3 Ways to Load Your Day The Right Way
October 7, 2015
Yesterday I sent out a really personal email to my VIP subscriber list with the title:
“I had a relapse. Damn.”
It was an honest, open and transparent email explaining how I’d fallen back into some bad habits regarding productivity.
In short: I’d started to feel overwhelmed again, feel “busy” and not effective, and was focussing on being efficient and not impactful.
It turns out that old habits do indeed, die very hard.
The effects of this were evident: my results were just not as good as they should have been. Simple.
As passionate small business people, we’re all on our journey of self discipline & personal development and we’re all optimising the way that we work on a daily basis.
Having said that, I believe that frequently and despite our very best intentions, we all struggle with the way that we used to go about our day.
Regardless of the personal development processes we follow when our willpower is at its highest, the new habits that we build often vanish from site and we simply fall back on what was once comfortable, typically when we find ourselves with too much to do.
This is of course a mistake.
Thankfully, as as part of the Business Book of the Month podcast I'm a part of, I’ve just finished re-reading “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and the timing could not have been better.
If you haven’t read it, “The One Thing” deals with the psychology of productivity and encourages us all to ask “the focus question”:
“What is the one thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will become easier or unnecessary?”
It’s a powerful notion and a notion that does a job on us: it truly has the power to focus.
It forces us to ask questions of ourselves; of our priorities and it forces us to give honest, frank and sometimes scarily revealing answers to these questions.
The issue is that in practice, it can be very difficult to implement “the one thing” mindset effectively.
“Real life” gets in the way. And we behold, we've made our second mistake.
“Real life”, much of the time, is just an excuse. I realised that last week and by taking hold of it and controlling it, I set out to re-create my perfect day.
Knowing already what is important, interesting and integral to my business life, I realised that my issues stemmed from the demands on my time that I created for myself.
My personality is such that I always default to “yes” when someone asks me to do something. Hey, my mum raised a nice guy!
Nice guys, it seems, do indeed finish last – why?
Because they're always snowed under with work that delivers very little impact!
It's hardly a surprise that, just as “The One Thing” teaches, by cutting out all of the tasks that don't matter we actually become so much more effective.
There's nothing new here, but where we really struggle is when we find ourselves under pressure.
It's then that the best laid plans can go to to waste and that we end up simply heading down the to do list, ticking boxes to pacify our desire to feel productive.
3 Ways to Load Your Day the Right Way
Last week I refined my processes and designed a new daily “framework” that allows me to create time to actually focus on something vital for a serious portion of each and every day, without alienating the team around me.
The beauty of life is that we all have differing needs, priorities and environmental situations and as such, I used the framework set out in “The One Thing” and overlaid a “real life” layer to my process to arrive at a daily routine that suits me.
These are the 3 steps I took to design that day, and that you can use to do the same:
Step 1: Identify Your Natural Slump
The tasks that are integral to my business, e.g. invoicing, emailing et al, I now allocate to the time of day that I personally really struggle with: the 90 minutes or so immediately after lunch. At this time, I can happily plonk myself behind a desk and blast through some menial work.
Step 2: Identify Your Afternoon Energy Peak
I know my energy picks up at around 3:30pm and, as my mum would say, I have the “daft hour”.
Well, now I channel that time in to phone-calls and new business development because it's the time during which my personality is as exuberant as it'll ever be.
I also make sure to book any important meetings during this period and limit “meetings” strictly to one per day.
Step 3: Identify the Weak Links in the Chain
I identified where my brain struggled to switch into the right gear for me to accomplish my “one thing“.
As a result, I re-worked my morning a little: rather than transitioning straight from my 0715 – 0800 email catch up into my “one thing”, a practice that meant the first half hour of that focus time was just me “getting into it” (and producing sub-standard work), I inserted a short, 15 minute coffee break.
This allows me to take my mind away from any of the emails I've just been working on, stop thinking through any potential responses that will await me the next time I check in with my emails, and move my mind into the right gear for my “one thing”.
By taking 15 minutes to do this, I've created an additional 15 minutes of super productive time during the “one thing” period.
This leaves a complete 3-5 hour “gap” in the morning where I can carry out my most important “one thing” for that day.
The 3 steps I realised I had to take are not a prescriptive way to make the most out of your own day, rather they provide 3 points of reflection for you to begin to understand some of the “leakage” that may have crept into your productivity.
Don't forget, the more you expect from yourself, the more you WILL excel!