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The Assault on Productivity, Neglect of Your Calendar

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Assault Productivity Neglect Calendar

Almost all of us want to be able to improve our productivity. But how exactly can we do this?

There’s certainly no shortage of tried and true techniques. Examples would be working when you’re most effective, setting timers, blocking out distractions, or setting daily goals.

While all of these are helpful, they also rely on a calendar. Case in point, to reach your goals, you need to block out undistracted times for you to focus on tasks that get you closer to your desired outcome. If not, you’ll get bombarded by phone calls or commit to less difficult chores.

But, just because you have a calendar doesn’t mean you’re getting the most out of it. It’s like buying an elliptical to improve your health but letting it sit there collecting dust. If you ignore your new exercise equipment, you’re still failing to maintain your health.

In short, if you want to bolster your productivity, then you can’t neglect your Calendar. Here are the best ways to prevent that from happening.

Time estimates aren’t adjusted.

This past Sunday, I decided to cook dinner for my family. It wasn’t an overly complicated entree — it was stuffed peppers if you’re curious. Unfortunately, I underestimated how long it would take me to prep and cook the meal — leaving a very hangry family.

To be fair, we’re all terrible at estimating time. And, you can thank the planning fallacy for that.

What is the planning fallacy?

The planning fallacy is a psychological term that describes our tendency to underestimate how much time a task will take. It was first introduced in 1977 by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. They found that people tend to ignore historical data when making predictions.

In other words? We don’t use historical evidence to estimate time. Instead, we concentrate exclusively on the upcoming task at hand.

Kahneman later elaborated on the original concept in his 2011 book “Thinking Fast and Slow.” According to him, estimation mistakes are usually caused by two factors;

  • Failure to consider the past times when we have completed similar tasks
  • We assume no complications will arise that will delay us

A second mistake relates to optimism bias, which describes our tendency to believe that the future will be a better place than the past. How does this connect to the planning fallacy? People think that things they do in the future will be more efficient than the things they do now.

As a result of our optimism, we believe that delays will be unlikely. But, unfortunately, that means when it comes to estimating time, you go with the best-case scenario. Consequently, we tend to disregard historical data that proves that the best-case scenario is, in fact, highly improbable.

How to overcome the planning fallacy?

In some cases, the planning fallacy is nothing more than an inconvenience. For example, you might have a hungry family when dinner is running late. But, you can put out some snacks in the meantime. However, time estimation errors account for 25 percent of failed projects at work.

The easiest fix? To estimate time spent on different types of tasks, use a time tracking app to track your progress over time or uncover when you’re most productive. The app’s built-in reports make it easy to reference the data later on.

Another easy solution? Give yourself some time than you need. For instance, you could set aside 2 hours for a specific task, even though you believe that it will only take you an hour. If it ends up taking you an hour-and-a-hour, then you have 30-minutes to spare instead of going over the allotted time you planned.

Sorry to continually beat the drum on this same idea — but you should periodically track your time on your recurring tasks to improve your productivity. As you become more proficient at these tasks, you should complete them faster. For example, if you blocked out two hours for a task and it now takes you an hour and a half, that extra time could be used elsewhere.

Not blocking out your priorities first.

Throughout my entrepreneurial career, I have sported a variety of hats. Obviously, this is more important when just getting started. There is no way to hire a talented team when you don’t have the resources. Once the cash starts flowing in, hiring a stellar team to support means fewer hats you have to wear.

That doesn’t mean you should completely ignore these responsibilities. Instead, it means that you can delegate specific tasks to others. On the downside, that could mean that you start filling your Calendar with entries that aren’t priorities.

Instead, follow the advice of Stephen Covey. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”

This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Still, it shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve. After all, when it comes down to it, your priorities are anything that moves you closer to your goals.

With that in mind, you should book your priorities before anything else. If you don’t, other less critical items will take their place, thus hindering your productivity. Also, keep in mind that you won’t accomplish them all on a single day, so focus only on your three most important tasks. All other activities should be put off until later, delegated, or deleted.

Ignoring calendar conflicts.

Occasionally, calendar conflicts will arise. That’s life. But that doesn’t mean you should just shrug your shoulders and tell yourself, “Oh, well.”

Ignoring calendar conflicts doesn’t mean that they’ll magic resolve themselves. Instead, you’re going to have to be proactive and tackle them head-on.

For example, if you double-booked a time slot, own up to your mistake and try to make it right. So, let’s say you have a doctor’s appointment when you were supposed to have a call with a client. Let your client know about the scheduling error and offer an alternative date to speak. They may be disappointed, but it’s better than leaving them high and dry.

Forgetting to add calendar entries.

It’s possible to lose productivity when you forget to add calendar entries. Don’t wait to add events to your Calendar until the last minute as well. You might miss important meetings if you don’t do it immediately. As a result, you may be unable to meet deadlines, or you’ll need extra time to catch up on missed tasks.

Always schedule items as soon as possible — even if it’s a year in advance. But, of course, with the popularity of calendar apps, you can do this whenever and wherever you can. So, in my opinion, there’s really no excuse for forgetting to add entries to your Calendar.

Not clearing your Calendar regularly.

There are very things in life that you’ll possess forever if you don’t clean things out — including your Calendar. Everything from torn clothing, broken appliances, and outdated pantry items must be replaced. If not, you’ll end up in an episode of Hoarders.

The same is valid with your Calendar. If you don’t declutter your Calendar from time to time, it’s going to be packed with unnecessary entries. How often you go about this is up to you — I personally do this twice a year. Regardless, here are some items that you may want to remove when cleaning your Calendar;

  • Meetings with no purpose or agenda
  • Back-to-back or standing meetings
  • Habitual or minute activities, like brushing your teeth.
  • Unnecessary notifications and reminders, such as “Walk your dog.”
  • Recurring events that no longer fit into your schedule or you have no interest in attending
  • Tasks that can be delegated or outsourced
  • Other people’s priorities

Sticking with calendar default settings.

Make sure your calendar settings are tailored to your specific productivity needs, instead of just accepting the defaults.

For instance, multiple calendars and color-coding options are typically available in calendar apps. By using a different font or all caps, you can also draw attention to necessary entries. Alternatively, you can change the calendar view and decide what day to start.

In addition, you have the option to enable other time zones, hide specific calendars, and change the default time. This last option is particularly important. You can set the time to exactly what you need for an event or task instead of blocking out the default time — usually, this is an hour.

As an example, you might only need to meet with your team for 30-minutes. But, since you stuck with the entire hour, you’re wasting everyone’s valuable time that could have been spent on something more important.

If you really want to supercharge your Calendar and productivity, consider teaming your Calendar with other tools. By harnessing machine learning, Calendar, for example, suggests when, where, and how to schedule your time.

One final piece of advice here. The calendar app and tools that you use should seamlessly sync across multiple devices. Google Calendar, for instance, is equally accessible on Android and iOS devices. That means you can switch between your iPhone and Chromebook, preventing any missed calendar entries.

Failing to review your Calendar constantly.

To start the day on the right foot, you need to plan ahead. I mean, that’s like saying you’re going to cook your family meatloaf for dinner on a whim. Unfortunately, you don’t have all of the ingredients, leaving you scrambling to think of a replacement — on top of a disappointed and hungry family.

As for productivity specifically, let’s say it’s Sunday night, and you didn’t look ahead on your Calendar schedule for tomorrow. Because you’re busy with your family, it slips your mind that you have an early meeting in the morning. Suffice to say, you don’t prep for the meeting and are caught off guard when you receive a calendar reminder 15-minutes before the meeting starts.

In situations like above, that could not throw your schedule off. Or, even if you can keep your schedule intact, you may feel “off” for the remainder of the day. In turn, this could slow your productivity to a screeching halt.

Image Credit: Olya Kobruseva; Pexels; Thank you!

