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?