Does this sound like your typical morning routine?
Action #1: Pour a cup of coffee.
Action #2: Check your email. (You swear you’ll be off in 10 minutes)
Action #3: 90 minutes later, you make a to-do list.
Action #4: Grab a snack.
Action #5: Check Facebook for a quick update.
Action #6: 45 minutes later, make another to-do list.
Action #7: Go through more emails.
Action #8: Make lunch for the family.
Action #9: Stare blankly at your laptop, wondering how it’s already noon and how you’ll ever get everything finished.
Action #10: Realize you’ve accomplished zero to move your goals forward. But boy, have you been busy!
It’s frustrating when your time is stolen by beeps and rings, incessant emails, endless meetings, and your mom, who promises “it will just take a minute” (yeah, right).
But here’s the kicker. You HAVE been taking action. You’ve been returning the calls. You’ve been making the meals. You’ve been responding to the messages. You are doing, answering, checking off the list All. Day. Long.
So why do you feel so unaccomplished?
You’re caught in the ever deceptive “illusion of productivity.” And it goes something like this:
Step 1: You knock off the easy things, the low hanging fruit (the email, the call, the invoice).
Step 2: You review your lists again, going in circles.
Step 3: You have no clear direction, so you get back to some more low hanging fruit (the email, the call, the invoice).
There’s no doubt about it. Your busyness makes you feel productive. But when it’s 6 p.m., and you wrestle with getting nothing meaningful done, your busyness doesn’t always make you feel successful.
So what can you do about it? Here are three simple steps to take control of your time and reach your goals.
#1: Focus on the right things.
Here’s a little trick I love to use. Ask yourself this clarifying question every morning before you start your day: “At the end of the day today, what will I have done to make me feel successful?” Seriously. Don’t jump into your day without answering this question. I typically like to keep it to three goals like:
- Go for a 45-minute walk
- Record a podcast
- Create an outline for my coaching presentation
Notice it is not:
- Spend four hours in email
- Rewrite my to-do list
- Scroll FB and feel jealous that everyone else is effortlessly doing 5,000-piece puzzles with their loving family members (who are these people?)
This small but powerful exercise sets an intention for the day, gives you clarity on where to put your energy, and most importantly, leaves you feeling successful each and every night. And that is a magnificent way to live, don’t you think? Feeling accomplished isn’t about cramming in more, more, more. It’s about doing what aligns with your goals and values in the most effective way.
So make your list of three goals that answer: “At the end of the day today, what will I have done to make me feel successful?”
#2: Show Your Phone Who’s Boss
It’s no surprise our phones are our number one distractors. If you’re struggling with not getting enough of the important work done, getting buried in emails and texts, and always feeling distracted and scattered, please, for the love of all things efficient, avoid your phone.
I could tell you to turn off ALL your notifications, including text messages, but what’s the chance that’s going to happen? Luckily for you, there is an insanely easy way for you to shut down the noise and get and stay focused without ditching all your notifications. Simply put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” (it’s a button you swipe in your phone settings).
This allows you to still have access to the interwebs and all your apps, but notifications and rings will not come into you. That means calls, texts, and dings will be on a temporary halt until you swipe the Do Not Disturb button again.
This may come as a surprise, but the world will go on if you’re disconnected for 30-60 minutes. There was a time when we went hours, even days without instant notifications, and we are still here to tell about it. Get out of your comfort zone and step away from your phone distractions. YOU. WILL. BE. OKAY.
If, however, this is giving you heart palpitations, the simplest fix is to use a good old-fashioned timer. A timer sets the expectation that for this window of time, you’re going to work on one task, and one task only. Set your timer for 10-30 minutes with a commitment to close email and put your phone in a drawer during this time while you focus on your task. It’s super satisfying to hear a “ding” go off when you’ve reached your 20 minutes of focused mental power.
Don’t overlook these simple but powerful slayers of distractions. Use Do Not Disturb coupled with a timer, and you’ll stay more focused than you have for a very, very long time.
#3: Plan For More Than Meetings
It’s not enough to only have time scheduled for your next Zoom call with your colleagues or even with your college friends. If you’re serious about achieving what you set out to do, you also need to block the time to prepare for your meetings and write your proposals as well as time for your errands and making meals. Yes, all the stuff you’re working on in between your meetings. Because if it’s not on your calendar, it doesn’t happen. Protect your time like a mama bear protects her cubs. Use your calendar as the shield with which you protect your life and everything that is important in it.
Here’s the truth. If you don’t protect your time, no one else will. Think about your day as it currently is, with only meetings and appointments on your calendar. What happens to the rest of your time? How often are you reacting, responding, and replying to everyone else’s needs, emails, and requests? Are you distracted by social media, Google searches, and binging on Netflix? Do you get completely lost in re-organizing your space and lists, simply procrastinating what you know you should be doing?
These are typical signs of the ambitious person who’s working from a lack of planning. Working this way leaves you feeling unaccomplished, unsatisfied, and unworthy. You are far too valuable to be living in a way that makes you feel less than adequate. So take those three goals you wrote down at Step #1 and block out time on your calendar for exactly when you will get them done. Actually, add them onto your calendar:
- Go for a 45-minute walk – 8:30 – 9:15
- Record a podcast – 12:30 – 1:00
- Create an outline for my coaching presentation – 2:45 – 3:15
If you don’t have time blocked, coveted, secured, and protected for your goals, something or someone else will always take control of it. Follow these three simple steps to set your intentions and focus on the right things. You’ll achieve more than you have in weeks (maybe months) and feel amazing about yourself in the process!
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