The Assault on Productivity, Neglect of Your Calendar was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

Work Less Because It’s Done and Play More in 2022

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Work Less Because It’s Done and Play More in 2022

You may have seen folks around you who get everything done and then some. How do they get so much done so fast?

Time management is the answer.

Time management is the art of organizing and allocating minutes, getting things done. This maximizes productivity and achieves goals. Time management improves job performance and life satisfaction while reducing stress. High achievers don’t just happen. Rather, they’ve honed the talents required to achieve more in less time.

Productivity is a skill.

It’s an acquired talent that everyone must learn. However, it is feasible (and simple) to learn time management. There are several tools, strategies, and approaches available to assist you. We’ve rounded together our finest 32 day-saving ideas.

Planning Your Time to be Done Faster

Planned calendar management will help you build solid habits, get things done and increase your chances of success.

1. Conduct a time audit.

First things first: figure out where you spend your time. Often, what you believe is taking up your time isn’t. Humans are lousy at estimating task duration. Let’s say you need to send a 300-word email. Think: “Emailing is easy. It should just take 5 minutes.” Proofreading, checking language choice, and identifying email addresses are all duties that might add to the task’s duration. Your 5-minute email may take you 20 minutes, 500% longer than expected with such changes.

Assume you have the same issue with numerous tasks. A balanced workload will inevitably turn into a hectic to-do list during the day. You need to know what you can do and what is genuinely eating up your minutes. That’s why a time audit is useful. The most straightforward approach to undertake a time audit is using calendar tracking software. Many firms provide free software, but Toggl Track is the easiest, with applications for all devices.

Track your activities for a week to get an accurate time utilization picture. Then, examine the reports at the end of the week and analyze the time you spend on various chores. With this data, you can quickly improve. For example, you may waste time in useless meetings or busywork.

Now you can see how you spend your time and prepare accordingly.

So here’s the next piece of advice.

Tip #2: Set realistic goals and prioritize and be done.

Time management won’t assist you if you have too much to do. After doing a time audit, you’ll know if you need to manage your time better or if you have too much on your plate.

For attainable goals, skip to suggestion 3.

If you feel overwhelmed, create an Eisenhower matrix or use the 4 Ds of time management: Do, Defer, Delegate, and Delete. Your duties are divided into four categories into both methods:

Do: Important and urgent tasks.

Defer: Important yet non-urgent tasks.

Delegate: Urgent but unimportant tasks.

Delete: Non-urgent or non-critical tasks.

These methods will help you decide what jobs to prioritize, schedule, delegate, or remove. They should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.

Tip #3: Make a daily management strategy.

You can do this in the morning or at the end of the day. Creating a daily to-do list is one of those time slots. Keep your to-do list simple. The sight of half-completed lists is discouraging.

Even in personal productivity, it’s preferable to under-promise and over-deliver. Write your list as though you’ve already finished it. Submit Report to Project Manager instead of “Submit Report to Project Manager.”

This tiny method will give you an extra push of desire to finish your duties.

Tip #4: Sunday planning management

A strategy will help you focus on your critical goals during the workweek. It also enables you to move from weekend mode to “work mode” on Monday morning. First, spend a few minutes on Sunday planning your entire week. Then, break down weekly goals into daily chores to increase achievement.

You’ll be able to see your daily tasks at a glance. Schedule low-priority work for Fridays and other low-energy days. The week’s energy and creative levels change. Finish creative projects on Tuesday and Wednesday. Plan meetings for Thursday, when your team’s energy drops. Plan and network on Fridays and Mondays.

Personal productivity has hundreds of variations. Because everyone works differently, experimenting with these time management techniques will help you find the ideal strategy for you.

Tip #5: Finish your most critical and time-consuming activities first thing.

The first few hours of work are usually the most fruitful. This is because you can focus better while your brain isn’t completely awake.

They have less energy for daydreaming and other duties. So, preferably, do your most intellectually demanding responsibilities first thing in the morning.

10 Ways to Prioritize Productivity Again, Now

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10 Ways to Prioritize Productivity Again, Now

The last year has been one that we’ll be recalling for the rest of our lives. And, we certainly had plenty of reasons not to prioritize productivity. However, as we begin to re-emerge into some semblance of normalcy, it’s time to get back on the productivity train.

10 Ways to Prioritize Productivity Again, Now!

Obviously, to actually get back to “normal” (whatever that is much easier said than done. We’re still adjusting and coping with the ripple effects of COVID-19. But, it’s not impossible if you employ the following techniques.

1. Have a more mindful morning.

For many of us, working from home has all but erased the boundaries between work and life. As a result, burnout has become rampant.

One way to resolve this? Don’t check your email when you first wake up.

Even though 66% of people dive into their inbox first thing in the morning, that’s a surefire way to drain your productivity and increase your anxiety.

“Your inbox is everyone else’s to-do list for you, aligned to their goals and objectives, not necessarily your goals and objectives,” Carson Tate, author of “Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style,” told Business Insider. “You are sacrificing one of the most productive periods of your day, the start when you are fresh, alert, and not yet mentally fatigued to react to what everyone else wants from you versus using your focused energy to advance your goals.”

As opposed to grabbing your phone immediately when you wake up, start your day with a 5-minute meditation. It’s a simple way to ease into the day while also gaining clarity on what requires your immediate attention.

As for climbing out from underneath your inbox, do this only three times a day. I do this right before work, after lunch, and when I’m ready to wrap up the workday. I also use methods like the two-minute rule and the 4D’s of email organization where I either do, delete, delegate, or defer.

2. Ask the “Focusing Question.”

“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”” asks Gary Keller, co-author of “The One Thing. He says that you should ask this “over and over until you’re doing the most important thing – your ‘ONE Thing.’”

“Extraordinary results are rarely happenstance,” he adds. “They come from the choices we make and the actions we take.”

“The Focusing Question always aims you at the absolute best of both by forcing you to do what is essential to success,” explains Keller. “It ignores what is doable and drills down to what is necessary, to what matters.” Regardless if “you’re looking for answers big or small, asking the Focusing Question is the ultimate ‘success habit’ in your life.”

After you’ve answered the “Focusing Question,” write it down. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams simply by writing them down on a regular basis.

3. Talk to yourself — out loud.

Researchers Gary Lupyan and Daniel Swingley conducted a study in 2012 where two groups of volunteers were tasked with finding a banana in a pile of random images. The group that said “banana” out loud located the picture first?

Why? Because this blocked out distractions and elevated their focus.

It might seem awkward at first. But, if you’re still working from home, who else is going to judge you? Maybe your dog, but this won’t make them think any less of you.

If you’re back in the office, maybe just mumble quietly the action you currently have to take. Just remember to use positive self-talk and refer to yourself in the third person as this controls your emotions.

4. Do your most important task second.

“Often people make the mistake of putting everything into a priority list and doing the most important thing first,” Yishan Wong wrote on Quora. “But the first thing is kind of hard to get started with for whatever reason and they end up getting stalled.”

“Instead, do the most appealing task first,” he recommends. It’s an easy way to “help you gain momentum, and once you go, you can more easily get started on the high priority tasks.”

In other words, when procrastinating, sometimes you don’t want to force yourself to prioritize. Rather, just getting started should be your top strategy.

5. Create a safe and stress-free environment.

Back in the 1960s, physician and neuroscientist Paul MacLean developed the famous triune brain theory. Although this has been revised over the years, this theory states that we have three brains.

“The most ancient structure is the reptilian brain, so named because it is made up of the stem and cerebellum,” explains David Hassell, CEO of 15Five. “These structures also appear in reptiles, animals that lack the more developed brain components described below.” It’s ancient and controls our heart rate and breathing, and is designed to protect us.

The next structure is the limbic brain. The limbic brain is shared by all mammals and “is where emotions, memories, and aggression live,” adds Hassell. It also “controls much of our behavior.”

“When we worry about our social lives and relationships, we recede into our limbic brains,” he states.

