How do you manage your time and stay focussed on your priorities? Do you choose your priorities or do the priorities set by others determine your day? Are you laser-focussed in your planning and know exactly where you are going and what you want out of life or are you just drifting along?
If you plan your day based on clear, well-defined goals and priorities, which are laid out methodically as part of a larger plan, and you carry out the actions you set yourself according to these goals, then congratulations! In just those few lines I have set out a road map for a happy and successful life –Greatness – what could go wrong? If this is you, then you probably have no need to read on.
However, if not then “read on McDuff”, as we say in Scotland.
Do you plan your day in advance?
If you plan your day, how do you do that? Do you use a diary, a journal or notebook or perhaps you have an electronic calendar? I have approximately 5 of these dreaded beasts – all tied to different email accounts. None of which sync to anything that they are supposed to, and I just cannot figure out how to do it. Yes, I admit, I am somewhat technically challenged but I get by with help. I find the Calendar App on my mobile phone is my most reliable asset, IF, and it is a very big IF, I remember to look at it.
Time management requires a good level of self-discipline and the self-discipline to be self-disciplined! Consistency is key (that is a blog or video for another day!) You can write items in diaries and calendars until the cows come home. You can colour them in pretty colours to make them stand out and underline them in red because they absolutely MUST BE DONE, but, if you do not look at the entries regularly in advance, then you are wasting your time. Having a routine of looking over your schedule at regular intervals, for example every morning and evening, will allow you to organise yourself and prioritise your tasks for the day ahead and adjust accordingly when unforeseen circumstances arise.
Organising and Prioritising Tasks
There are numerous tools and schools of thought on how to best prioritise your day. Let us consider the good old fashioned “to do” list. Is yours a “to do today list” or just a “to do list” which has no times or dates specified and where tasks go to die, or disappear, or wander aimlessly from month to month like a ghost with unfinished business.
Perhaps it is time to introduce a new concept. Write or type out your To Do Today List (TDTL) and prioritise it. Pick the first three things on there and then create a list of the actions you need to take to bring these three tasks to their conclusion. Think about how long you are anticipating each action to take and plan accordingly. Do you have to reach out to someone else and then wait for a response before you can move forward? If you factor this in at the planning stage, you will have a better idea of how long your task will take to complete and you can plan in other things around this time. With all that done, remember to revisit your list and mark tasks as complete. Here is a link to my Productivity Planner that you might find useful, below.
Using a time management tool such as this will enable you to become laser-focussed on the detail of what is important to you. It will also highlight what priorities you have that are other peoples’ priorities rather than your own. When you can see that, then you have the control over the decision-making process as to what, when and how you master your time, ensuring quality of output.
Have Fun and Bury That Wailing Old Ghost
This process repeated over time, will eventually buy you time back. Time to do what you enjoy, time for yourself, time to exercise, have that cup of coffee with your friend and slowly you can introduce the fun back into your days again. It will finally allow you to bury that wailing old ghost that has been haunting your days for months, even years – you know the one, the ghost of culling emails and unsubscribing from lists you no longer want to be on, type of ghost!
I am now going to share some suggestions of steps you can take in addition to the daily ones mentioned earlier, which will eventually feed into your daily tasks to bring them to fruition. These will help you map out the longer terms goals and help you formulate a plan to reach them.
To this point we have assumed you are a person who has goals and who tries to keep some sort of order in your life. Or, perhaps up until now, you have wandered along doing what you can, when you can, with no particular direction in mind. Your mind is made up on the toss of a coin or on your mood on any given day. However, if you are feeling like it is time to make some changes to get yourself sorted out and take some control back then I am here to help. Please feel free to send me an email.
Some Useful Tips To Help You Focus
- Creating a vision board, which you display prominently so you can see it and use it to drive you to achieving what you set out to achieve – the visual people and creatives among you will love doing this. Feel free to get digitally creative and if you can’t then get the paper, pens, magazines, glue and scissors out. If you have kids, do it with them too and make it fun. You will be starting a good habit for them going forward. Either way, have fun with it and dream – BIG and BOLD!
- Type or write list of 100 things you want to do before you die/retire/reach 60/50/40/30 and tick them off as you achieve them. Do not judge! As a thought comes into your head, add it to the list. Do not limit yourself by saying things like “I’d love to, but I’ll never be able to afford it”. You decide on the WHAT and let the universe worry about the HOW.
A wee aside – I found an old notebook recently that belonged to my son. I had given it to him when he was 13 to write down his feelings, goals and dreams. I’d just lost my job. Our finances were dire and he was miserable. We could not afford his hockey fees which felt like the end of the world to him. In this book he had written (I want to keep playing Ice Hockey and I want to play for GB and go out to play in the USA) That year the coach arranged a “no fee” deal for him to continue playing for the club. They went on to win the League and Championship undefeated, for the first time ever. He got a call up to play in the World Championships in Korea at U18s and at 21 one he is now playing ACHA Division 1, whilst studying English in his final year at University in Nebraska. Goal setting and writing down your intentions works!
- As above – Invest in a goals book or folder which you can then divide into short, medium and long-term goals. You can decide on the timespan for each – they are your goals. You are in charge!
- Create a Trello account online (it is free) and use that as a planning tool for larger projects with a number of detailed steps, for example planning a holiday.
- Have a family pow wow and share your goals and dreams with each other. Discuss them openly and frankly and set the ground rules before you start that no-one must criticise or denounce anyone else’s goals. Only encouragement, empowerment, and expansion are allowed. This allows you all to buy into each other’s goals and perhaps understand each other better.
- Find yourself a mentor or accountability partner or group. Ideally this should be someone you trust and respect and who will challenge you, hold you accountable and most importantly help instil in you the belief that YOU CAN DO IT. When you find that someone hold onto them and be grateful every day for them – they are angels sent to support you and are worth their weight in gold – their real weight that is, not the winged variety! (If you are reading this you know who you are!) Always be on the look out as they turn up in the strangest of places, when you least expect them, even at the other side of the world.
With all of the suggestions above, you have to be committed to developing a plan or strategy and sticking to it. Tweaks are allowed, but the whole point of laser focus, is to focus your energy to one critical point enabling you to achieve your break through.
As Zig Ziglar says “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great”
Here’s to your future greatness, time management and laser-focus!