The precise environment you work in is almost certainly designed to look a certain way but not to generate the triggers necessary for you to accomplish … well … much of anything beyond what you are habitually familiar with.
Then there are the “people in your life.”
God love them.
Your kids, your closest friends, your love. Your partner.
Most of these people go to “work” where they have ONE job. You are in sales, you’re are a deal maker. You run a business. You don’t have a job. You have 5 jobs. (See #6 below)
And don’t forget well-intentioned dragons and neighbors who don’t understand that you can’t just “drop” everything and give them “five minutes” of your time – or worse, watch their kids for the afternoon.
5 minutes is not 5 minutes. 5 minutes is 90 minutes.
90 minutes is $1000 or whatever your consulting fee is … whatever the commission on a closed deal or sale is to you.
Whatever it is … “a few minutes” needs to happen on THEIR TIME at the END of THEIR DAY when THEY are scheduled to be DONE for the day.
Taking Back Control of Your Life
1. Do important stuff now.
It’s on your list from last night. It’s priority #1 today and it’s about your FUTURE. It’s your future revenue. It’s about the relationship with someone special. Whatever you put on your list as 1,2,3,4,5 last night is what you do today unless something is absolutely critical and MUST happen now.
They are about to get hit by a car.
They need to GIVE YOU thousands of dollars to repay an old debt.
They need to GIVE YOU a gift of appreciation for all of your kindness.
They need you to NOD or SHAKE YOUR HEAD in response to a YES / NO Question that can be asked in 60 seconds or less so they can be productive for the balance of the day freeing you in an important fashion.
What do you do?
Take a few minutes and stop them from getting hit by the car and collect your debt.
But NOW you do what matters to you, your future. Focus on what is going to drive you where you need to go because NO ONE ELSE WILL DRIVE YOU TO WHERE YOU WANT TO GO.
In the meantime, MANY PEOPLE will ask YOU to drive THEM to where THEY want to go.
Starting to sound familiar?
If a task is simple and quick, such as phoning to confirm an appointment, do it at the END of your day so you don’t get stuck on hold or exist as the “third caller in line …your call is important to us.”
Once you have done your real work, the work that pays the bills, NOW attack all the pieces of paper and emails that matter. Pound through 10 at a time over a period of 30 minutes.
Once you’ve completed the micro-task, archive the email, file the paper or toss the document in File 13. Ideally you do all of these things at the end of the day. These are all the little nuisance things that require no real brain power.
2. Make time for reviewing your planning at the beginning of the day and setting your schedule that night.
Get into the habit of taking 3 minutes to go over your plans for the day (and make any necessary adjustments or add a task you’ve belatedly realized you still have to do) in the morning.
Daily To Do List: Last thing before signing off at night, create a simple to-do list (containing at least your top five priorities) for the next day. Commit to do them in the order that they need to be done, not the order that will “feel good” once morning comes around. Review and modify the significant daily projects in the morning.
3. Organize your Production Space.
Doing taxes, writing a note to the principal at school, complaining about a bill don’t require any significant self regulation. You can do them at the end of the day. You don’t need motivation for these kinds of things. They produce nothing and cost you time early in the day when you need to accomplish.
If you chronically procrastinate or scramble to meet deadlines, it’s quite likely your work area and surfaces have grown boring and bland. What do you see in your work space that DRIVES YOU TO PRODUCE? What do you see that PUSHES YOU TO COMPETE and COMPLETE?
Soothing images, design, impressions, etc are wonderful if you are in therapy. Meanwhile they stop productivity in it’s tracks.
4. Buy a Brick Wall.
If your work space seems to be in the center of Times Square or Kings Cross, consider moving it – or renovating to give yourself a door (and a wall to put the latter in, if you need it).
If you can’t create or take over a separate room, invest in a nice, decorative screen (or an office cubicle screen you can pin notes on!) People psychologically are less likely to attempt to draw you into conversation if you’re out of their line of sight.
If you don’t get paid to answer the phone, don’t answer the phone. If you don’t get paid to answer text messages from your buddy, don’t. If you don’t get paid to watch YouTube videos, don’t. If you don’t get paid to talk to your co-worker, have lunch with them in YOUR OFFICE so when it is 12:40 you can get back to making a living and paying your bills.
(And consider a “Do Not Disturb!” sign, too.)
Note: If you are independently wealthy and have no need to produce to pay the bills, you can skip the wall.
Take a 5 Minute Break
5. Take 5 after You Complete a Task.
When you complete an important task, one of the five things you said you were going to do last night, take five minutes, hit the restroom, put your face in a pillow and then immediately return to Task 2. Do not stop and talk to Jane about the kids or Bill about Book Club. Do that at the end of THEIR DAY. If they want to hang out and not go home, GREAT! If they want to go home and will talk to you tonight, GREAT! Don’t let people steal your productivity.
Productivity is your ONLY SECURITY YOU HAVE IN LIFE. If you give away your productivity or let people steal it from you, you have BLUNDERED.
6. Determine your Minimum Daily work hours with your Spouse/Partner.
Synchronize with your spouse You are “in selling”, true? You’re running a business, right? Then you need business hours. Even if those hours change to allow for kids’ activities and grocery shopping and laundry day, you should make it a point to have set working hours. These hours are your minimum daily requirement.
If you are in business and your spouse is not, then make sure your spouse knows and agrees to your business hours. Nothing spells sabotage as clearly as a spouse who thinks that you can run a business as if you are an employee going to work.