“Finally, we humans and other primates have a specialized structure called the neo-cortex,” says Hassell. Also called the frontal lobe, it’s “responsible for language and abstract and creative thinking.”

What does any of this have to do with productivity? It’s simple. “When people feel unsafe at work, their more primitive brain structures are activated, and they can’t access their frontal lobes to innovate,” clarifies Hassell.

What’s more, fear “will trigger their brains to start producing adrenaline and cortisol, and their creative minds will shut down.”

While this can vary depending on your preferences, here are some pointers to cultivate a safe and stress-free work environment;

  • Add personal touches to your workspace.
  • Keep your work area clean and organized.
  • Work during your most productive peaks.
  • Avoid toxicity and negative, such as co-workers who interrupt you.
  • Make physical activity, sleep, and eating healthy a priority.
  • If working with others, encourage communication and collaboration.
  • Foster a positive work culture through gratitude, respect, and acknowledgment.

6. Harness the power of N.E.T. time.

I’m going to be blunt. You’re not really crunched for time. You’re either not effectively managing your energy or just flat-out wasting time.

I don’t want to stand on my soapbox here. We’ve all been guilty of squandering our most precious resource. But, why do we do this to ourselves?

“Maybe you haven’t gotten clear on your ultimate purpose, and don’t feel motivated to move forward,” writes Team Tony. “Perhaps you’ve given in to limiting beliefs and are telling yourself you’re incapable of accomplishing your goals. Or maybe you haven’t yet mastered effective time management skills and are wasting more time than planned.”

Regardless of the exact reason, there are ways to turn this around. One such example would be what Tony Robbins calls N.E.T. time – No Extra Time.

“Use time spent commuting, running errands, exercising, or cleaning the house to feed your mind with high-quality coaching and powerful information that will help you achieve your dreams.”

To get started, compose “a list of action items, podcasts, or websites that you can utilize in short bursts of time and keep this list handy on your phone or in your planner,” Tony advises. “Combine your N.E.T. time with action, and your results will increase exponentially!” Overall, this “allows you to maximize the time you currently have at your fingertips, so you get more done without missing a moment.”

Other strategies to employ include;

  • Chunking where you group “things you need to do by the outcome.”
  • Priming for 10-minutes a day so “you can adjust your emotions and attitude to where it needs to be.”
  • Rapid Planning Method (RPM) to align your daily actions with your life’s purpose.

7. Stand up.

To be fair, standing up while working isn’t a recent phenomenon. In fact, famous authors, including Ernest Hemingway, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, and Virginia Woolf, all stood up to write.

More recently, researchers at Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health conducted found that those who could sit and stand throughout the day were 46% more productive. Additionally, 75% of workers reported that they had fewer body aches.

Considering that the pandemic has encouraged a more sedentary lifestyle, investing in a standing desk might not just make you more productive. They could also benefit your overall health and well-being.

8. Create a break list.

It’s no secret that frequent breaks throughout the day can make you more productiveThe Atlantic states the ideal formula is to work for 52 minutes and break for 17. Other studies report that you should unplug every 90-minutes because of ultradian rhythms.

The key is to find your rhythm and make breaks a priority. You also need to spend them engaged in activities that replenish you. And, that’s when a “break list” can come in handy.

Some ideas would be going for a walk outside, journaling, or learning something new.

9. Go on an “information diet.”

These days, we’re connected 24/7. And, the pandemic has only made this more prevalent. What with doomscrolling and no having clear work-life boundaries. As a consequence, this is causing information overload.

According to Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload, “Information overload occurs when a person is exposed to more information than the brain can process at one time.” When not checked, this can harm our mental and physical health, negatively impact relationships, and hinder productivity.

How can information overload be addressed? Tim Ferriss recommends going on a “low information diet.” And, you can use the following technique to get started;

  • Only seek out information that you need right now.
  • Recite the mantra; less is more.
  • Set time limits when gathering information.
  • Limit distractions and interruptions.
  • Learn how to skim.
  • Streamline communication.
  • Master the art of batching.
  • Daydream and allow your mind to wander.

10. Make fewer decisions.

According to psychology professor Barry Schwartz, having too many choices is both paralyzing and exhausting. The paradox of choice, as Schwartz calls it, is also detrimental to our mental health. His research shows that having greater possibilities leads to higher rates of depression.

How can you prevent this from happening? Well, the most obvious answer is to make fewer and better decisions.

While that may sound impossible, it’s not as complicated as you would think if you plan ahead. That doesn’t mean you have to book every minute of your time. Rather, planning in advance could be preparing your meals for the week or laying out your clothes.

That may not sound like much. But, no having to think about what you’re going to eat or wear won’t deplete mental energy. You can then put that energy to better use, like when focusing on your most important task for the day.

Another suggestion would be to create a “won’t-do list.” It’s an idea that was popularized by Jack Dorsey.

“The ‘won’t do’ list is often more important than the ‘do’ list,” he tweeted. “Setting the intention to deliberately not work on something gives me clearer space to think and work, and be less reactive. Some items stay on the lists for days/weeks/months; some I want to make sure I do every day.”

Fight Back Against “Urgency Bias”

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In small doses, there’s nothing wrong with creating a sense of urgency. After all, a healthy sense of urgency can help overcome laziness and procrastination. You have to fight against making a vague promise to yourself that you’ll do X, Y, or Z when you have time. Especially right now — within the COVID lag times.

More importantly — staying urgent can keep you motivated and focused. If you know you have to complete a task by a certain date or time, then you aren’t going to let distractions interrupt your flow.

However, according to “The Workplace Therapist” Brandon Smith, we’re in the midst of an urgent pandemic. “Like a chef, how can you effectively put hot sauce on the right things (and not on everything leaving your kitchen)?” he asks.

“As someone who has studied workplace functionality in a myriad of industries and coached hundreds of mid and executive corporate leaders for nearly two decades, I’ve had a front-row spectator’s seat to the evolution of the urgency epidemic,” says Smith. “If you are the recipient of others’ urgency, how can you properly respond so as to not allow others to infect you?”

Smith’s solution, which he describes in his book The Hot Sauce Principle: How To Live And Lead In A World Where Everything Is Urgent All Of The Timeisn’t about time management. It’s about urgency management.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s impossible to be productive and manage your time when you aren’t behind the wheel. By that, I mean playing firefighter or not saying “no” to the right things. Certainly, that’s no easy feat. But, you can use the following techniques to fight back against an “urgency biasE.”

Get inside a priority box.

Not literally. Instead, I’m talking about one of my all-time favorite productivity strategies known as the Eisenhower matrix. Named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower, here you would place all of your to-do-lists items into one the following quadrants:

  • Urgent and important. Tasks that you will do immediately.
  • Important, but not urgent. Tasks that you’ll schedule for later.
  • Urgent, but not important. Anything that can be delegated to someone else.
  • Neither urgent nor important. These should be eliminated from your list and schedule.

What if you have multiple items in your urgent and important quadrant? Assign a letter or number for each. For example, if you have a task that’s due to do today, then that would be assigned either an A or 1.

Here’s the problem though, a priority matrix is no-match for urgency bias. What happens if something gets sprung on you at the last minute? Furthermore, research shows that we “choose to perform urgent tasks with short completion windows.” The reason? We get a quick dopamine hit.

To solve this problem, use the 2-minute rule. It’s similar to the Eisenhower matrix expect that it creates more of a triage system. Here’s how it works:

  • If something will only take you under 2-minutes to complete, just do it.
  • For tasks that someone else could do, hand-it-off to them.
  • If a task is important but time-consuming, schedule it for when you have availability.
  • For anything that’s not important, delete it.

Embrace microproductivity.

You may have never heard of microproductivity. But, don’t get too hung up on that. It’s just another way of saying to take baby steps.

