Three Secrets to a Productive, Stress-free Day

Has Running Your Own Business…Run You Down?

I was recently at an event where I ran into an acquaintance from a previous job. She has been retired from her position and on her own for several years. I asked what she had been up to since she left. She at first looked a little unsure about the answer and then finally responded with “I don’t know exactly.  I keep meaning to get focused on that project I was passionate about but I just haven’t yet.” Could that be you? Do you have a passion or a dream that you thought you’d get to when you finally got free of the constraints in your life? Has it happened? 

One of the major challenges to living an intentional life is managing your time. There is no clocking in or clocking out. There is no boss to tell you what to do or where to focus your energy. There are no externally imposed deadlines. It is incredibly easy to sleep late, stay up late and piddle away your day. So just what is the secret to managing time effectively when there is no predetermined schedule?

First of all 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 activities 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.  It is easily distracted. The brain is designed to be used as a problem solving organ. Here’s how to create a productive, focused and stress-free day:

Begin Your Week with a Plan

Each Sunday afternoon I spend some time creating my calendar for the next week.  I have it on a whiteboard that I keep in a very visible place.  I put all my appointments, client calls, speaking engagements etc on it.  This is something that I can quickly see each morning over my coffee that keeps me on track. Next, I schedule my days into blocks of time where I will work on specific projects or activities.  It might be writing the next blog post or creating a proposal for a training event. 

I have another whiteboard where I list ongoing ideas and projects.  Some of these are in various stages of completion.  Some are in my parking lot of ideas, which means that I will get around to them at some point in the future but they are not currently demanding my time.  For example, I am currently working on completing a school training session that is coming up next week. This is an active project.  Creating a proposal for other training events is in my parking lot.  I’ll get around to it later. This frees my mind to focus totally on what is at hand.  

Begin Your Day with a Plan

Once I have my week outlined into priorities, I can focus each day on the predetermined schedule for that day. There is something incredibly compelling about a schedule that is written down. It is powerful. It keeps you accountable, even if you are the only one who created it. 

Decide who you want to be as well as what you want to do.

I’ve found that this is often the forgotten piece in so many checklists.  We spend time recognizing what we want to do but don’t spend any time centering ourselves in who we want to be.  I begin each day answering the questions: Who do I want to be?  and How do I want to feel?.  Then I align my mindset with that before I even begin scheduling my tasks.

Why Creating a Plan Works

One thing that we know about the brain is that the brain is drawn toward congruity and completion.  This is why it is important to have a plan or a goal for the day.  Our brain will then want to align our daily activities with those goals.  It is drawn toward activities where completion is a given.  Wonder why you find yourself emptying the dishwasher when the plan was to contact three possible clients or write 1,000 words on the book?  It’s not just procrastination.  We can easily see the end of emptying the dishwasher or sorting the mail.  Other tasks are not so clearly defined.  This is why having a system for identifying tasks, setting priorities and creating blocks of time is so important. It sets up the brain to move toward completion of a task.

Learning to direct your energy and structure your activities 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. 

Do you need some help with creating a plan that will help you move closer to you dream job and dream life?  

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I had lots of ideas, but no idea how to actually take the first step toward making my dream a reality. Lucky for me, the Dream Achiever Coaching program had everything that I needed to begin taking precious baby steps. The strategy sessions clearly identified each next step in an order that made perfect sense. And the mindset sessions gave me the confidence I needed to move forward! ~Ellen Quarles      

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