essential work leads to amazing results. Just give it a try for two weeks and email me how it goes.
Questions for comments: How do you stay focused on your plan?