So many of us live our day to day lives on a constant goose chase, always trying to catch up with our to-do list. The feeling of being perpetually behind on your work is draining. Living in that space doesn’t allow you to do your best work or be creative. It’s easy to get discouraged and find yourself distracted when trying to hang out with your friends after work, preoccupied with all the little stresses waiting for you at your desk.
This is no new phenomenon, as we push ourselves harder and harder it’s only normal to want to take on the world. And those aspirations are totally admirable. You have hopefully found what you love and want to do for the rest of your life… but why is it so damn hard to keep up? What we don’t actually learn in school is that sometimes in order to get ahead you need to take a step back, check yourself, and find some good coping mechanisms that will allow you to handle the capacity of work you’d like to. You don’t have to live in that stressful and frustrated space, never feeling like you’ve made a dent. I can promise you, it’s more about a mental attitude than reality after all. And the good news about that is we can change our mental attitudes if we just fight through our old habits!
I hope these tips help in increasing your capacity and productivity!
#1 Find a Routine and Don’t Resent it
You’ve started using this day planner and that app and nothing ever sticks… you’ve probably heard yourself say that before. Throw it out the window. Take a moment with yourself and truly ask, “what works for me?” Don’t let any outside mumbo jumbo marketing get in your ear. Ask yourself: Do you like having handwritten notes? Do you like keeping sticky notes on your computer screen? Do you find you are emailing yourself a bunch? Think about how all these tools could integrate together to make a master system for you to manage your day to day. Think about different types of tasks – large ones with various parts that happen over years or months, small quickies that happen in 2 minutes, and everything in between – how do you want to manage those? How can it integrate to a larger strategy? Make a system and try it out. Force yourself to stick to it and tweak it as you go. I’ve been using the same daily system for the last 3 years but it took me a good 6 years of evolution in my daily systems to find and refine it. Be invested in the long game and don’t resent the process. When it finally clicks you’ll sorta love it and wonder why you ever made it so difficult for yourself to get in to in the first place.
#2 Take Time to Plan. Every Day.
Seriously. I know you’re busy and you can’t even make time to call your mom back. CHILL for a second and take a minute to review the day. Is what you’re hoping to accomplish today realistic? Is it, though? Shave stuff off right at the start if it’s not. Send out the notes you need to asking for deadline extensions -it’s not the end of the world. Call back your mom and move on with your day. Making a window of time to plan every day or every night (for the day ahead) will allow you to be ready to flow through it with ease. React and focus on the work that is most pressing.
#3 Focus Your Energy in the Best Places
Be intensely self aware of your strengths and weaknesses and manage around them as needed. There are only so many hours in a day and you suck at math so why are you the one spending 8 hours on a spread sheet when one of your interns would do it in 2? As much as you need to avoid the work you are not strong at at, you also need to know that when you put your attention towards the work you’re best at (or wanting to develop in to being the best at) you will see the best results. Example: You might be best in partnership meetings, being creative and locking down deals. Do everything you can to focus 90% of your day on doing that for the best results. Delegate and get creative. Sure, we all have the supporting work that goes along with what we love and sometimes it’s not always favourable or in line with our best strengths. Trudge through it with the goal of being able to delegate it once you’re able to, and when you are, delegate the shit out of it!
#4 Don’t Bite Off More than You Can Chew
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Be realistic in every sense of the word, and we mean it. People will appreciate you for it and learn to know they can rely on you. If you can’t deliver something by today then don’t say that you can. Even more importantly, don’t tell yourself that you can. When you do this, you set yourself up to be behind on the to-do list which creates frustration and anxiety! Break down large tasks in to smaller parts and assign each part to you for each day. Know your workload well and communicate realistically with partners, clients, and friends. When I find someone who gets it, it is so refreshing. Something about this trait is incredibly respectable and makes you want to work with these people again and again!
#5 Stay Positive
Ok hippy dippy do da day… but really. If you don’t believe in yourself it’s likely no one else will. Believe that you CAN and WILL make an impact, do your best work every day, and come up with the systems to stay ahead. Fight through the crappy parts of your work with a smile and don’t let the positivity cloak slip from your shoulders. Even the slightest off handed negative remark can give those around you the wrong idea and detract from your bigger picture plans. Even if you’re not fully happy about something you’d be surprised what faking it until you make it can do!
Et voila! There you go! Happy to-do listing!
Thanks for reading,
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