“Breaking tasks down helps us to see large tasks as more approachable and doable, and reduces our propensity to procrastinate or defer tasks because we simply don’t know where to begin,” Melissa Gratias, Ph.D., a workplace productivity coach and speaker, told Trello.

Also, by breaking large projects into smaller tasks with deadlines, you can stay motivated. Remember, we instinctively choose smaller, urgent tasks even when we know that larger, less urgent activities are more consequential.

Furthermore, this stops us from relying too much on our memory. “If we rely on our memory, we’ll stop at every step of the task and think, ‘What am I supposed to do next?’” explains Dr. Gratias, “Those stops are opportunities to get distracted, get off track, or miss a step.” Having smaller to-dos makes it easier for us to determine what needs to be done next.

Microproductivity also lets us establish more specific goals. As such, we’re able to exclude what’s irrelevant, while inciting effort and persistency. And, this also gives us the opportunity to solicit feedback.

Slow down.

You’ve gone ahead and planned out your ideal week. Despite this, you constantly fall into the urgency trap. In turn, you rush in an attempt to get everything done.

Obviously, rushing to get everything done makes you more anxious and stressed while also interfering with your productivity. Mainly this is because you’re more prone to making mistakes or doing multiple things at once. So, you might be curious as to why you keep doing this yourself. Well, our brains get hooked on the adrenaline stimulation.

The solution? Mindfulness.

Instead of jumping from one frying pan to the next, stop, take a deep breath, and consider the following:

  • What’s the ideal outcome for today and the future?
  • What’s your definition of success?
  • Identify your lack of congruence.
  • Identify the strengths and skills needed to succeed.
  • Expand your existing strengths so that you can nurture them.

“When you consistently rush from point A to point B you miss the subtle nuances of the present moment that bring us joy, build connections, cultivate strengths, provide opportunities, and keep you focused to achieve the vision of our ideal life,” explains Dawa Tarchin Phillips for Mindful. “Instead of getting caught rushing to nowhere devote some mindful time to slowing down and outgrowing personal habits and limitations to achieve better results.”

Collaborate with long-term planners.

Whether if it’s a coach, mentor, or co-worker Liz Kislik suggests on HBR that you work with someone who is more cerebral. You know who these individuals are. They have that uncanny ability to combine high energy and careful planning to keep them laser-focused only on the big picture.

Working from a dedicated long-term business plan will help you avoid burnout.

Stop being so selfish.

That may have come off a bit harsh. But, take a moment to consider how your actions impact others. For example, you and your team have carefully crafted a well-thought content calendar. However, you constantly change due dates and titles in order to be more timely. That means your team know has to reshuffle not only the calendar but also their work to accommodate your last-minute demands.

It’s also okay to be a little selfish.

On the flip side, it’s also acceptable to be selfish at certain times. Let’s say that you have a project due at the end of the week. Since you knew this, you planned accordingly. Your schedule for the week only contains activities that will help you meet this deadline.

So, if you have a time request for a last-minute meeting or new assignment, you can politely decline. If it is an urgent matter, see if there is someone you trust who can take care of it. Or, attend to this during a break. If it’s going to take more time then anticipated, you may then have to adjust your calendar. It’s essential to learn to say “no” pleasantly.

Block out your time.

The idea behind time-blocking is straight-forward. You place an activity into your calendar for a specific period of time. An example would be a virtual meeting with your team from 1 pm to 2 pm on Tuesday. Another would be working on your most important task from 8 am to 10 am daily. And, it could also be scheduling breaks throughout the day.

Usually, time-blocking is an effective way to stay focused and maintain your productivity. block Mainly because it helps you block out distractions and discourage multitasking. But, when your blocks are too rigid, that doesn’t leave much wiggle room for anything that may pop-up.

The good news is that you can still use this method to avoid falling into the urgency trap. For instance, what if you’re most productive from 9 am to noon? Well, you would block out that timeframe to focus on your most important or difficult task for the day. You may have heard of this referred to as eating the frog.

Moreover, you can use time-blocking to protect your non-negotiables. Let’s say that you or your family member need to undergo surgery. Obviously you would put this in your calendar so that something of less importance would occupy that space.

But, on a day-to-day basis, you could leave your schedule wide-open during energy lulls, such as after lunch. You could also leave blank spaces available during the day. Maybe leave an hour blank in the morning and another in the afternoon. It’s a safe way to stick to your lists, while also having the flexibility to attend to emergencies.

How Do You Prioritize Yourself?

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Years ago I was having dinner with my parents. The phone rang. It was a friend in a panic. She was driving home and her car died. We later found out that her car had an oil leak. And, because she hadn’t put oil in it, the car obviously overheated and shut down. But how do you prioritize yourself?

Do you make sure that your vehicle is well maintained? Are you prioritizing yourself? You will want to prioritize all the things in your life that you can so that your life will run smoothly. When you prioritize yourself — all parts of life run better. You’re not going to break down because you’re physically and mentally burned out.

As Lisa Firestone Ph.D. notes in Psychology Today, everyone should take care of themselves because:

  • When we’re drained, we don’t have anything else to give to others.
  • Doing what we love recharges us.
  • We lose aspects of ourselves when only focused on others.
  • Setting aside our own needs can exhaust those around us.
  • We lose ourselves in our own critical inner voice.
  • We fail to practice self-compassion.
  • It causes stress for us and our family, friends, and co-workers.
  • It impairs our performance at work.

Additionally, when you put yourself at the bottom of your to-do-list, you’re more stressed and less energetic and creative. Your sleep is impaired and you may turn to other vices. Self-care is one of the secrets to physical and mental health.

Despite this fact, many of us fail to put ourselves first. While this varies from person to person, it’s usually because we believe that it’s selfish — which it’s not. We also have a tendency to overcommit, get distracted by unhealthy activities like watching TV or simply don’t feel worthy of the best things — and you are.

Thankfully, there are simple ways for you to finally prioritize yourself. And, here’s where you can start.

Take a “me” moment.

Like my sister and her car, why wait until there’s a problem? Instead, make prioritizing a part of your routine. “Self-care is simply every day, healthy rituals that keep your body and mind energized,” Alexia Brue, co-founder, and CEO of Well+Good, told Forbes.

“It could be as simple as going to bed every night at the same time, scheduling a regular massage or lighting candles and taking a pause,” adds Brue. “It’s finding whatever recharges you, and then incorporating it as a ritual into your life.”

Do you feel so crunched for time that this isn’t feasible? Well, in a previous Calendar article, Choncé Maddox gave the following suggestions on how to add a self-care routine to your calendar:

  • Book self-care appointments first thing in the morning before you get sidetracked. It will also make you feel energized and boost your productivity for the day.
  • Time block your schedule. “Choose a time of day to block out just for self-care,” recommends Choncé. “This can be 30 minutes, one hour, or several hours if you’ve already finished up with work and other responsibilities for the day.”
  • “When it comes to making room for self-care, you can turn your self-care routine into a system that you can easily schedule in when necessary,” adds Choncé. For example, when you take breaks into work-related tasks, you could go for a walk, meditate, or journal.
  • Start small, such as claiming 5 to 10 minutes per day for yourself.

Increase your emotional intelligence.

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize our feelings, emotions, and moods to better identify what we are feeling and why,” says Jen Shirkani, keynote speaker and author of “Ego vs. EQ” and “Choose Resilience.”

“By [doing that], we can channel our emotions to respond in healthy, intelligent ways rather than allowing our emotions to take over and undermine us,” adds Shirkani.

Schedule times throughout the day to check-in on your feelings. If you feel stressed or anxious, then you may want to take a step back to acknowledge and address these feelings. It could be something as simple as going for a walk or talking to a friend. That may mean rescheduling a conference call or task. But, it’s better than letting these feelings bottle up and explode.

Watch your language.

“Language can have a profound effect on your thoughts, moods, and perspective,” notes the team at Jody Michael Associates. “It’s not just what comes out of your mouth in conversations with others; the messages you tell yourself play an essential role in how you feel.”

