Focus on Results, Not Tasks
In order to change results, you have to focus on the right things. Thinking about your day as a bunch of to-do's will get you nowhere fast. Instead, drive your day by the objectives. What are the results you are trying to accomplish and is there a direct correlation to the way you are spending your time? If your tasks don't roll up to a specific objective, seriously question their value. And if they do, prioritize and work the most important one first.
Chunk the Most Important Things Down
"I don't have time for that now." It's the most common and acceptable excuse for not achieving. The reality is we will never have time, because we leave the objectives in cow-size chunks and then wait patiently for that slot to open up in our day. And guess what? It never will. So you either get comfortable with taking yourself out of the fray for big chunks of time (not a bad strategy when you can, but not practical most of the time) or you build a habit of dividing things into bite-size chunks as soon as they come along. It helps to activate these smaller tasks horizontally in your tasking system over whatever time period you have available.
Automate, Automate, Automate
When was the last time you evaluated your own workload processes for improvement? Anything you do repetitively could be entered as a recurring task or appointment. What about communications? Have you created at least 5 or 6 repetitive messages for email templates?
Email filing? How about rules. Scheduling appointments? How about an online scheduler so you can simply send people a link to your schedule instead of the back and forth to lock down a simple phone call. (Our Advanced Workload Managment course is loaded with tips for doing this by the way!)
Plan for Reality
Why is it that we spend time creating plans that get tossed to the side almost immediately once the day begins? Only 2 reasons in my experience:-We're not disciplined enough to work the plan
-We built a completely unrealistic plan that left no room for reactive work
If it's the first, then see the 3 tips above, as they are meant to strengthen our resolve and reward our efforts. If it's the second, take time to determine what the right reactivity factor is for you and apply it to your plans. So for example, when I'm planning I know that most days leaving about 50% of my non-meeting time for reactive or opportunistic endeavors works best for me in my role. So if I have 4 hours for focused work, I actually assume I'll get 2 hours to work on planned projects. This keeps me agile and most importantly realistic in my commitments to others.
Distraction is a beast! It will grab you and drag you down a rabbit hole of interesting articles and controversial tweets. Never start your day looking at social media. Hold it to at least lunch or end of day if you can.
Building your day in a combination of short 15-20 minute bursts with the reward of a result, a deliverable, or even just a task checked off your list will help you keep your momentum running high. When I struggling with energy, I try to work like it's my last day before a week of vacation. I am convinced that's the most focused and productive day of the year!
If you like these tips, see this blog post, "5 Keys to a Productive Day" for 5 more productivity gaining tips!