Do you ever have days when you say, man, I was swamped today, BUT I sure don’t feel I came out ahead? I fell out of control. I know I have. This whole COVID thing has really messed with our heads, our to-do lists and our personal productivity.
I want to share something I have been experimenting with. In the hopes, it makes your life a bit easier. I call it the three-pronged approach to making things work and taking back control.
The 3 Prongs
1. Reshape Your To-Do List for Control.
Listen, we all have to-do lists, don’t we? Some of us even have lists upon lists upon lists. When was the last time you took a seriously long look at those lists and highlighted JUST the massively important things that move your goals/plans for this year –forward? This will take a bit of careful thought. However, ultimately it will make things slip into gear. Let’s take a few examples.
If your number one objective for the next six months is to grow your sales, launch a product, or even market a solution in any way, circle JUST those items on your to-do list that further JUST those objectives. If your number one objective for the next six months is to upgrade your technology, develop your team into a massive results producer or even, contain expenses to 85% of the budget, circle the actions on your to-do list that SUPPORT those goals.
This not only ensures that you have the right activities on the list, but it also begins to force you into focusing only on those tasks you know and plan to move your business forward.
Because, here’s the thing. Most of us have to-do lists that resemble giant grocery shopping lists. What we need is a list that prioritizes our tasks into the areas that we deemed at the beginning of the years as super important.
Prune, cull and re-arrange your list into categories that actually push you forward to your main objectives. The rest of the stuff on your list is nothing more than filler. And filler never moves you closer to what you want.
2. Block your day for Control.
Depending on your personality, energy, and skill or talents, you might be a morning person. Or an afternoon person. Maybe you like to chat in the morning and work in the afternoon. Or think in the afternoon and race through the morning. Whichever way you like to use your brainpower — is just fine. The secret here is to block off 60 to 90-minute chunks every day for specific types of ‘must-dos.’
As an example, if you like to get caught up on emails, files, meetings etc. before you start your day, then block off the first 60 minutes (of each day) for exactly that. A concentrated period of time gives you the freedom to finish in less time and really focus on the issues at hand. Once the block of time is up, greet the day. Or say you like to write, create, brainstorm, and the best time for you before noon. Then set up a block of time before the noon hour, which allows you to do exactly that. Set up a block of time, which allows you space for meetings or space for working on a favourite project.
The beauty of blocking is it gives you control over the guardrails of your time. And yes, while interruptions are expected, YOU have the responsibility to tell everyone around you that you are ONLY available during this block of time. That block of time is sacred. The funny thing is, once your colleagues, team members, and even family understand the parameters or guardrails you are attempting to observe, they quickly fall into line. In my experience, the one who struggles the most is us! Managing ourselves is not always easy.
3. Control YOU. Do the stuff you HATE first.
Frankly, I always thought this was ridiculous. You want me to start my day by getting the stuff I hate done first? C’mon! At least let me ease into the day. Enjoy something so that I can work up to the stuff I hate. NO!
There is a specific piece of psychology behind this. It seems, when we do that hateful stuff first, we can then reward ourselves with fun stuff immediately after. Best of all, when we work within the blocks of time we set for ourselves, we actually accomplish way more than we figured. (Because we know we have a finite amount of time to get it done.)
As an example, personally, I’m not fond of anything related to general administrivia. This includes the drudge part of processing invoices, paying bills and filing. Yes, I know these are all vitally important. However, I personally HATE doing them. To appear efficient, organized and on top of all this, I set aside a block of time every single week specifically for this.
Before I must get down to work, I pour an awesome cup of coffee and put on some great music. I set a timer. Then I get down to the drudgery of it all and push through. When the timer goes off, I am always amazed at what I got done in that block of time. It’s always way more than I thought—every single time.
When trying to take back control or even regain some sanity, I am not saying these are the only things we need to consider. Nor am I saying that they are a panacea.
COVID has really messed with all heads. We humans need to feel and believe we have some semblance of control over our lives. The first place to look is inward. ALWAYS. Inside ourselves. We need to be honest and ask ourselves if we set ourselves up to succeed or fail? I have vacillated all my life between good habits and bad. These days, we need to infuse our lives with good habits. I promise these three prongs really do work.
Every Friday between 2 and 3:30 pm EST during the entire month of March, I will be sharing a buffet of tips for Taking Back Control. As part of the give-back program we developed for the Keep the Lights On Forum. the fee is 90% off the regular price. $50. Imagine the ROI you would get if you implemented just one or two ideas! Interested? Details here.