Tip #3: Plan your top 5 tasks that you want to get done today.
Author Brian Tracy says planning your day is the secret to maximizing productivity. It takes 10 to 12 minutes for you to plan out your day. This small investment of time will save you up to two hours in wasted time and diffused effort throughout the day.
Let’s get proactive and own the time you have available. Identify your top five tasks that you want to get completed today. Add them to your to do list. Be intentional here- what is really important that you must do?
Now, put those items on your calendar so that you can work on them with intention and focus. This will dramatically improve your ability to go from chaos to clarity.
Tip #4: Mute notifications on your phone
Instant messaging and notifications used to be great. We wanted to be responsive, so we attended to messages along the way.
Now, they have multiplied and extended to every application we use on our phone. How many notifications are you receiving each day? The median number of notifications per phone per day is 64. So many notifications puts us in a constant state of interruption.
Consider that it takes 23 minutes to refocus after you have been interrupted. If your phone notifications are happening 64 times a day, your day has many more interruptions than focus time. Turn the notifications off in order to spend periods of time each day focusing.
Tip #5: Focus on single tasking
Even when it’s painful, complete that one thing- and then relish as you check it off your to do list. Don’t try to multitask- it really doesn’t work.
You might be saying, “but I’m in a meeting and it’s so BORING” so I would rather do other work. This is indicative of a different problem. Consider how to help move the meeting faster, so you can get the meeting completed faster and go back to other work.
Many of us believe we are the one person that truly can multi-task. Unfortunately, it is really not true for most of us. When your brain is constantly switching back and forth between to-do’s, you aren’t properly focusing. Your IQ drops 15 points when you are multi-tasking. Constantly switching between items causes mental fatigue as well. Keep your brain fresh and focused by single tasking. This immediately helps you go from chaos to clarity by focusing on one item at a time.
Tip #6: Eliminate unnecessary events with TCOE
Meetup groups, Eventbrite- there are a plethora of sites with any number of external interesting events. Quickly you can end up with two or three interesting events a week, resulting in a number of hours of commitments. Events are often over the lunch hour (requiring extra commute time to and from) or after work, eating into precious work recovery time.
It’s hard to say no to so many interesting events. However, if you really need to free up time on the calendar, this generally will free up hours.
The easiest way to start this one is by looking at past events. Ask yourself some tough questions to understand which ones were not an effective use of your time:
- What was the time cost of the event (TCOE)? Consider the length of the event, and your travel time to and from the event.
- What were your expectations going into the event?
- Did the event meet your expectations? Why or why not?
- Should you go to events like these in the future? Why or why not?
Given all the new information you have about the events you have attended in the past- it’s time to look at the upcoming week. What events should you attend? For all those that don’t make the cut, decline them to find additional precious time to focus.
Tip #7: Move meetings online to eliminate travel time and frustration
Most commute times are growing, not shrinking. How much time are you spending traveling to a meeting and finding parking? It’s not just about the time, it is also about the frustration of construction, traffic and weather. There are times when it is critical to meet face to face. There are also many situations where Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts would have been perfectly acceptable. Now it’s time to look again at your calendar. Which meetings could have moved online? Which ones can you move online starting today?
Tip #8: Move all meetings that are after 3 p.m.
Forget meetings after 3 p.m. Gasp! Why would we dare to suggest that? It’s simple- your productivity goes off a cliff. It the same reason you are reaching for a snack or some coffee to keep pushing through your day. Energy levels are low at this time of the day.
For most of us, a structured meeting at this time of day is anything but energizing. This time of day is better suited to checking email, creative or collaborative work, and returning calls. Find either activities that help you wind down the day, or re-energize you.
Schedule activities into this part of the day that don’t require the same amount of mental energy.
Tip #9 Create meeting sequences meetings by topic or days of the week
Have you ever had those days where you feel like a ninja? Where work is effortlessly flowing through you and many things are being accomplished? How can you create this for yourself more often?
As you take more proactive control of your calendar, you’ll start noticing things. That one odd meeting in the afternoon that breaks up your whole afternoon. You’ll probably also see those days with one meeting. Often that one meeting interrupts the flow of our day. We don’t get too deeply into a given topic, because we have that meeting coming up.
Consider clustering meetings, particularly around similar topics. This will allow you to enter a flow and rhythm for that given topic. In other words, it helps you cue Ninja mode. Then the remaining time can be used for deeply focused work.
One example we used during the build of Bella Scena- Tuesday was meeting day. The day would be structured to focus on all meetings related to building the product. In the morning I met with my coach, at lunch I had my team meeting with my development team, and in the afternoon I would meet with the design team on new work.
But what do you do if you didn’t schedule the meeting? Just ask to move it. What is the worst that can happen- they can say no? Okay, that helps you so that you start clustering meetings together in the future. Remember, this is going to be a work in progress and a skill you keep practicing to keep saving time in the future.
Tip #10: Maintain a to do list
Why do we really need a to do list? Can’t I just remember everything? For most of us, there are so many spinning plates that it is simply impossible to keep track of everything. Diligently maintaining a to do list allows you to quiet the noise in your head so you can focus on the task at hand to complete it. The more you dump out of your head, the quieter it is and the easier it is to focus.
At a minimum, the to do list should be used on the bookend of your days. It should be the first thing you look at as you plan your day in the morning, and the last thing you look at as you wrap up your day at the end.
We know it’s not easy to focus today with constant interruptions. Use our top ten ways to find an additional two hours a day to create more time and space to work on what’s most important for you. It’s time for you to go from chaos to clarity.