We are a busy bunch in this culture of ours, wouldn’t you say? Personally speaking, I liken it to having many plates spinning and wearing several different hats.
We’re not all busy – some of us tend to live quiet, simple lives. The rest of us are trying to figure out how to accomplish more in our already busy schedules.
Of course, the magic is in the balance and where your priorities are.
We all have 24 hours each day, so the limited time phrase in the title can be misleading. It’s more accurate to say that the more plates you spin and hats you wear during certain seasons of your life, the more limited your time may be in each of those roles. At least that’s true for me.
With so many demands on our time, we would benefit from being proactive in creating a schedule that allows us to maximize our time spent in each of our roles.
This isn’t all about accomplishing the most and checking lots of things off a to-do list each day just for the sake of doing so. For me, it’s about creating a fulfilling life, serving God and others, being present, enjoying my family and the people around me, and bringing home the bacon through things I’m passionate about in the process!
So, I began reflecting on some of the tips and strategies I’ve picked up over the years that have helped me become a more productive person.
Here are nine of the most important time management and productivity principles that I’ve learned from experienced and successful mentors over the years:
1) Be clear on what your priorities in life are: your most important relationships and roles that need regular nurturing.
2) Consider saying no to some things (especially time stealers) in order to be able to say “yes” to the things that are most important right now. Sometimes, we have to draw certain lines in the sand when it comes to commitments. Everyone around you can suffer when you take on too much. Of course, this can be tough to accomplish if your commitments are being delegated to you, or you’re an entrepreneur and feel you need to keep taking on more for the sake of your business. It can still be done.
3) Make big picture plans that are subsequently chunked down into short-term plans and action steps. When you go to bed each night, you should know what your most important objectives and tasks are the following day. Have a plan, then work the plan!
4) Schedule your priorities rather than solely prioritizing your schedule. It’s not a big difference in the wording, but it’s a big difference in real life!
5) When necessary, become more ruthless with your time – protect it. This is especially important if you’re carving out family time, or time for personal development/personal care, and also when trying to run a business or flex your entrepreneurial muscles. This won’t always win you the popularity contest, but it will allow you to focus on what you feel you need to focus on at the time. Try having set times for phone calls, checking emails, Facebook, Twitter, and so on, even if you only feel comfortable doing this a couple times a week for now. This isn’t intended to make you emotionally cold and shut everyone out. It’s intended to help you organize your time, focus more, accomplish more in small sections of time, and then allow blocks of time for socializing when your mind is less stressed with all the things you need to do.
Here’s an example to drive home the point. If you decided to waltz into Donald Trump’s office building without an appointment and ask to speak to him, it would never happen. He wasn’t expecting you and he’s focused on something else. Having impromptu meetings or calls like that throws off our focus, our schedule, and our other responsibilities. We’re at the mercy of whatever comes our way, instead of designing our day in a way that suits our big picture and our plans.
Now, of course, if you don’t have a tight schedule or many roles and responsibilities, then go ahead and socialize and respond to other people’s schedules until your heart’s content!
6) Learn to schedule short, blocks of focused time to work on your tasks and projects. Most experts in this area recommend somewhere between 15-45 minute blocks of time. However, it’s not about being in a frantic hurry all the time. It’s about focus and intent. Learning to stay focused and productive for short bursts of time allows more free time in the end. Be disciplined with your time.
7) Keep a running list of the productive and/or important things you can do when you end up with an unexpected extra five or 10 minutes here or there. It could be family and relationship oriented things, like playing with the kids, or calling your spouse, or returning a phone call or e-mail. It could be a domestic task, a quick repair job, an errand, a quick envigorating mini-workout, and so on. It can also be more business-related. Think of five minute productivity boosts that you can do when you suddenly find yourself with a bit of extra time, but not enough time to dive into a big project. This small-but-mighty habit can keep you productive rather than starting me down the slippery slope of lounging on Facebook, or browsing in various forums online, or surfing the net with no direction in mind. It’s all too easy to do, and before we know it, we’ve wasted half an hour that we can’t get back. Of course, you could also take those five or 10 minutes to collapse on a couch or lock yourself in the bathroom for some peace and quiet!
8) Create shifts in your day that make sense for your schedule. When you break your day into different shifts, it’s easier to stay on track, and not throw in the towel if you blow it early in the day. Just get back on track for your next shift. You can make as few or as many shifts as work for you to fit your various roles and meet your priorities. It’s your day you’re designing!
Here are just a few ideas to give you an idea. Again, make it work for you.
– Power Hour: This is super-focused time, perhaps before anyone else is up, or before things get too crazy in your schedule. This can be the special time reserved for personal morning rituals, as well as your most productive work and big projects that require the most focus. Of course, it can be longer than an hour! Once you’re up and running for the day, you’ve gotten ready and are where you need to be (geographically), another big shift of the day begins.
– Your next shift may be a work focus again, or maybe domestic, or school, or work out time, and so on. You can get more specific, for example, by saying that for the first 60 minutes of work you focus on these top three tasks. Then, for the next 45 minutes, it’s all about correspondence and communication (e-mails, phone calls, etc.). Then, you take the next 90 minute segment to have meetings, or work on a bigger project, and so on. You can break your morning up like that into sections of time where you switch your focus.
– In the mid-day, take time for healthy re-fueling and re-focusing. This is the perfect time to re-commit to your plan if you’ve gotten off track.
– This could be your afternoon work shift time, or more school, or a work out, or spending time with your children, or study, or working from home. Whatever you’re using this afternoon and early evening time segment for, make sure you’ve got your priorities laid out for that time so that you are still accomplishing what you need to.
– After your workday or school day, it might be about unwinding and spending quality time with your family or friends. Let any stress from the day go and enjoy this important time of your day.
– I believe it’s important to end your day with some rituals and routines that not only prepare you for the next day (e.g. spend some time planning), but also rituals that help you unwind and re-connect. This means many things to many people. Find what works for you – it could be quiet reading, or meditation, or journaling, or prayer, just something relaxing and uplifting.
Of course, not everyday needs to look exactly the same. Arranging your time and priorities into shifts can help you stay focused, as well as keep you energized throughout your day, instead of having one long, run-on day!
9) Let’s state the obvious here: being productive doesn’t really matter if it turns you into a giant ball of stress! You need balance. You need margins in your day, too. Margins encompass your downtime, relaxation, fun time with your kids and spouse, and time spent socializing with friends, neighbors, and family. When I consistently make the time for these types of activities, I feel significantly more balanced.
These are the keys that keep me the happiest, as well as the most balanced and productive. Taking the occasional day off from spinning those all those plates doesn’t hurt, either!
About the Author:
Dr. Colleen Trombley-VanHoogstraat (“Dr Mom Online”) is a leading expert in Natural Health and Wellness. Her unique perspective of the science of Wellness provides predictable solutions and transformational results for those struggling with chronic health issues, as well as those seeking lifelong health. To discover her simple strategies for creating better health through nutrition, movement and mindset, visit http://www.drmomonline.com/ and be sure to request your FREE “Top Nutrition Tips” report while you’re there, and check out her available books at http://www.amazon.com/Dr.-Colleen-Trombley-VanHoogstraat/e/B00BGSJDEY.
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