I was four chapters into a book that a smart merchant banker swears by, before I found the mother of all time management tips. What’s the trick I learned to overcoming procrastination and refusing to get lost in diversion?
Here is the single exercise for becoming clear and focused, capturing 100% more time in your workday, and becoming faster in all you do.
Start with your laundry list of to-dos, and get it from your mind onto paper.
Now, you won’t forget all the tasks, big and small. But you will put most of them aside.
After recording that too-long list of what you’d like to do, go back and rank your 6 priorities for the day, from 1 to 6.
You can do this on paper, or with a digital doc. Either way, write down your #1 goal for the day, followed by 2 through 6. Do not include more than 6 goals, and be absolutely clear about which is most important, which is next in importance, and so on.
Then, set up a system for monitoring your focus towards the goal, and getting back on task.
For me personally, I set up a stopwatch online using Apimac Timer. But you can use an alarm on your smartphone or even the ol’ kitchen timer.
Every 15 (or 30 minutes, your choice), when you hear the bell, take that paper or document, re-read it, and if you are not on task, get out of your sidetrack and back to the steps to that important goal. In another 15 minutes, repeat.
That way, when you finish this exercise, you will be absolutely certain at the end of your working day that you will either have finished goal #1, or still be working on it. If you have finished it, then you have moved on to the next priority (goal #2). If not, you will be that much closer to achieving what can dramatically impact your business or job search.
Dramatic impact means growing by more than 100%. In my experience, most folks who dawdle and divert, do so with their own explicit (or implicit) consent.
We are giving you back control. In this way, a day in which you have finished only one goal will be a huge success.
Like a drill sergeant barks to their troops or the Nike ads croon, just do it. Do not muck around. Heed the bell. At that very moment audit yourself like the IRS follows a red flag, and re-calibrate if necessary.
I am recommending exactly what I did one day last spring, when I needed to make progress on my blog as well as chauffeur three teens. (Click here to see how I fared, imperfections and all.) By the end of the day, I completed the most unappealing #1 goal, and the most powerful #2 goal. It felt great.
If you are like me, there are interruptions in your day. Some things cannot be moved. Especially on family days.
Still, having a work ethic and an approach that reflects a commitment to MY goals are a means to go, and go further.
The coda to better time management
This week I started a new gig as a journalist for an online news site. This has reinforced how a method and a rhythm in work, is key. As I operate under a daily deadline—publishing 30 articles in 30 days—I recognize that lackadaisical habits not only bring down my energy, but also bring down the work product of an entire news team.
As we each pick off topics in real time, it is incumbent to research, write and publish quickly, i.e. within 2 hours of reserving a topic, in order to fairly ensure that no one takes a hot topic and then dillydallies in catching the wave of interest.
I would not be able to do this if I were relying solely on the discipline of willpower. In fact, I feel the pressure of the group and the eyes of my boss. But I also utilize a timer and the stop-recalibrate method, as simple as it sounds, to become more effective.
You will likewise stop procrastinating and become wickedly effective with your time, if you heed this advice.
- Try this out beginning NOW. Start by writing your laundry list of to-dos and decide how you’ll be notified: Set up a timer online? Or an offline bell? As a dedicated Mac person, I utilize Apimac Timer, which is free and simple.
- Look at that list, rank the top 6, and then methodically crank out what will bring you to the first goal, second goal and so forth. Make the effort for ONE DAY. Observe yourself, continually re-align, and stay focused.
- When you get to happy hour (the end of your work day), come back to Mojo40 and watch this hilarious video to see how you can apply focus and speed to something that is normally a slow process–cooking a meal. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74ceC7ERsLc
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0, Emilie Ogez.
What are your tips to stop procrastination and achieve work life balance? Please share in the comments section.
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