Do you begin your day full of grand intentions of all that you want to accomplish, yet somehow end up going to bed feeling as if you’ve gotten nothing done? Like many of you, my daily priorities vary. But I have some standard mental tricks for staying focused and productive. Following my Morning Routine and Daily Planning, I use these techniques to implement the plan. After planning and processing, I can’t wait to get things done! Here’s how I make it happen. —Elizabeth Grace Saunders
Each day, I make a number order for my daily activities and try to follow it as closely as possible, so the most important tasks get done early in the day and early in the week. Less pressing activities can be moved to another day, if my schedule changes.
Allow for reflection.
Stepping away from my computer and thinking about how to solve a problem or write a blog post or reply to a complex email is not procrastination. This reflection time is immensely productive and seems to happen best for me over a snack or a quick walk.
To keep up my motivation and to allow for a quicker mental shift between different types of activities, I reward myself with these types of breaks: replying to a few personal emails, a snack or a stretch break.
Cut up large projects.
At the start of the 2–3 hour blocks of time I set aside for large projects, I scribble down a mini-plan of all of the action steps. Then I implement on that mini-plan within the time block.
Evaluate the cost.
If a project starts taking longer than expected, I evaluate the cost of finishing it versus moving on to something else or getting it to “good enough” with the understanding I can come back, if there’s time.
Stuff in little activities.
I try to do little activities like sending in checks or setting up appointments within small pockets of time between scheduled activities.
Watch my people levels.
If I’m craving people time, I try to arrange a call or work in an environment where I’m around others. If I feel tired of being around others, then I seek out solitude.
Capture the next step.
If I leave a voicemail, I make a note on my calendar to follow up. If I leave a meeting, I make a note of when to complete the minutes. If I receive a blog post assignment, I make a note of its deadline and when to start it. Everything has a documented next step.
I always think of a few more things that it would be nice to fit in a day or the week than I think I could actually get done. That way, I’m motivated to push myself and see how much I can do, instead of subconsciously delaying because I’m not sure what would be next.