Time is the great equalizer. Everybody has the exact same number of hours in each day. For most people, the hours available are usually less than the hours needed to get everything done. However, by using the following principles of creativity, you should be able get more done in less time, while making certain that you are doing what’s most important and moving yourself closer to your goals.
1. Start with quiet focus
When you have a lot to do, your first instinct is probably to hit the ground running. If you feel you have a tremendous amount to do, you may feel the urge to jump in and get started on your work. Rather than doing that, take a few minutes to get calm and organize your thoughts. Think of this as a short form of meditation; just try to empty your mind. After you have done this, your focus, energy, and perspective will all be improved. Taking a few minutes up front to center yourself can make you tremendously more productive.
2. Brainstorm your day
Take a piece of paper (it can be a loose sheet, but it can be helpful if it’s part of a designated notebook or planner) and write down everything you need to do that day. Let your mind flow, and get everything out. As with all creative exercises, don’t criticize your ideas. Don’t think of something you’d like to do and then not write it down because you think you won’t be able to do it or that you shouldn’t do it. The most important thing here is that you get everything onto the page.
3. Apply the 80/20 Rule to your List
Take this list you’ve created and apply the 80/20 rule to it. Remember, 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your effort. Circle only the 20% of items that will yield 80% of those results. This step will focus your day down to the critical tasks you must get down.
4. Chunk Up
For each circled activity, chunk up. Put the bigger picture in perspective. This will refocus and motivate you to work on it. Or, it may make you realize that the task is not as important as you thought. Having a ‘why’ is very helpful in getting us to work towards our goal, especially if the task is something we’re not excited about doing.
5. Chunk Down
For each circled item remaining on the list, chunk down. Break the items down into smaller parts. You should strive to get them to a point where each task is broken down into a series of single action items. How big each item is depends on your work style. I like my action items to be things I can complete between 15 minutes and 1 hour.
6. Prioritize your list
Prioritize every item on your list. A simple way to do this is look at your list and ask yourself, ‘at the end of today, what one thing on my list, if finished, will have the biggest positive impact on my life?’ The answer to that is your number one priority. Ask that question again with the remaining items on your list. That’s your number two item. Continue this until your list is complete.
7. Schedule those activities
For every action item in step 5, schedule when you will do it and how long it will take. Resolve to stick to the schedule. You can take two approaches to scheduling. First, and the way to ensure you get the most important work done, is to schedule your first priority item first in the day, then your second, and so on. You can also schedule your high priority items during your most productive hours. You have high and low productive times during the day. You know when they are, not me (if you don’t know, pay attention to yourself for the next couple of weeks and figure it out). Scheduling this way ensures you devote your best time to the most important activities, but if your most productive time is not first thing in the morning you run a greater risk of your high priority items not being done.
8. Go with the Flow
Be aware that the day has a way of stealing your time. Keep your 80/20 priorities in mind when new things come up. Make sure to prioritize and evaluate new things that come. Don’t sacrifice an important item on your list to do something less important. At the same time, keep an open mind and be willing to flow with new items. Your schedule and list is there to help you. If something new comes up that will be more beneficial for you, go with it.
9. Go one at a time
Work through you list and schedule in the order you have it. For big tasks, don’t be overwhelmed by the number of tasks, just work through them one at a time. Put your attention solely on the task at hand. For the vital action items, try to remove distractions. Turn off the phone, close the door, or work at a time when everyone else is asleep. You can finish a task that you might think would take you three hours in one hour if you put 100% of your attention on it.
Try following these 9 steps and watch your productivity explode!
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