In all fairness, it’s easy to fall into the trap of beating yourself up when you fail. Instead of labeling yourself as a “failure” or “incompetent,” treat yourself with compassion. You can do this by encouraging “yourself in the same way that you would a child or a good friend. If you tell yourself ‘You’ve got this!’ often enough, you will get it!”

Take a break from social media.

Yeah. It’s easy to take shots at social media these days. But, even if you don’t permanently quit, it’s easy to understand why people are reducing the time spent on these platforms.

On top of privacy concerns, damaging your reputation, and being distracting, social media can increase anxiety and depression. It can also reduce the amount of sleep that you get. And, it’s a poor use of downtime. As opposed to spending over an hour a day on social media, you could spend that time taking care of your well-being.

If you can’t delete your accounts, you can at least limit your exposure by uninstalling the apps on your phone. If that’s not an option, then banish them from your home screen. You could use apps like Freedom, SelfControl, or Offtime that block these channels when you don’t want to be distracted. And, you could also delegate or automate your social media responsibilities.

Recite empowering mantras.

Are you not prioritizing yourself because of guilt? If so, recite empowering mantras. These have the ability to boost your self-worth and motivate you to attend to your own needs.

Here are a six mantras, courtesy of Shine, that you can try out today:

  • “I deserve joy.”
  • “I am important.”
  • “When I pour into myself, I can shine my light onto others.”
  • “I am worthy of all the things that bring me happiness.”
  • “I can make time to nourish my mind, body, and spirit.”

Phase-out the negative and stress in your life.

Carve out a piece time, preferably when you’re not focused on something important, to evaluate the things in life that are causing you stress. Are they truly important to you? If not, you may want to start cutting them out of your life. For example, if there is a friend who consumes too much of your time and energy, you may want to distance yourself from their negativity.

If you’re not satisfied with your career, you may want to search for a new job. Or, you may even want to take the limb and start your own business. It may be nerve-racking. But, you don’t necessarily have to quit your job today. You could browse openings or have a side hustle until it takes off.

Learn how to say “no.”

Putting your foot down and standing your ground is probably the most effective way to prioritize yourself. If you don’t say “no,” then you’ll always put other’s wants and needs ahead of your own. Not only is this time-consuming, but you’ll also always be behind on your work. And, it prevents you from doing the things that you actually want to do.

The good thing is that you can say “no” to others without offending them. You can achieve this by being honest and straightforward with them. They may be disappointed. But, they should understand and respect your decision.

You could also have a policy. For example, Friday nights are reserved for your family. No exceptions. So, if a friend from college wanted to get together, you would have to offer an alternative like Saturday night.

Remember your why.

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy to lose track of your why. But, slow down and think about why you get out of bed every morning. Why do you go to work, hit the gym, or strive for learning opportunities?

Reconnecting with your why puts things in perspective. It can reignite your passion. It motivates you to achieve your goals. And, it will encourage you to put yourself first.

Reflect and accept who you are.

I’m not gonna lie. It’s never easy to admit your faults. But, when you’re transparent with yourself, you can look for ways to grow. At the same time, you don’t have to just focus on your shortcomings. Every day discover something new that you like about yourself. Besides giving you a self-esteem boost, you can also look for opportunities to put your strengths to good use.

Accepting who are means acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can spend your time devoted to what you can and can not change.

Schedule downtime.

Finally, make it a point to schedule downtime. Start by taking 15-minute breaks between tasks at work. When you’re done for the day, leave work where it belongs — the office. Instead, spend your evenings with your family or just relaxing. And, during the weekends, do things that you genuinely enjoy.

What Are the Main Priorities in Your Business Life?

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To-Do List

Regardless of whether you’re looking to climb your way up the corporate ladder or grow your business, we need to have priorities for our professional life. Without establishing your priorities, we won’t be as effective at our jobs or meet goals and deadlines. Priorities are also needed to protect resources like time and money. Essential to business and personal growth — are priorities.

But, you already knew that, right?

Even if you are aware of the importance of priorities, what are the main ones for you to focus on? Well, here are six main priorities that are required if you want to thrive in your business life.

Determining your “big three.”

Here’s an experiment. Write down all of the tasks that are tied to your professionally for the next month. I have no doubt that it’s quite the list. And, it probably contains several high priority items. But, in reality, this list could be drastically trimmed down.

I know what you’re thinking, “I can’t trim down my list; it isn’t possible because everything on my list is a top priority.”

“If you review your list carefully, item by item, you will find that only three items on your entire list account for 90% of your value to your business,” writes Brian Tracy. So, how can you determine your “big three”? “Make a list of ALL your work tasks and responsibilities, from the first day of the month to the last day, and throughout the year,” suggests Tracy. “Then answer these three magic questions.”

The first question would be, “If I could only do one thing on this list, all day long, which one activity would contribute the greatest value to my business?” Because it’s so important, it will probably stand out from the rest of the items on your list. If you’re uncertain, it should be the one thing that will have the most significant impact on your business or career.

The second would is, “If I could only do two things on this list, all day long, what would be the second activity that would make the greatest contribution to my business?” These items should also jump out at you. However, they may not seem as apparent at first.

The third question is, “If I could only do three things on this list, all day long, what would be the third activity that would contribute the most value to my business?” As a general rule of thumb, only focus on completing three tasks for the day. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to accomplish any more than that.

Enhancing your time management skills.

Time management should never be overlooked. Sure. It’s nice to have some downtime. But, managing your time is a surefire way to improve your business life.

The most obvious reason is that you’ll be able to achieve more in less time. Because you’re more productive, you’re ready to meet deadlines. You will also earn the reputation of someone who is never late and is reliable. I don’t know about you. But, that is someone that I would want to business with or retain if I were a business owner.

Additionally, time management can be beneficial to your health. Since you have the time to attend to your well-being and aren’t working excessive hours, you’re less stressed. You’re also able to find time to exercise, make healthy meals, meditate, or get enough sleep. And, because you aren’t behind on your work, you’re not as anxious.

To get you on the right path, here are the necessary time management skills that you should develop:

  • Work the hours that best suit you.
  • Keep a time log.
  • Focus only on what you do best.
  • Implement the “two-minute” rule.
  • Break your activities down into simple problems.
  • Don’t fall into the “urgency” trap.
  • Schedule “me” time.
  • Cluster similar tasks.
  • Identify and eliminate distractions.
  • Arm yourself with the right tools.

Feeling in-balance.

Work-life is often a perk that employees demand. Some studies have previously found that this was a top priority for demographics like millennials. But, it’s also top of mind for small business owners.

It’s easy to understand why. Even if you’re a workaholic and love what you do professionally, you also need time away from work.

The reasons vary from person-to-person. But, mainly when you don’t let work bleed into your personal life, you have a chance to rest and recharge. You can also spend time doing things that are truly important to you. As a result, when you return to work, you’ll be more focused and rejuvenated enough to persevere.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Thanks to technology, we’re expected to be on-call 24/7/365. Sometimes you need to be kept in the loop, especially when you have to address an emergency.

Some ways that this is possible is by maximizing your time at work, stop overcommitting, and not bringing work at home. You should also establish boundaries. For example, if you’re spending time with friends or family on a Saturday night, then don’t respond to any work-related correspondence.

Innovating, learning, and growing.

If you want to advance your career and stay ahead of your competitors, then innovating, learning, and growing must be the main priority for you professionally.

For example, you should always be brainstorming ways to improve a product, service, or process. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. But, you should be on the lookout for ways to update or upgrade these areas. It may make you more efficient and stand out from the pack.

What’s more, you should seek out opportunities to learn and grow both professionally and personally. As an example, if you were to enhance your skillset, you would be more proficient at your job. Not only will this make you more valuable, but it will also help you work smarter and not harder.

You should also stay up-to-date on the latest trends, technologies, and external factors that may influence you professionally. Again, besides making you more useful, this will also help you adept.

