A reader commented on a recent post of mine: “I work so much that I sometimes don't know how to turn it off.” Many people are increasingly pressure to do more and more . . . often with less. But only so much can be done in a day.
I like to look at the day as being 96 opportunities of 15 minutes each. Most of us can only concentrate for about 15 minutes at a time, so this division makes sense. How we use these small units of time results in days (even weeks, months, or years) that are either productive and powerful or frustrating and frantic.
Of course there are whole books dedicated to this topic, but for now I’ll look at just two aspects of how to get more done with less time. . . and how to “turn it off” at the end of the day:
1. Know what is important.
2. Celebrate the completions.
First you have to know what is important to get done. Not every task has the same value. And not all tasks need to be completed by you. You can prioritize and then sometimes even delegate to others. Use an effective tickler system to remind you of tasks that can be performed later so you don’t have to try to actually remember everything that needs to be done.
If you work for someone else, then often they set the priorities. However, you also have to focus on what is important to you as well. If there is a particular project, that if completed would move you forward in your personal goals, this could be a good place to put some significant focus. Repeated focus of 15 minutes at a time can create powerful results. Look at the tasks on your plate and organize them by priority, identifying those that will move you forward most effectively.
Once prioritized, you can also organize your tasks-to-be-completed by the amount of time it might take to finish a task. Some will take longer than others. For example, if you have articles you need to read that might take you 15 minutes to complete, and you’ve organized those on your list as requiring a “small” amount of time, carry a couple with you and when you find yourself waiting for a vendor or meeting, you can read one and check it off your list. One more valued item completed.
You can also take advantage of time when you are waiting on the phone. For example, if clearing out your email is on your task list, and you find yourself on hold for a length of time, that might be a good opportunity to cull some of those no longer necessary emails.
Make the most of the time you have in the day. Remember, concentrated effort over 15 minutes performed consistently can help you clear a lengthy “to do” list over time.
Related: To Do More, First Slow Down
To help you disconnect at night, and to reinforce that you are making progress, try this exercise: For five days in a row, take time at the end of the day to write a list of tasks you worked on and of lessons you learned along the way for each day. Reflect on what went well, what could have been improved, what you said that was effective, or what was stated that might not have helped the situation. All this reflection helps focus on what you are already doing that is working and highlights the fact you really are making progress through the tasks you have on your list, while learning and growing along the way.
Take time to celebrate your completions. One day folds into the next when we don’t take time to celebrate what we have successfully completed. A celebration can be as simple as an internal comment to yourself such as: “Excellent! You made all your follow-up calls today. Way to go.” Celebration can also be a team party at the end of a large project. The point is to take time to acknowledge the completions that are happening along the way. It is far too easy to go from day to day and task to task, moving to the next item on the “to do” list, never taking time to recognize, even to ourselves, the many tasks we complete each day. Even doing a simple task well is worth celebrating.