Do you ever get to the end of the day and wonder where its gone, feeling like you’ve worked so hard but achieved so little?
Ever stay late to ‘just get a couple more things done’ so you’ll have a few free hours the next day?
Do you notice that those hours never really get freed up?
Constant work and home pressure builds up over time and really can lead to burn out. The reality is that we all have the same 24 hours. We can’t change time, but we can change the way we use it.
If you want to make the most of your time, here are some simple practical ways to increase your effectiveness so you achieve more at work, and can go home and switch off, improving your quality time with loved ones. You will be less stressed and thus more effective and overall…happier and healthier!
1 At the end of every day write up/review your ‘top five list’.
Focus on identifying your top five tasks for the following day. You can note down other things that you’d like to get done, but ensure that you highlight, underline or star the top five priorities for the next day. Ensure that they are written down and prioritise the top five things only.
2 Find your frog.
Identify the most important task from that list you’ve created. Your ‘frog’ is the most vital thing for you to complete that day. Often it is one that you’d prefer not to have to do or the one that will require a lot of focus and head space. Circle it or highlight it green so it’s ready and waiting for you the next day. Ensure that they are written down and prioritise the top five things only.
3 Eat that frog – first.
Every morning, make it your default setting to come in and start immediately into working on your frog. If possible avoid opening your emails (potential distractions) and simply focus on the priority task – at least for the first 30-60 minutes of your day. Having identified it in writing the day before makes this easy then it just takes a disciplined approach to stay on task. By eating your frog first thing in the day, not only do you give your fresh focused attention to your priority task and either complete it or make significant progress on it. Once it’s done it is no longer hanging over your head, weighing you down the entire day.
4 Focus on the five.
Once you’ve completed or progressed your frog to a logical spotting point. Work your way through your other priorities focusing on your top five. Several years back Robyn Pearce (The Time Queen) taught me that there is no need to prioritise an entire to-do list as it is rare for most people to get past the top five. If you do complete all five, you can prioritise the next five and work through those in the same fashion.
5 What about interruptions?
Any time a new task comes up, resist the temptation to react straight away. Simply add it to your list and check to see whether it’s more important than your frog or any of your top five tasks. If not, then it’s on your list so it won’t be forgotten and you can get back to it later on once the key tasks are complete.
6 Say NO to being a slave to your email.
Constant interruptions such as email can waste up to 4 hours of your day. Imagine what you could do with all of that time! Simply turn it off for decent periods of the day when you need to focus on working through a task. You could use an automated reply thanking people for their email and informing them that you only check your emails twice daily and requesting they phone if the matter is urgent. In this way you can focus on 20 mins of checking and responding to emails 2-3 times a day rather than the constant on again off again approach which creates constant distractions.
By working smarter not just harder you can free yourself from the time-trap of longer and longer hours.
Why not try these six simple steps out for a week?
We only have so many hours in the day. Don’t expect to complete your entire to do list every day. Instead, do your best, focus on your five and congratulate yourself every time you manage to focus on your top priorities. As you look back over your to do list and tick off those priority tasks, you will get a real sense of satisfaction, even if several smaller less important items remain (frequently they will drop off your list altogether or can be delegated.)
By using this approach you can relax, reminding yourself that you can only do as much as you can do. See how much more satisfied and less stressed you feel as a result, not to mention how much more productive and effective you will be.
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Do you already use these steps or something similar?
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