And you should also find ways to grow. For instance, you may want to improve your communication skills by taking a public speaking class. You can use this new talent to make your meetings more effective. You could also apply to seek out speaking engagements to help you become an authority figure.

Getting to know the people in your neighborhood.

You don’t have to get to know everyone in your neighborhood — unless you want to. But, when you’re surrounded by kids, sometimes you have to do things like watch the 50th anniversary special of Sesame Street. I’m not complaining. But, I do have this song stuck in my head now.

Anyway, your neighborhood, when it comes to your business life, would be your business partner, employees, customers, or investors. The reason? Well, it will help foster a more positive and collaborative work environment. You’ll also be able to ease the pain points of your customers. And, if you need funding, you’ll know which investors to connect with.

Growing your network.

Whether if you do this online or in-person, growing your network is a priority that I feel many of us neglect. After all, networking is another way to improve your skillset or stay abreast of the latest trends. It can also help you find mentors, partners, or clients.

If you’re job searching, networking is a great way to mingle with potential employers or get hooked up with a referral. And, if you are self-employed, networking can be used to build your brand.

Do a little digging and find local meetups or conferences that you should attend for the upcoming year. And block out specific times in your calendar to schedule a phone with an industry expert or interact with your audience on social media.

How Do You Prioritize Your Time? 25 Tips for Optimal Time Prioritization

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Smartwatch showing the time.

You came here for one reason. To get some killer tips on how to prioritize your time. So, let’s get right into it so that you’re not wasting any more time then you have to. Here is how to prioritize your time with 25 tips for optimal time prioritization.

1. Set goals and stick to them.

Goals are like a map. They provide us with a starting point and step-by-directions on how to reach our destination. But, they also keep us focused. If you’ve ever driven in an unfamiliar territory your eyes are fixed sharply on the road so that you don’t miss a turn.

Before doing anything else, get clear on your goals and follow through with them. Not only will this give you purpose, but it will also guide you in determining how you want to spend your time.

If you’re struggling with reaching your goals, here are four strategies that you should try:

  • SMART goal formula. Always make sure that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
  • RPM. Developed by Tony Robbins, this involves three-steps to achieving your goals: writing them down, chunking your time, and blocks that contain a plan for reaching your goal.
  • Start with your action steps first. Instead of setting a goal first, begin in the middle of the goal process. Taking this approach actually gives you a better understanding of how much time and effort it will take.
  • Run a SWOT analysis. Short for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, this is where you identify the challenges in these four areas. Knowing this, you can then look for ways to overcomes these obstacles.

2. Create a master list.

Those goals you just came-up with? Add them to a list, along with anything else that needs to get done like administrative tasks, meetings, and household chores. Right now, the order doesn’t matter. You just need to get these items out of your head and place them in a notebook or sheet of paper. You could also use digital tools like Evernote, Google Keep, or Todoist.

For some of you, you may end up having a lengthy and daunting list here. Don’t sweat it. Go through your list and begin trimming the fat by arranging your list by date-specific responsibilities. Examples would include deadlines, due dates, and events already booked in your calendar. Also, only focus on important actions that need your attention right now.

As for the rest of your list? If there is something that you need to do, but it’s not urgent, schedule it for later. If there are items that could be delegated or outsourced, then assign them to someone else. And, if there’s anything that isn’t a good use of your time, delete them from your list.

3. Get to Like Ike.

Even if your list isn’t as overwhelming, it’s still challenging to prioritize your list. One way strategy to employ here would be using a priority matrix, such as the popular Eisenhower Matrix.

If history isn’t your thing, here’s what you need to know. The Eisenhower Matrix was named after Dwight Eisenhower, also known as Ike. He was the supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and the 34th President of the United States. So, yeah, he had to be productive with his time. And, he accomplished this by dividing all tasks into four quadrants:

  • Important and Urgent – essential items that must get done.
  • Not urgent and important – activities that still require your attention, but not right at this moment.
  • Not important and urgent – responsibilities that can handed-off to someone else so that they don’t distract you.
  • Not important and not urgent – time-wasters that should be scrapped from your list entirely.

4. Enroll at MIT.

Not literally. But, if you have applied and been accepted to the Massachusets Institute of Technology, then congratulations.

The MIT I’m talking about here is your most important task. It’s the one thing that you want or needs to get done today — without question. It should always be aligned with the goals that you’ve set.

5. It’s as easy as A, B, C.

Another way to prioritize your time is to use a system where you list everything as A, B, and C. According to Steve Tobak, here’s how it works:

    • A = critical things. These are the things that need to get done right away or there will be repercussions.
    • B = business as usual. Everything that you need to focus on in order to achieve your short- and long-term goals.
    • C = everything else. These are items like busy work things that would be nice to get to, or just goofing off.

The beauty of this system, explains Tobak, is that you’ll “actually never get to the Priority C tasks. In fact, this system forces you to be very clear on your goals because anything that doesn’t play a significant role in helping you achieve them gets pushed to the C list.”

6. Kondo your to-do-lists.

I’m sure that you’re aware of Marie Kondo’s decluttering philosophy: does this spark joy? If not, it not then throw it away or donate it. But, how does this apply to prioritize your time?

Well, between FOMO and being afraid to say “no,” we often over-commit ourselves. We also feel pressured to squeeze in as much as possible in a day so that you give off the impression that we’re productive. In reality, the more we add to our plate, the less progress we’ll make. The reason? We’re focused on how much we’ve accomplished per day instead of spending time on the right things.

Decluttering your life can help with this. It relieves stress, allows you to make fewer decisions, and encourages you to spend more time on the things that truly matter.

Amy Jen Su suggests on HBR that you can do this by filtering your priorities. “Select a couple of areas to set priorities in; this can help the brain to manage information overload,” explains Amy.

“Researchers have found that it’s the overload of options that paralyze us or lead to decisions that go against our best interests,” she adds. “Two criteria I use with clients to filter for priorities include contribution and passion.” Your highest contribution would be things your purpose, strengths, and experience. Your passion would be the things that motivate and excite you.

7. Follow the 1-3-5 scheduling rule.

Remember that master you created? Go back and use that to shape your day using the 1-3-5 scheduling rule.

  • Identify today’s top priority from the list. Nothing else matters here. This is your primary focus for the day.
  • Determine three medium priorities. Ideally, these should be subtasks related to your main priority.
  • And, schedule no more than five small must-to-do- priorities, such as meetings. While these are important and deserve your time, we call these smaller to-dos since they don’t require as much energy.

8. Use the scales method.

The scales method was developed by Leon Ho, founder, and CEO of Lifehack. It’s similar to a priority matrix in that you’re organizing your to-do-list by importance and the benefits you’ll receive.

Here, however, you would determine the priority of each of your tasks by:

  • Low Cost + High Benefit. These are easy tasks to complete, but will also get you one step closer to your goals.
  • High Cost + High Benefit. Here you would break large tasks into smaller and more manageable ones.
  • Low Cost + Low Benefit. These would be your lowest priority tasks, like checking your inbox.
  • High Cost + Low Benefit. Here would time wasters that could be automated or delegated.

9. Find your 20%.

The 80/20 rule was developed by the Italian economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto — hence why it’s also known as the Pareto Principle. As Choncé Maddox explains for Calendar, this rule “clearly states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.”

How does this help you prioritize your work? Well, according to Choncé, “If you’ve found that 20% of your effort is resulting in 80% of your results, you’ll want to prioritize and improve that 20% margin.”

With that in mind, you should always take care of your 20% first. If you find this to be tricky, ask questions like, “Are there any tasks that would make you feel relieved by accomplishing them, no matter what else happened during the day?”

10. Take the 18-minute approach.

Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, is responsible for this technique. In reality, though, it’s actually a daily ritual that will help you remain focused on your priorities throughout the day.

