We are nine days into the new year…only nine days. Have you broken your New Year’s Resolution yet? Instead of resolutions, how about setting goals? Here are some tips on reaching your goals this year.
1. Act on the Important
Ever feel guilty that nothing got done all weekend because you binge-watched an entire season (or several seasons) of a show on Netflix? That is an example of a time waster. The enjoyment we get from the experience is fleeting and then we feel overwhelmed by everything else we have to get done. These are the things that distract us from what is important. These could also be those things that are important to others, but not necessarily important to us. Someone’s passion project is not necessarily our passion project. Get the picture? Others are the unexpected emergencies or fires that need to be put out. These are the things that are urgent and necessary to act on to avoid consequences later. We spend a lot of time in these areas instead of the ones that really matter. To grab control of our time, we need to make a choice to be proactive rather than reactive. It is okay to say “No”, even to ourselves.
2. Go for Extraordinary
What does it mean to be extraordinary? Well, it is actually pretty simple. It means feeling accomplished. It means doing things that have value to you. This will look different to everyone because we all have different values and that is okay. So the second thing you need to do is to determine what your most important roles are in your life. For me, this is being a wife, mother, dog-mom, and educator. After all that comes the other stuff like student, daughter (yes, that is on the list, but since I don’t live at home and I am an adult, other things that precedence in my life), etc. If you notice that those important roles you identified seem to be lacking in priorities, then think about what you could do to fix it. What more could you be doing in that area? If you have a goal that does not correspond to one of those roles you identified as being important, then how important is that goal? Why are you doing it? It might mean reflecting a little more on what it is that you truly want. When things are important to us, we will find the time for them.
3. Schedule the Big Rocks
I know how it sounds…it is all important, right? Well, not really if you look at it closely. Chances are that you are actually sorting gravel while trying to get it all done. We cram so much into our lives that it leaves very little room for anything else. Those action items that align with the roles we identified as important, as well as those items that have a deadline, should be placed higher in priority if we were ranking all our tasks. It is a good idea to take time at the beginning of the week to plot out everything you need to get done. Schedule not only the day you plan to get it done, but also the time you plan to act on it. We are more likely to act on something when we give it a deadline. You should also schedule blocks of time where you have nothing planned, that way you already have time built into your schedule for the things that pop up that are important to act on that week. Also, schedule time for you! We make ourselves sick because we have this expectation that being busy means that we are being productive. Take time to unwind, just don’t fall into the rabbit hole of too much unproductivity. If you have more time after scheduling the important things, then you can fill it in with those small unimportant tasks. You should assess your task list not just at the beginning of the week, but also at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day. It is also okay to shift stuff to the next day. If things are constantly being shifted to the next day, reflect on why that was. Is it something you can delegate, was it a time waster, is there a habit that needs changing?
4. Rule your Technology
Find the tool that works best for you, not the one that someone said is the only way you should be tracking your time. What is important is to stick to that method and only that method. I find that the method that works best for me is to separate my roles. My work tasks are tracked using my Outlook calendar. I have a task list as part of that. So I only use Outlook for anything that is work-related. I do not use paper because I easily misplace that stuff. I have a OneNote notebook for my meeting notes that is synched to all my devices. So my notes are always in one place. At home, I use the Amazon Echo devices with Alexa to keep track of my tasks and reminders. I have multiple Google calendars set up to keep track of appointments. For example, my husband has several doctors visits each month, so we have a calendar devoted to just the doctors’ appointments. I have another calendar that is used to track my school deadlines. I also import my work calendar to another Google calendar so when I am not at work, I can see if there might be a conflict for anything. All these calendars are color-coded and overlaid to show everything at a glance on my phone, tablet, or computer. Even my work Outlook calendar is color-coded for the different tasks and events. But this is just my way of doing this. I know several people that use paper journals or agenda books. I have found that it is helpful to write stuff down, but I am more likely to refer to it if it is on my tablet or phone (techie here!). So don’t waste time getting frustrated trying to fit into a process that just doesn’t work for you; find the one that does.
5. Fuel your Fire
Remember what I said about scheduling time for you? Self-care is very important when it comes to being productive. If we are burnt out, we are more likely to fall into the trap of time wasters. We also lose energy which means tasks will take more time to complete or we will be slower to act on them. Make healthy choices like exercising, eating healthy, sleeping, and spending time with friends or family. Those are all healthy ways to fuel our fires!
This list is based on the 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity program from Franklin Covey. If you are interested in discovering more about these five areas, I encourage you to read the book The 5 Choices: the Path to Extraordinary Productivity. I also curate lots of time management tips on my pinterest board.