You’d like to be more productive.
- You want to get more done
- You want more control over your time
- You want to be dependable
- You feel edgy about things that aren’t getting done
- You want to look back on 2017 and realize it was your best year yet
So how do you get there? There are lots of right ways. The trick is to make your own rules and to give yourself time to form new habits.
You can put this off. Or you can get started. Here are a few thoughts to get your energy flowing in a new direction.
(1) Figure out what motivates you
If you want to get more done, think about your reward. Having a juicy reward can help get you started in a new direction and can help you stick to a new habit. As strong as you are, relying on willpower is not a strategy. Think about what motivated you to change in the past.
- If you work best with a schedule, set a deadline for yourself and, very important, set smaller deadlines to meet the big deadline. What has to happen this month, this week, and today to get started?
- If you like being part of a group, find one that’s doing what you want to do, or start a new group.
- If you like working alone, is there one person you can share your idea about a change you want to make? Sharing a goal will help make it more real to you.
- Figure out a reward that isn’t counter to your goal. For instance, if you want to lose 10 pounds, having a piece of chocolate cake as a reward may work against sticking to your goal. If your reward is buying a piece of clothing in a new, smaller size, you’ll have more incentive to stay at your new awesome weight.
(2) Focus on the task at hand
Eckhardt Tolle put this a beautiful way: Don’t look for things to do that are important. Instead, know that what you’re doing is the most important thing you can be doing. Pay attention to what you’re doing. Be fully present.
- When you’re talking with someone, pay attention to them. Look them in the eye. Listen, and ask good follow-up questions.
- Turn off notifications on your phone and for email at your desk. Do your work – then schedule time to answer texts and/or respond to email. Don’t let beeps interrupt your flow.
- Plan in time to do the work that’s important to you. You make choices every day about how you spend your time. Choose with intent.
- Do your work in a sequence that matches your priorities versus multitasking and constantly shifting between tasks.
(3) Simplify where you can
Think about what you’re trying to do. Is there a simpler way to get it done?
- Try to decrease the number of steps to get anything done.
- Choose service vendors close to your house – doctors, dentist, gym, grocery stores, and shopping. Spend less time commuting and more time doing.
- Declutter your house. Having less stuff to keep track of means spending less time on housework and more time doing important stuff.
- Declutter your life from complicated rules and relationships. If something you’re doing drains your energy, think about why you’re doing it. Is this the right time to stop?
(4) Make organization part of your day
Being organized is not a one-shot deal. Have a long-term plan, and take little steps to stay on track.
- Take something with you when you leave a room at home or at work. What needs to be put away? Take it with you on your way out.
- Group meetings, emails, calls, and errands in chunks of time. Having longer periods of uninterrupted time helps you do deep work.
- Clean off your desk and your desktop at the end of the day. This helps you clear your head as you leave, and gives you a clean space to work the next morning.
- When you read something that gives you an idea, write it down on a calendar or in your planner. Don’t lose that energy or spark to the ether.
- Know that something that kept you organized last year may not work as well this year. Great organizers change strategy when they feel like they’re in a rut or something isn’t working. Be flexible, and listen to the winds of change.
(5) Think ahead
The best organizers know that the time they spend now is what saves them time later.
- Use a calendar to plot out what you want to get done. Then break down your big deadline into smaller steps. This helps you see the path. If you get off track, set up a new schedule.
- Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Take a photo of your wallet contents – driver’s license, credit cards, your passport, and upload them to a cloud.
- List what each credit card auto pays so that if you have to replace the card, you don’t miss any payments.
- List the software you use on your computer for an easier re-install post crash.
- Back up your hard drive to a cloud or offsite solution in case of fire or flood. You’re probably not going to have to deal with a catastrophe – but knowing that your data is safe if one happens can help set your mind at ease.
(6) Take breaks
It’s hard to stay focused on the task you’re working on, and it’s almost impossible to stay focused all day as you shift between tasks. Taking a break, even for a few minutes, between tasks helps clear your head and helps you set your intent for the next work you take on.
- Set a timer to remind yourself that it’s break time. It’s easy to get so involved in what you’re doing that you continue to work past the point of being productive.
- Between tasks or between meetings, take a few minutes to catch your breath and let your mind wander. You can be quiet. Take a stretch break. Go for a quick walk and get some fresh air. Meditate. Or listen to a great tune. Then take a deep breath and bring yourself back to your work.
- Before you jump back in, take a moment to think. Is this really what you want to do next? Why? What are you hoping to get done? Is the next task still a top priority?
(7) Pair fun things with tedious things
There are some things we do that we don’t want to do. It’s part of life. Starting a new healthy habit might be something you include in this group! When you pair up something fun and established with something new and possibly disagreeable, it helps.
- Run errands in the car while listening to an audio CD. Most libraries have a HUGE number of audio CDs to choose from. This is a great way to hear a novel or learn something new every time you’re in the car.
- Work out to your favorite music, audio book, internet TV show, or podcast.
- Declutter your house to dance music. If decluttering becomes a dance party, who can resist?
- If you’re great about starting but have trouble finishing an unpleasant task, put together a playlist or series of podcasts or Internet broadcasts that runs a specific amount of time. Then when the playlist is done, your work on this task is done for the day.
It’s great to have a million ideas of what you want to do with your time, but something has to be a top priority.
- Brainstorm a list of 20-40 grand goals – then prioritize the list. What’s the #1 thing you want to get done – in your lifetime, this year, or this week? Now decide what your top priority is as you start your work today.
- Love your plans AND listen to your intuition. What wakes you up the middle of the night or dawns on you when you first wake up? Jot those ideas down. They may jostle your previous priorities for the day.
- Remember that the most urgent thing on your list is not always the most important work.
(9) Know your limits
If you’re sick, or grieving, or tired, you’re not going to be productive. It’s tempting to try to regain control through organization but if your body or mind needs time to mend, that’s your top priority. Get better, feel better, then tackle this again. Big goals will wait. Your health is always your #1 priority.
Sending you peace and love from the wilds of Maine.