  • Step 1. Before doing anything, start your day by spending five minutes mapping out your day.
  • Step 2. Check-in every hour for just a minute to help put your back-on-track.
  • Step 3. At the end of the day, take five minutes to review what worked, as well as when you get distracted. Don’t forget to take note of when you had the most focus.

11. Listen to the oracle.

I’m talking about the Oracle of Omaha, aka Warren Buffett. And, no, it’s not about how to invest your money. Instead, it’s how you should invest your time.

Start by writing down your top 25 goals. Next, draw a circle around the five that you would consider being the most important. What about the other 20 goals you listed? Avoid those at all cost so that you can dedicate 100% to your top 5.

12. Respect dates and deadlines.

Is this obvious? Absolutely. But, a lot of people have a tendency to bite off more then they can chew. For example, you may have had a conference call scheduled for months for Tuesday at 4 p.m. In your eagerness to stay ahead of your work, you squeeze in one last job before the call. Next thing you know, it’s 4:05. Not cool.

Another example would not be adding buffers between tasks and events. Let’s say that you have two meetings planned for the afternoon. The first is at 2 and the second at 3. The first meeting, which is across town, ends at 2:50. There’s no way that you’re going to make it to the other meeting on time. That’s why you should have but a buffer between these events to account for the commute.

In short, when you have something already in your calendar, whether if it’s a deadline or appointment, your day needs to be based around that entry. It was there first. And, it’s just downright disrespectful.

13. Honesty is all the best policy.

I know. That adage is cliche as peanut butter and jelly. But, it still rings true. That’s because if you aren’t honest with yourself, then you won’t be able to prioritize your time. I mean it would be wonderful if you could complete your entire to-do-list in one day. But, that’s just not possible.

Be honest with how much you can realistically get done in a day. And, do your best to block the appropriate time needed for everything that you need to do.

14. Weigh the consequences.

Whenever you’re at a crossroads, or just planning out your day, think about the consequences. For example, if you made a left it may be the more scenic route. But, there’s also no gas station in that direction. In this case, you’re better off turning right so that you don’t run of gas in the middle of nowhere.

15. Make every day count.

Not to get too new agey with you. But, personally, that should be a top priority for everyone. Of course, that doesn’t mean living recklessly. It’s all about spending your time wisely. If that means leaving work early to spend time with your fam, then so be it. If that’s preparing to meet with investors in order to secure a much-need loan for your business, then it’s all good.

If you want to know how this is done, I recommend you check out Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule. It’s simple while providing structure. And, most importantly, it forces you to answer, “What good shall I do this day?”

16. Do what you dread first.

At some point, you’ve probably had to move. Even if you haven’t, you’ve at least helped a friend or family member. That is, unless, you’ve always hired someone to do this for you. And, if this is the case, then I’m incredibly jealous.

Anyway, let’s not beat around the bush here. Moving sucks. It’s stressful and physical tolling. But, whenever I have to make the dreaded move, I always start with the heavy items first. The reason is two-fold.

For one, do you really want to move a bedroom dresser after spending all day moving? Of course not. You’re exhausted and just want the day to be over. Secondly, if you knock out the heavier and bulkier items, everything else seems to run more smoothly. I guess it’s because with the big stuff out of the way you only have to worry about the remaining smaller items.

Apply the same concept to your time. As Mark Twain famously said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.” In other words, focus on completing your most challenging or dreaded task bright and early. Besides just getting it done and over with, this is usually when we have the most energy.

17. Alternate between a maker and manager schedule.

Back in 2009, Paul Graham wrote that there were two types of schedules; a maker’s and a manager’s. A maker’s schedule is where you have to spend hours working independently on the important stuff. A manger’s schedule is the one leader’s run-on that’s full of meetings and checking-in with others.

The concept is cool. But, most of us are like Malcolm and somewhere in the middle. That means there were times when we need to focus on tasks without being disturbed. But, there also times when we must do things like attending a meeting.

Each is important in their own way. But, if not managed proplet, it can be disastrous. Let’s say you’re in the zone and a calendar reminder goes off letting you know it’s time to head into the conference room. It’s frustrating and disruptive.

One way around this is to alternate days. For instance, reserve Mondays as a maker’s day. Tuesdays, however, would be spent as a manager day since that’s when all of your meetings are scheduled.

18. Deal with constant interruptions.

Interruptions, like Thanos, are inevitable. Thankfully, there are ways for you to be victorious against this intergalactic threat against productivity.

The most obvious place to start would be to turn off your smartphone notifications. You can either turn off your phone, put it on ‘Do Not Disturb’ or block apps from a specific amount of time. To avoid FOMO, check your these notifications at scheduled intervals.

Another option is to work in a quiet place. If this isn’t possible, invest in noise-canceling headphones and shut your office door. I’d also suggest placing a sign-up sheet or share your calendar with others so that people just won’t pop-in on you.

And, only accept time requests that serve a purpose. For example, instead of a status meeting with your team, use project management software so that you can see where everyone is at.

19. Assemble your tool kit.

Regardless if you own a home or rent, everyone needs a basic tool kit, such as screwdrivers, pliers, tape measures, and hammers. The same goes for prioritizing your time. A planner and calendar are your essential productivity toolkit. You need these to organize and manage your time.

However, you also will need tools to meet your exact needs. Let’s say you’re building a room in your basement for a home office. You’ll need tools like sawhorses, circular saws, putty knives, and straight edges for this job.

If you find yourself working with others, as an example, then grab tools like project management software and scheduling apps like Calendar that rely on AI and machine learning. You’ll need them to reduce the time spent on tedious tasks like planning a meeting so that you have more time on the important things.

20. Use a gamification system.

Pritoization is all about staying motivated. And, that can be trying when you’re just not in the right mindset. A simple way around this would be to tap into your intrinsic motivation through gamification. For example, break down your goals into micro-goals and reward yourself when you’ve completed each stage. So, let’s say you give yourself an hour to finish writing a report. If you do, then treat yourself to buying those new hiking boots you’ve been eyeing up.

21. Don’t plug leaky boats.

Let’s say that you own a small fishing boat. Over time, it begins to leak. That means whenever you go out, you have to either patch it up or constantly bail out water. Not only is this a waste of time, but it’s also stressful. Instead of dealing with your battered boat, just invest in a new one so that you can spend more time doing something that you enjoy — which would be fishing.

The point here isn’t to spend money. It’s that when something is broken, it’s not always worth fixing.

22. Plan in reverse.

“Although extensive research has shown the benefits of planning, little attention has been paid to the ways people construct plans and their impacts on subsequent goal pursuit,” said Jooyoung Park, assistant professor in the Department of Management at Peking University HSBC Business School and first author of a paper published in Psychological Science.

His study found that when it comes to more complex tasks, it more effective to plan backward. The reason? It forces you to anticipate the necessary step, stick to the original plan, and feel less pressured.

23. Keep a log of your work.

When you keep a log of your work, you’ll discover how long each task you do takes to complete. As such, you’ll be better suited to plan your time more accurately and realistically. You can also use this as a reference to see which recurring tasks can be scheduled or delegated.

24. Find a muse.

Think about your favorite musicians. They were inspired by someone else to write and perform music. It’s the same thing with prioritization. Pick the brains of people who you consider to be successful and productive like a mentor, family member, or renowned business leader. Whether you’re peaking them in person or reading a book they’ve authored, scout out optimal time prioritization from others that you respect.

25. Build your own prioritization system.

Finally, do what works best for you. Even if you’ve been inspired by someone else, make your own adjustments that meet your specific needs. Again, it’s like a musician. A guitar could have picked up the instrument because of the blues. But, over time, he developed his own signature style that was a better fit for his band.

Don’t Fall Into the Urgency Trap: How to Prioritize Your Work

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Planner on desk

I recently went hiking in a state park. Besides spending some time outdoors, which helped me clear my head and burn some calories, I saw a sign posted outside the interpretive center. It simply read, “Today is the best day.” I’ve since taken this to be my daily mantra.

