6 Steps to the Perfect, Productive Day – Everyday

 

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Do you feel overwhelmed with too much to do in your day? Do you have such a long list there is no way it’s all getting done? No matter how much you accomplish, do you feel a little bit like a failure because there’s still so much you didn’t do?

Do you just feel like you don’t have all your ducks in a row?

I know I feel like this sometimes. It’s been getting me down.

I’m putting everything I have into my business and I’ve been going a little crazy. I want to create more content for helping people and organizations pursue their Passionate Purpose. Here are some of the ideas I’m working on:

  • Create a 40 day email course – 40 Days to Finding and Pursuing Your Passionate Purpose – in written, audio, and video form
  • Film an online video course for individuals and businesses
  • Book more speaking engagements at seminars, conventions, colleges, and churches
  • Expand my personal coaching
  • Create a 365 day email encouragement program
  • Write an eBook of my most uplifting quotes
  • Write another book with new ideas, stories, and humor to help people take the next step in their journey
  • Develop an Internet marketing plan to promote my products
  • Increase my audience and email list subscribers
  • Do the research to make all of these things happen

Just writing all that down got me feeling overwhelmed again. The good news is it also got me super excited again. I love the idea that all my products will help people.

I’ve tried a lot of productivity systems. Some of them were so complicated and so much work that they just didn’t do it for me. I’ve devised a very simple, easy to implement system, that has led me to producing more meaningful work than at any other time in my life.

If you give these steps a try for a week, I bet you never go back to the old way. (Actually, even when you see how well it works for you, there will probably be times you backslide. It happens to all of us. Don’t give up. Give yourself some grace, and get back to doing what you know works for you.)

First, we need to challenge the idea that to be productive means doing everything as fast as possible and being accessible to everyone who needs us.

Ask yourself, are you trying to take on everything to please everyone and not doing your best work, or are you choosing the essential projects where your best effort makes a difference? Which would you rather do?

Step 1) Write it all down the night before. (I know you’ve heard this before, but stick with me.The way we’re going to do it, this will have you starting your days focused and excited.)

Pick a time every evening where you will spend 10-15 minutes planning the next day.  Make a list of everything you want to do tomorrow.

Step 2) Focus on what’s vital and acknowledge there will be tradeoffs.

Prioritize the tasks you want to do tomorrow. Look at your list and ask, what is the most important thing to do today that is in line with your Passionate Purpose? That will be task #1. Ask that question again to find task #2, and so on until you’ve completed the list.

“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
–Gary Keller from The ONE Thing

Focusing on your most important thing is the key to a productive, rewarding day.

If you start to feel overwhelmed at anytime during the day, go back to your list and stay true. Or ask yourself anew, what’s the most important thing for me to do right now?

Step 3) Estimate how long each task will take. (This is what will keep you from setting yourself up for failure and over scheduling your day.)

Start with your most important task and estimate how long you think it will take to complete. Write that down next to the task. Do that for every task you listed. Add in 5-10 minute breaks every hour to refresh your mind and body. Schedule in two 30 minute blocks for something I’ll explain later.

When your time estimates equal an entire working day, you’re done. If you still have more things on your list, but no time left to do them, they must be put on the next day’s list. You must get clear on the fact that tradeoffs are necessary. That’s why we prioritized everything, remember? Don’t over schedule.

Step 4) Start your day in Concentrated Focus Time doing your most important thing.

Now it’s time to reap the rewards from last night’s planning. Start your day with two hours of Concentrated Focus Time. During this time you will only work on your most important task. You will need to explain this to your coworkers so they can support you in this. When they see how much more you’re getting done, you might even find some of them want to start doing it as well.

Start with 2 hours a day. Over time, you can expand it to 4 hours and then even 6 hours of your day. (Using this method you’ll do more in 6 hours than most people do in 8-1o hours.)

During these 2 hours there are no interruptions.

  • Close your door if you have one.
  • Put a “Deep in Concentrated Focus time” Post-it note up.
  • Close all email programs.
  • Mute all chimes, ringers, and pings.
  • Turn off visual alerts and social media messaging.
  • During your concentrated focus time this is all you do.
  • Nothing else is allowed to take up your focus and time.

Set a timer for one hour. Do nothing else except your most important thing. Then take a break to stretch, walk around the building or up and down the stairs, just clear your mind and think for 5-10 minutes. Then repeat the process. Do it for at least 2 hours of each morning.

As you complete your most important thing, move on to what next becomes your most important thing.

Step 5) Cluster your less important things, that still need to be done, to two times a day.

It would be great if you could just focus on your most important thing all day long. The reality is that we do have some other things we need to do each day as well. Remember how I had you schedule in two 30 minute blocks of time into your day? We are going to use those blocks to cluster some daily tasks.

Take your simple tasks and do them all at the same time instead of allowing them to constantly interrupt your day. I do this with email, snail mail, voice mail, and more.

What can you cluster during your day to prevent constant interruptions to your flow?

Schedule two times a day to handle these and don’t spend more than 30 minutes at a time doing these.

Step 6) Do NOT start your day with email. (This is really part of step 5, but it’s so important I made it another step.)

You spent last night getting ready for today. You are ready to hit the ground running, working on your most important thing. You fire up the laptop, open your email program and…two hours later you still haven’t started on your most important thing. You just gave every one else the power to run your day and distract you from your most important thing. Why?

Instead, let everyone in your company know you are changing the way you handle your email. Set up an auto response, and the signature of your email, to say something like this:

In order to be as effective and efficient as possible, I only answer my email twice a day – after 10:30am and 4:45pm. If there is an emergency, you may call me.

