Simple Steps to a Productive Day
Wonder how to have a productive day?
Do you react to events as they unfold?
Are you always putting out fires or responding to emergencies?
Or do you plan, schedule and organize your priorities? Are you living an intentional life?
For many years, I lived my life by being reactive instead of creative. I started my day with a vague notion of something I’d like to accomplish. I often had a to-do list in my head or even jotted down somewhere. Then I would hear the ping of an email or a text message and immediately stop what I was doing and respond. A co-worker would stop me in the hall and I would take on a new task or responsibility. A phone call or a memo would redirect my day. I constantly allowed the tyranny of the urgent to swallow up the important tasks in my day. My day was at the mercy of whoever and whatever got my attention. At the end of the day, I would wonder where my time went and why nothing of substance was accomplished.
Living a Creative Life
Living a creative life does not mean that we ignore the necessary tasks and the relationships in our lives. It does not mean if there is an emergency, we don’t respond. Lets face it though. Most of the things that we are distracted by don’t enhance our relationships and they aren’t emergencies. The things that draw us away from our goals are the black hole of social media, the endless but mundane tasks of our world or the vegging-out-in-front-of-the-television type of activities. We all have the same amount of time in our day, but how we plan out our time is the difference.
What if it were possible to accomplish more in a day without feeling pulled in a million directions? What if you could structure your day to attend to the most important tasks first?
You Can’t Really Manage Time
You can’t really manage time because it is, well, time. You can’t corral it. You can’t stop it or speed it up. But you can manage your activities. The problem most people have is that they try to manage their time by keeping track of information and priorities in their mind. The brain is not designed to hold on to and maintain a list of everything that you need to accomplish. The brain is designed to be used as a problem solving organ. Think of the brain as a factory not a warehouse and give it the structure it needs to function well.
The other thing that we know about the brain is that the brain is drawn toward congruity and completion. This is why it is important to set clear goals. Our brain will then want to align our daily activities with those goals. It is also drawn toward activities where completion is a given. This is one reason that we often find ourselves emptying the dishwasher or folding laundry when the plan was to contact three possible clients or complete your weekly newsletter. We can easily see the end of household tasks. Other tasks are not so clear. This is why having a system for managing our tasks and setting priorities is so important.
Create a Daily/Weekly Schedule
Each morning before I begin work, I identify my three priorities for the day and estimate the amount of time needed for each. I tentatively schedule times to begin and end each task. I begin with the most pressing task, the one that if I can complete it then the rest of my day and week will stay on track. I also take Sunday evenings to look over my calendar and block out appointments for the week. This helps me to schedule my three priorities each day.
There is something incredibly compelling about a schedule that is written down. Being accountable to a schedule, even if you are the only one who created it, is power. Don’t allow outside urgent activities and requests to overcome the important work that you are doing. Learning to identify the important activities in your life and structuring your day and your weeks to direct your energy is a necessary part of living an intentional life. It is how dreams become reality and goals are achieved. A goal is simply a dream with a plan.
Set aside some time this week to create a plan for your life. I promise you will find it so empowering, you will wonder how you ever functioned without it.
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