I think we all have the intention to make today the best day. Whether if it’s taking the time to do the things you enjoy or just sending good vides back out to the rest of the world. And, it also means being productive at work as opposed to just busy.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. When you have so many responsibilities and such a short amount of time to complete them, everything seems essential. That’s why learning how to prioritize your work is a skill everyone needs to learn. It ensures that you spend the right energy and focus on the right activities at the appropriate time.

The problem is, you often fall into the urgency trap. Instead of tackling something that is helping you move closer to your goals, you end up wasting time on things that seem important. While these are tasks that need to be addressed, they don’t need to be done ASAP. Some of them may not deserve your attention at all.

With that said, if you want to be more productive, get the most out of your time, and prevent problems like missed deadlines, then you must perfect prioritization. And, here are some of the ways that you can accomplish that challenge.

Create a master list and analyze it.

The first step in prioritizing your work is to collect a list of all your tasks. It doesn’t matter if you jot these down in a notepad, Word Doc, or to-do-list app. The idea is to have everything that needs to get done in one location that can be easily accessed.

The second step is to review these tasks and whittle them down to the essential. That may seem like a lot of work upfront. But, this helps you rate your functions so that you spend time on what matters. Even better, it allows you also to eliminate certain tasks altogether.

Delete, Delegate, Defer, or Do?

Personally, I find that the 4Ds of time management to be most useful here. It’s a simple technique where you have four options to narrow down your list:

  • Delete. Sometimes this is referred to as “drop.” But the idea is the same. Any time commitments that are no longer necessary or aren’t crucial to the big picture should be scrapped. A perfect example of this is the lengthy and unproductive meetings you have in your schedule.
  • Delegate. These are the activities that need to be done. But, just not by you. Instead, they should be assigned to someone else. For instance, I’m familiar with the necessary coding. However, I’m not an expert. If my website or app crashed, it’s just worth the money hiring a pro who can fix the problem faster than I ever could.
  • Defer. These are essential tasks that can be delayed until another time. Let’s say that you an important meeting at the end of the month. You need to create and send an agenda. But, considering that the event three weeks away, that’s something you don’t need to do today.
  • Do. Here is where you, in the words of Nike, “just do it.” It could be a task that only takes two-minutes to wrap-up. Or, it’s one that needs your attention sooner than later, like anything with a due date.

Will this solve all of your prioritization issues? Not necessarily. But, it can remove at least some of your work off your plate. And, now that you have a much leaner list, you can begin to start successfully prioritizing your work.

Adopt a prioritization method.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all prioritization method. It depends on your own personal style. But, here are seven techniques that you could try out until you find the one that works best for you.

Eat the frog first.

InThe 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss wrote, “Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.” Often times, these are the most difficult tasks that you aren’t looking forward to. And, as a result, we procrastinate on them. The funny thing is that they also happen to be your most important.

Instead of putting these obligations on the back burner, take the advice of Mark Twain and eat the frog first thing in the morning. “And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Now that the worst is behind you, the rest of the day will seem easy in comparison.

Also, since we usually have the most energy several hours after waking uP, it just makes more sense. Why try to force yourself to do something you dread when you’re exhausted at the end of the day.

Focus on your MITs.

Perhaps one of the simplest ways to prioritize your work is to focus only on the most critical tasks that you would like to accomplish for the day. You can jot these down during your evening routine or first thing in the morning. Just note that your MITs should only be between one to three items.

“And here’s the key to the MITs for me: at least one of the MITs should be related to one of my goals,” suggests Leo Babuta. “While the other two can be work stuff (and usually are), one must be a goal next-action. Goal centered ensures that I am doing something to move my goals forward that day.”

And, just like eating that frog, it’s best to do your MITs in the morning. “If you put them off to later, you will get busy and run out of time to do them,” adds Babuta. “Get them out of the way, and the rest of the day is gravy!”

Separate the urgent from the important using the Eisenhower Matrix.

Inspired by former U.S President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once said “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent,” this is where you place all of your tasks into a four-quadrant box. You then organize them by:

  • Urgent and important: These are the things that need to be done right now.
  • Important, but not urgent. Decide when it’s best to do these and schedule them.
  • Urgent, but not important. These can be handed off to someone else.
  • Neither urgent or important. Drop these from your to-do-list and calendar.

Prioritize daily tasks with the Ivy Lee Method.

Developed in 1918 by productivity consultant Ivy Lee, this is a simple trick to help you prioritize your daily work.

  • At the end of each day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
  • Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
  • When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
  • Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. Move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
  • Repeat this process every working day.

As I explained in a previous Entrepreneur article, “The Ivy Lee Method is so effective because by planning your day the night before, you reduce decision fatigue and reserve your energy for your most meaningful work.” What’s more, “you know exactly what you’ll be working on all day instead of wasting valuable time and energy making decisions in the morning.”

Assign a value to your work with the ABCDE Method.

If you need a hack for knowing the true importance of a task, I recommend Bryan Tracy’s ABCDE method.

“You start with a list of everything you have to do for the coming day,” explains Tracy. “Think on paper. Once you have a list of all of the tasks you must complete, start the ABCDE method.”

  • “A” is assigned to your most important tasks.
  • “B” are items that need to be done but only have mild consequences.
  • “C” are tasks that would be nice to get to. But, if you don’t, there are no repercussions.
  • “D” is anything that can be delegated.
  • “E” is for eliminating.

For every letter, also assign a number to it so that you know where to start. For example, an A-1 task would be “your biggest, ugliest frog.” It just adds multiple layers of prioritization to your work.

Follow the Pareto Principle.

Also known as the 80/20 rule, this was developed by the Italian economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto. As Choncé Maddox explains for Calendar, this rule “clearly states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.”

How does this help you prioritize your work? Well, according to toChoncé, “If you’ve found that 20% of your effort is resulting in 80% of your results, you’ll want to prioritize and improve that 20% margin.” Knowing that you should take “care of it first when you begin your workday.” Need a place to start? You could ask questions like, “Are there any tasks that would make you feel relieved by accomplishing them, no matter what else happened during the day?”

Also, don’t get hung up on the exact numbers here. The point is that you should spend most of your time on the handful of activities that deliver the most results.

Chunking.

Chunking is fairly straightforward. It’s where you block out specific times in your calendar for undisturbed work. Ideally, these would be your most important tasks for the day that have been scheduled around when you’re most productive. As an example, if your peak productive hours are from 9 AM to 11 AM, then that would box out that time for devouring your frog.

During this timeframe, this would be the only thing that you’re focused on. To aid you in this pursuit, you would turn off smartphone notifications and close your office to eliminate distractions. And, most importantly, don’t forget to take frequent breaks, like around every hour. It’s the best way to stay fresh throughout the day.

Final words of advice.

When you prioritize your work, you’ll be confident that each day will be the best one ever. But, even if you’ve learned to no longer fall into that urgency trap, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Be flexible. Fires will have to put out. Your priorities will change over time. And, no matter how organized you are, the unexpected will always rear its ugly head. Work on becoming more adaptable so that you can roll with the punches.
  • Break large tasks into smaller pieces. It can be overwhelming when jumping into larger tasks and projects. Breaking them down into more manageable sections can help you get started. It also lets you focus on what needs your attention right now.
  • Be realistic. In a perfect world, you would be able to knock out your entire to-do-list in one day. Realistically, you’ll probably only be able to get to a handful of them. Understand how much you can actually get done in one day and move the less critical items to another date.
  • Manage distractions and interruptions. No matter how hard you try, these are inevitable. Sure. Turning off your notifications is a start. But, what about addressing an unforeseen emergency? Add some blank spaces in your calendar so that you have time in your day to handle this.
  • Ask for help. Finally, don’t hesitate to ask others for help. Whether if that’s delegating some of your work or asking for feedback on what’s most important.
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