In very special circumstances, you may need to check your email 3 times a day. But if you’re telling me there is no way this will work for you, I have a question:

If you check your email three times a day, are you really telling me your customers and coworkers must have you returning emails more often than every three hours?

If that’s true, what can you do to change that? What training can you do for your co-workers? How can you delegate more and allow your coworkers to work more independently so they can get more done? What expectations can you set up with your customers so they understand what better quality – and quantity – of work for them you can get done when you focus instead of being tied to your email?

Let’s GO!

If this post resonated with you, Please subscribe to my blog and get my free eBook — 5 Steps to Finding Your Passionate Purpose. You can also purchase my book, GO!

7 Steps to Having More Time

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Everyone gets 24 hours in a day, yet some seem to get more done in the same time. How? The place to start is to figure out how you currently spend your time. And that is the precise way to talk about time. We spend it.

Time is money.
–Benjamin Franklin

I agree with Franklin to a point.

But, Greg, you said you were going to give me steps to have more time. Now you’re telling me you can’t make time. Come on!

We can’t make time, but we can spend it wisely and free up our time for what’s most important. That’s what we’re going to do.

But, before you spend time being efficient, make sure you’re being effective – at what’s important to you. Are you spending most of your time on what you want to become and do? Let’s find out.

Step 1) Keep a log of how you spend your work and leisure time for one full week.

Greg, you’re killing me! We’re talking about how little time we have and you want me to use some of it logging how I spend it?

Yes! Trust me a little. You will be shocked at some of the things you are spending your time on.

Write down how you spend every minute of the day — everything — sleeping, getting ready for work, commute time, how much time you spend on different tasks at work, (including talking with colleagues, water cooler, etc.) lunch, dinner, family time, television, email, web surfing, social media, golf, workouts, going out with friends, church, phone calls, etc. I know it can be tiresome to do this, but we’re only doing it for one week to see where your time goes.

At the end of the week, review your list. Which activities on your list do you like doing? Which ones do you dislike doing? Which ones are you really good at? Which ones are a struggle for you?

Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have 24 hr. days.
–Z.Ziglar

Step 2) Avoid Time Sucks

Take a look at your list. What are you doing that is truly a waste of time? We all need to relax and recharge, but are you doing it purposefully? Be strategic in your choices and look at all the extra time you will have to do the things that really matter to you.

Time Sucks:

  • TV – Americans watch an average of four hours of TV a day. Don’t channel surf. Plan the few shows you actually want to watch. Don’t just chill and watch Netflix, search for a specific movie or show to watch once or twice a week. Or, just don’t watch it at all. (I know it sounds crazy, but if you try it for a week, you will be shocked at how much time is freed up for better things.)
  • Internet – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. How many funny cat videos do you need to watch? Do you really need to see what your “friend” had for lunch? Schedule your Internet time and set a timer when you log on.
  • Email – Everything doesn’t have to be responded to the second you receive it. This can distract you from your important focus and turn your day into a series of reactions. What if you made this the signature of your email? “In order to be as efficient as possible, I only check my email at 11:00am and at 4:30pm. If there is an emergency this policy doesn’t take care of, you may call me.” (Some of you are saying, No way can I only answer email twice a day! Maybe, maybe not. Send out an all staff email explaining why you are doing it. Try it for 2 weeks. If it really doesn’t work for you, how about checking email only 3 times a day. How would that improve your life?)

Eliminate, Automate, Delegate, and Negotiate.

These are concepts we all have dabbled with. I like how Jennifer White describes them in her book, Work Less, Make More. We will get into these one at a time.

Step 3) Eliminate:

Look at the list you made on how you’ve been spending your time. What can you eliminate to create more time for what energizes and excites you? If you’re about to say nothing, then you need to look again. All of us do some nonessential activities.

Remember the 80/20 rule: Twenty percent of our activities produce eighty percent of our results. So let’s get rid of some of the stuff that doesn’t work.

If you’re really worried you’ll miss something try this. Stop doing a few of the activities you think might not be very important and see what happens. Did anyone notice? Did you really lose anything?

What do you do to fill time and feel productive instead of doing what you know you need to do? Stop doing that. It’s simple, and very effective.

I bet 20-50% of what you are currently doing you don’t need to do. You have to say no to the good so you can say YES to the great. That’s one of the ways to get more time.

Step 4) Automate:

What do you do every day, week, or month that could be automated? With your smart phone and laptop you have more power than kings used to have.

Research what software programs and apps can help you automate.

Many of them are free and save you a ton of time. Here are just a few ideas for apps and software that help automate tasks and save you time:

Create email templates.

Certain types of emails are required frequently. Write a great thank you email and save it as a template for the next time you need one. You can then spend just a minute or two personalizing it and you’re hitting send. Sweet.

Do the same thing for every type of email you tend to write repeatedly. Huge time saver.

Cluster.

A close cousin to automation is clustering, grouping, or batching. This is where you take your simple tasks and do them all at the same time instead of allowing them to constantly interrupt your day. I do this with email, snail mail, voice mail, and more. I create all my tweets and Facebook posts at one time and schedule them via Hootsuite to go out at different times throughout the week. I spend one day working on ideas for several blog posts.

What tasks can you use clustering with?

That’s enough for now. I will get you the final 3 steps to having more time in my next post.

Questions for comments: What strategies do you use to help you have more time for what’s most important to you?