Quarantining has given us nothing but time, but sometimes, too much time can be counterproductive to progress. Learn how you can structure your time to maintain motivation and progress:
I’ve always been a scheduler. I have daily agenda books, calendars, to-do lists, and schedules out the wazoo. Seriously. One look in my workbag and you’d wonder why I choose to carry around 20 pounds of calendars and agenda books. So when Brendon Burchard spoke about effective time-management strategies, I immediately downloaded the podcast.
Hands down, the biggest take away for me: Time management starts first thing in the morning. Your morning routine sets the tone for how the rest of your day – the rest of your LIFE – will unfold.
If you don’t plan for your day, you’re at the whim of distraction. I believe this. I know this, and yet, I have not been great at putting this into practice. And lately, I feel like I’ve been wasting much of my time flailing about.
So how do I fix that?
Burchard recommends two things:
- Avoid all social media, email, phone calls, messages, etc. for the first HOUR of every day.
- Every morning, with a pen and paper in hand, answer the following question: What THREE things must happen today to help move me forward and “gain momentum” towards my big life goals?
Such a simple strategy. But boy, it has completely changed the projection of my days. I’ve tweaked it slightly by getting into this habit at night, but I believe it has had the same effect.
Why avoid the outside world for the first hour of the day?
Well, simply put, if we check in with the outside world the moment we wake up, we will end up living a life of “impulse and interruptions verses one of intention and inspiration” (Burchard). And it makes complete sense.
Let’s say you reach for your phone within a few minutes of getting up and you come across an email about a bill payment that is late.
You rush into your office, flip open your computer, log on and pay the bill. While you’re sitting in front of your computer, you notice that you have 9+ Facebook alerts and start clicking through the notifications. This leads you to an old acquaintances page where you find an adorable video of a cute, miniature yorkie, and naturally, you watch the video. Facebook wants to keep you engaged, and so it continues to show you “Videos you Might Like” … and before you know it, you’re an hour and a half into your day and you’re about to be late for work. And damn, you haven’t even showered yet.
The rest of your day, you are frazzled, constantly feeling behind and rushing. Perhaps you left your lunch at home – or opted to skip making lunch because you’re running late – and so you pick up a healthy :: EYE ROLL :: McDonald’s lunch during a quick break, where you mindlessly scroll through more Instagram and Facebook feeds before returning back to work.
By the end of the day, that writing you wanted to do today, the chapter in that book you wanted to read, the paragraph of your business plan that you wanted to write – none of that got done, and you are not a step closer to that big life goal you have.
Repeat the next day, and the next, and ten years later, you haven’t made any progress on your goals. You’re still working the same soul-sucking job, and are resigned to the fact that this is your life.
Because you chose to live a “reactive” life instead of a “strategic” life.
So, tomorrow morning, when you wake up, resist reaching for your phone. Don’t flip open your computer.
Tonight, before you go to bed, write down three things that you want to accomplish tomorrow.
What THREE things must happen tomorrow to help move me forward and “gain momentum” towards my big life goals?
I choose to do it the night before, because I keep all of my lists on my phone. And if I touch my phone in the morning, I get lost in the abyss. And so before I go to bed, I scroll through my countless lists of things I need to get done, and I decide, based on how busy the next day is, what I KNOW I can accomplish in the morning that will move me forward.
I write those three things down on a piece of paper and leave it on top of my CLOSED laptop.
When I wake up in the morning – assuming it isn’t a day I have to be out by 6:30AM – I wake up, brush my teeth and go to the bathroom, have my morning shot of stress-relief, make my morning shake, make a cup of coffee, and hit the yoga mat for some AM yoga and my daily strength training.
By now, an hour has passed, I’ve cared for my mental and physical well-being, and I allow myself to head into my office, where I re-read the list of things I need to accomplish that day. This isn’t to say I can’t do more, but these are the three things I must do to feel like I am making progress on my goals.
And I do those three things. I do not allow myself to navigate into the world of social media or email or messages until I accomplish those three things. Sometimes, one of the things that I must do involves social media or email, and so I will sign on, but with blinders on. I don’t look at my notifications. I don’t read any other emails. I look for what I need, I do what I have to do, and I log off, and move to the next item.
Only once I am finished do I allow myself to check the notifications or respond to emails. And even then, I try really hard to only allow myself 5-10 minutes of scrolling.
Am I perfect at this?
No. Far from it. Some days, I miss the mark by a mile and get nothing done. But I allow myself the grace to fail, and I aim to do better the next day. And other days, I am so empowered by that early success that the other items on my to-do lists just seem to fall off with the snap of my fingers.
This slight adjustment to the way I start my day has had a huge impact on the pace at which I am working towards my goals. I used to feel like I was aimless and never had the time to work on the things that were important to me and was, instead, so bogged down with my current career and being a mom. But I quickly realized that I was living a reactive life and was not taking charge of how my day would go.
Try it this week. Right now, make a list of three things you KNOW you can get done tomorrow that will help move you closer to achieving your goals.
What three things will you do tomorrow to help you gain momentum towards your big life goals?
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