If only I had a time machine…
One of the first things you should do when considering becoming more productive is auditing where your time is spent.
This is often an eye-opener for people because we rarely notice where our time goes – particularly on areas that offer no value to our life, like watching endless reruns of your favourite TV show.
I recommend doing this for an entire week as it will help build a better picture. Use the following steps to guide you:
1. Track your activities throughout the day
Make a record of what you got up to throughout the day, starting from the minute you got up and right before you go to sleep at night.
If you’re not too techy, it can be a simple as writing it on a piece of paper or more advanced way like using software like Clockify. Whatever you are comfortable using, just go with what is easy and the most practical.
Avoid worrying about writing detailed descriptions for each thing that you have done in each period. For example, if from the hours of 10 am to 11 am all you did was respond to emails, just put “email”.
Similarly, if you watched TV from 7 pm to 11 pm just put TV.
2. Set an alarm to remind you to record your tasks
Our intentions rarely match our habits, particularly if you’ve got a lot of distractions going on at present. For this reason, it’s best to set an alarm to remind your to track your time.
The best reminder to choose is one that will always be close to you. If you always wear a watch, for example, that might be a good option.
Equally, if you always have your phone with you, all you need to do is set the alarm on your phone. If you spend most of your day on your laptop or computer…
…create an alarm that either makes a sound or visually alerts you when it is time to record what you have done over this period.
How often these alarms are triggered is entirely up to you.
Some people like to record work in 15 or 30 minute intervals. Others are more comfortable recording activities hourly or every two hours.
While determining the frequency, you also want to decide how many days you want to track your work and whether those days will be in succession or will be separated by days when you don’t record your activities.
The alarms you set are completely up to you. However, I recommend not leave it longer than 4 hours as brain fog can kick in and make it hard to remember.
3. Review your data and prioritize.
Once you have a full week, including the weekends, then you can look over it and decide what time has spent on useful activities such as getting important projects done and useless.
Place the activities into different categories:
Highly important: These tasks should be taking up the majority of your time as they have high consequences if you don’t get them done.
These might be projects from the boss that have close deadlines or things you’re creating within your business to launch shortly.
Moderately important: These tasks are important but don’t have as much urgency behind them as the above, so they are assigned slight lower priorities.
For example, prep for the annual review meetings or planning the family holiday.
Not important: These tasks are the tasks that bring no value from doing them. For example, browsing through social media, watching YouTube videos and so on.
4. Plan your work. Work your plan
The next step is the most important one, as this is where you make yourself accountable for your priorities. Make a plan that will prioritize your most important tasks, and disregard any activities that keep you from your priorities.
A clear way of doing this is by using the Eisenhower matrix. Eisenhower (former president of America) had an incredible life and manage to get done in a year what most couldn’t do in a lifetime, and for that reason…
…it is no surprise that millions of people have studied his methods on productivity.
His most famous productivity strategy is known as the Eisenhower Box (or Eisenhower Matrix), and it’s a simple decision-making tool that you can use to run your activities in order of importance.
The matrix is divided into four quadrants:
1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will plan to do later).
3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).
The clever thing about this matrix is that it can be used for different time points such as daily, weekly or monthly.
Here is an example of what your Eisenhower Box might look like living in today’s society.
Now you have a framework for productivity based on your unique situation.
Use it wisely but importantly, use it consistently.
IN my next post I want to talk to you about control interruptions. Also I’d like to ask you a question but I’ll save that until our next lesson. Until there keep rocking your goals and NEVER GIVE UP!