Spouses rarely comprehend that YOU are creative. (The Creative Division of the Business)
Spouses rarely comprehend that YOU are marketing. (The Marketing Division)
Spouses rarely comprehend that YOU are sales.
Spouses rarely realize that YOU are graphic design.
Spouses rarely realize that YOU are analytics.
Spouses rarely realize that YOU pay your own taxes, and health insurance, medical expenses and well … ALL the expenses for both family and business.
Spouses rarely realize that YOU WANT to be with the rest of the family but the SPOUSE is YOUR AMBASSADOR to friends and family as YOU are THEIR AMBASSADOR to the clients that pay the mortgage and buy the groceries.
7. Keep a simple journal.
You can’t improve that which you don’t track, and the best way to track your productivity is to keep a journal. Keep a notebook beside you all through your work day. Open it in the morning and put the day’s date in at the top of a fresh page.
Life Rule: If it matters, write it down.
Scribble down everything you do, along with any quick and brief notes you want to make: (E.g. “Got interrupted by phone call from bank. 10 min.”)
When you first purchase a notebook for journaling your workday, keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be a fancy journal. (In fact, that can be so intimidating you can’t bring yourself to write in it.)
A simple school exercise book or calendar – one that opens and lies flat on your desk – will do nicely. Take 3 minutes each day and record what you accomplished and what you didn’t. Be certain you are completing your REQUIRED PROJECTS before moving toward the dinner table.
8. The Book of Accomplishment.
We all are non-productive from time to time. You can minimize this and get yourself back on track quickly by keeping The Book of Accomplishment. You can make this purely for work; or mix and match work, hobbies, exercise and life. Whenever you hit a milestone – no matter how small – or achieve something you’re proud of, write it in The Book of Accomplishment. When you are feeling frustrated, you can haul out your book and remind yourself of precisely what you have done.
As a rule, record accomplishments that helped GROW YOUR BUSINESS.
9. Hold Tightly Timed Skype or Google Hangout Meetings.
Need to talk to clients or contractors? Have weekly or twice-weekly Skype video conferencing check-ins, and train them to collect questions and issues to discuss. (For meetings you want recorded – ones that multiple participants can access – use Google+ Hangouts.)
For added efficiency, get them to send you a list of these issues and questions the day before, so you can email an agenda for your Skype meeting. (This can help eliminate call-backs, omissions and extra emails.)
Allow one minute for idle chit chat then ACCOMPLISH.
Skype beats email because IF you do it right, it is MUCH faster and MUCH more efficient.
10. Realize the “final details” at the end of a project can be unexpectedly time-consuming.
The end of a project can be a real problem for anyone and everyone.
You have to decide what “FINISHED” means.
You must decide when “EXCELLENT” is excellent and when doing more is simply evading the next critical project.
Control Time – Come up with a set of rules.
Beware of this:
“It will just take me an hour or so to tweak these graphics to my client’s specs,” you tell yourself.
But do make a note of just how long this process and other, similar end-of-project tasks you routinely perform actually take. (You should be doing this anyway, for project estimating purposes.)
Just remember that nothing is ever simple, when it comes to finishing projects (especially when technology is involved!) Estimate twice as long as you think you’ll need for the “finishing touches”.
11. Learn to ignore people, places and things.
What’s the most distracting thing going on in your office right now? As surprising as it might seem, it’s very likely instant messaging and email. Those little “unread” counts can spell disaster when you’re trying to get things done, and constantly stopping to read an email or three is a good way to turn a 30-minute task into an all day +++ affair.
Instead, schedule your email and IM time, and when you’re working, turn them off. While you’re at it, turn off any other desktop notifications that pull your attention away from the task at hand as well, such as Dropbox and calendar items.
Everyone can see you … by APPOINTMENT.
12. Make Love Easier.
If you have a significant other, then be absolutely certain that you make AN APPOINTMENT every day for time with your spouse.
If you don’t, you won’t and this NEVER ends well.
Got kids? Make sure you make an appointment with them as well. You’re taking care of them now and in your future but it doesn’t FEEL that way to them (or you) and you DO need that time in front of the people who you care about each and every day.
If you don’t block the time out, it won’t happen and you’ll start to think that veging out in front of the news counted as “personal time.”
The time that counts is time you interacted with that important other person.
13. Limit social media and other distractions.
Even if you “hate” timers and don’t work well with them, do use the timer to limit social media interaction, if you use the latter as a break. It’s easy for time to slip away if people are asking you questions or making comments on your wall that need an answer.
If you’re a big social media addict, you can even use timed social media sessions as a reward, so long as it is ONLY a reward and never available unto itself. (E.g. “For every project I complete, I will give myself three minutes on Facebook”.)
I can’t stress enough the mess that social media can cause in your business and life if you let it CONTROL YOU.
Take a Walk.
Recharge to be productive It is the quickest way to recharge your mind and body and increase your energy level. Exercise oxygenates the blood cells, burns fat, limbers the body and helps you excrete toxins. All important when you’re trying to get more done.
Some people can do a treadmill. That’s great. If you can mix that 45 minute walk with having real time with someone you care about you get healthy while you solve life’s problems and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Not a bad deal huh?
That said, for the purpose of productivity, it MUST come AFTER LUNCH. Exercise burns self regulation units and you need SRU’s to pay the bills. Because taking a walk is a planned for project it is easy to have life happen during the day that will sap the productivity from your day. That means your standard of living takes hit.
Schedule your day so productivity is generated first, then deal with life disasters then keep your appointments or at least confirm them with family/friends and then finally make sure you get that walk in before you call it a day.