Do you make to-do lists and then find that nothing from the lists get done?
Feels awful, doesn’t it?
Part of the reason is that the old tools for time-management may be going the way of the horse and buggy. The workplace, when compared to what it was even 20 years ago, is almost unrecognizable. Change occurs at a constant and rapid pace, and with this change is the necessity for us to continually adapt. Day Planning has become more abstract, and a traditional approach to time management has the possibility of putting us all on the brink of despair. Email alone can be a time-sucking vortex. Daily to-do lists are effective to a point, but unfortunately, life just isn’t that simple.
To quote David Allen, author of the New York Times Bestseller titled Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity,..
“There are few people…who can maintain some predetermined list of to-dos that the first telephone call or instant message or interruption from their boss or spouse won’t totally undo” (Allen, p. 9).
If you ever struggle with staying focused and productive, read the following thoughts. You may find a few helpful tips that will help you on your way.
HOW TO GET GOING IN THE DIRECTION OF BETTER FOCUS
Try two simple steps towards getting more focused – 1) Relax, and 2) Have a very simple outline for the day.
I know that seems counterintuitive. You’re working hard to finish something and number one on the list of recommendations is to relax? Actually, yes. And this is why:
“Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax.” – David Allen
Now, I don’t mean go on an all-day meditation retreat! You and I both know you have work to do!
But if you take two minutes to stop and clear your mind, you’ll be glad you did. You’ll get yourself out of any fight-or-flight mode you might be veering towards and get into executive functioning, where stuff starts to make sense.
2) Have a very simple outline for the day
Instead of doing what I used to do and simply arriving at work at an insanely early hour in order to be able to power through and complete ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, arrive with a simple plan.
Note I mentioned arriving with the plan. Prepare your simple outline for the day ahead of time so you know where to start when you begin. At the end of your workday, take a sheet of paper and write down your three priorities for the next day.
Identify which projects you have to do. What are the three top projects that you would love to move forward? Try as hard as you can to limit the number to three. Keep the list as simple as possible and keep the emphasis on outcomes and actions.
Part of the difficulty of completing projects – and part of what creates resistance to those projects and makes us go check Facebook instead of working on them – is the fact that we tend to look at the whole project instead of just looking at teeny tiny actions. David Allen puts it this way, “write down the very next physical action required to move the situation forward” (Allen, p. 15).
If you structure your plans in terms of outcomes and the next physical action, it’ll be easier to adjust as things change. Remember that your plan is a living, breathing document. Plans may change slightly. Acknowledging this ahead of time cuts down on the amount of frustration you might feel while working on a project. And if you get frustrated, go back to step one of and RELAX. Keep your day as simple as possible and you may find that you not only get things done, but you also enjoy the process.
Thanks for listening. And here’s to a Healthy, Happy, Productive 2017. This is YOUR YEAR!
Allen, David (2001). Getting things done: the art of stress-free productivity. New York: Viking Books.