A friend recently posted this question on Facebook: “Seems like I’m always busy and doing something, but not really accomplishing anything…..anybody know any tricks?” She is not alone. I used to ask myself the same question. Through reading, experience and watching other people, I taught myself how to accomplish what I want to each day at home and at work. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was painful. It might be for you, too. See what you think. Here is the process I learned:
The night before:
Make a list of the tasks you want to get done.
Beside each, write the approximate time it will take to complete.
Prioritize the list. Ask yourself what are the “must do’s” versus the “can wait”.
Write a schedule.
For the most structure, list all the times and what you will do during those times. If you find that is too strict for you, put your tasks in the am, afternoon or evening spots. Do anytime during those time periods. This frees you to do anything else you want around those priority jobs.
Don’t schedule yourself too tightly. Allow time for meals, breaks, exercise and fun.
Put the tasks that are more difficult or you dislike during your most energetic times.
After you finish a tough or unpleasant task, reward yourself by doing something you enjoy.
Here are examples from my life for both home and work:
Home Example Work Example
AM 7 – 12 noon *Must do’s AM 6 – 12 noon *Must do’s
*Clean house, laundry – 1.5 hrs 8:30 – 10:00 am 7:30 – 10:30 am Report, emails
*Pay bills – 15 min 10:15 – 10:30 pm 10 – 10:30 am *Meeting
Write – 1 hr 10:30 – 11:30 am 10:30 – 11:30am *Paperwork
Walk – 15 min 11:45 – 12 noon 11:30 – 12 noon Walk
Afternoon 12 – 5 pm Afternoon 12 – 5 pm
*Groceries/errands 2 hrs 1 – 3 pm 12 – 1:30 pm Check unit, lunch
Walk – 15 min 3 – 3:15 pm 1:30 – 2:30 pm *Meeting
Gardening – 1 hr 3:45 – 4:45 pm 2:30 – 4 pm Staff meetings
Evening 4:45 – 10 pm Evening 4:45 – 10 pm
Dinner, news 4:45 – 7 pm Same as home example
Write 1 hr 7 – 8 pm
*Time with hubby 8 – 10 pm
Now that you have a schedule, you can see how much time you really have. If you are like me, you realize you have more time than you originally thought. What happens to it? At the end of the day, if you have not done what you wanted, what went wrong? Here are a few things that can goof up your well planned day and what to do about them:
The task takes longer than planned:
Finish the task and take off another one that does not have to be done today.
Stop the task and put it on your list for another day.
Don’t let this happen. Let the answer machine take the phone call. Don’t answer the door. Limit your time on the internet.
Keep your focus. Don’t let yourself get distracted by adding unplanned tasks before completing your scheduled ones. Instead, add them to tomorrow’s list.
If the interruptions are unavoidable, see what tasks you can combine. Take short cuts.
Ask for help from family members. Teach your children to set and clear the table, help with laundry, cleaning and grocery shopping. Expect your spouse to pitch in with some of the work at home.
You sabotage yourself:
Most of us either avoid pain or move towards pleasure. Ask yourself why you are avoiding this task? Are you afraid you will not do it as well as you hope? Give yourself permission to lower standards that maybe too high or unrealistic. Ask yourself, “Just how clean does my house have to be?” “Do I have to vacuum every day or can I do it every other day?” “Does this report need to be perfect?” It is better to get it done as well as you can and not worry about doing it perfectly.
Does the task seem overwhelming? Divide it into smaller segments of time. Then spend 15 minutes a day on it until it is done.
Make a list of all the advantages of doing what you are avoiding.
Don’t say, “I can’t.” Say, “How can I?” Make a plan and then just do it!
Every day you have things you want to do. If you make a schedule and stick to it you, will be more likely to get done what you want to. At the end of the day you will know where your time went and what you did with it. Although I hated planning my day at first, I loved how good I felt when I finished what I wanted to. I hope you have a similar experience and agree that the short-term pain is worth the long-term gain.