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Productivity Tip #2 – Schedule your time (and stick to it)

Ever had the feeling where you have had such a productive day? A day in which you believe your time was utilised as efficiently as possible? An amazing feeling isn’t it? I bet those days are few and far between.

The reality is more likely that most days you find yourself snowed under. You are reactively attending to tasks and feel scattered all over the place. Because of this, you are not getting much done at all. You feel despondent, demotivated, and become even less productive. And so the cycle goes…

In my Productivity Tip #1 article, I stressed the fact that you have to make time to manage time. My second tip (and this article) is along the same vein, but it’s about applying focus at a higher level (in-between the scurry of our day-to-day tasks).

It doesn’t involve dumping your workload on someone else, or throwing your laptop in the bin. It is about scheduling your tasks so you can focus on one at a time.

Our brains get tired too

Like you, I have a crapload of things going through my brain at any one time. I’m thinking about the tasks I need to do today, and what I need to do after that. I’m reminding myself I must pay the gas bill before Thursday, and I need to publish this very article tonight.

It’s exhausting. Our brains are wonderful miracles, but it can only do so much – especially after constantly being pushed to the limit. Our brain is a muscle, and like any other muscle, it needs rest too.

In order to do this, we need to move some of the tasks we actively think about into ‘autopilot’. The autopilot is our sub-conscious, allowing a whole range of habits and behaviours to occur without using much brain power. How do we do this? It’s as simply as setting a schedule.

I have a fulltime job, yet I still need to write new content for this blog, be a family man, learn new things, and enjoy life. Last year, this was a nightmare to maintain. If I didn’t do something one day, I’d feel anxious that I had missed it. I constantly felt under pressure to be doing something.

I felt I was missing out or being lazy. It eventually got to the point where I stopped blogging for a while.

Set aside time for specific tasks

Then I came across a workbook suggesting to set aside certain days for certain activities. I did exactly that, and what happened next was amazing. I no longer had to worry that no writing was being done – as I knew it was planned for Monday. I no longer had to feel bad if I didn’t go for a run, as I knew it Saturday was run day.

The simple matter of setting a day of the week to focus on one task (other than all the usual day-to-day grind) really eliminates the background nagging in my mind. I can remind it to shut the hell up and I’ll deal with the said task on the allocated day.

If you are struggling to keep up with all your life tasks. Try setting particular days for certain tasks. For example, here is mine;

  • Monday: Article day (write articles, plan new article ideas, prepare this week’s article).
  • Tuesday: General blog/home tasks (budget, ideas, research, etc)
  • Wednesday: Watch at least one TED Talk.
  • Thursday: Learning day (Go through study material if I’m on a course, or read a self-study book).
  • Friday: Finish off any other little items.
  • Saturday: Run day (run further than 5km).
  • Sunday: Rest day.

Why not set a simple schedule such as this? You won’t be disappointed.

Ask yourself these 3 questions before stepping into the unknown

Stepping into the unknown is extremely daunting. Every one of us, at some point in time, has hesitated when crossing the threshold into some unknown. It’s only natural for us to feel this way. What matters is how we react in these situations, and how we convince ourselves to continue moving forward.

This very blog was a daunting unknown for me. Before I started, I was deliberating whether I should even start it. I was afraid of being ridiculed. I wasn’t convinced anyone would want to know what I thought. My wife is working meticulously in building her business, yet just a few months ago she was also debating the merits of starting it – afraid of the complaints she might get, the quality of her goods, or even no buyers at all.

It constantly amazes me how we build these false illusions in our heads. Illusions which serve as barriers, obstructing us from taking risks (which aren’t really risks in the first place). It’s probably due to some ‘keep safe’ mechanism in our brains. We perceive a certain situation as ‘risky’ (such as starting a business or blog), and so our minds build these internal barriers in order for us to stay protected. We have to convince ourselves that it is ok, and the danger is not as apparent as it appears to be.

While trying to convince myself about starting a blog years ago, and discussing with my wife about starting her business, we asked a few questions of ourselves which considerably helped in giving us courage to cross the line.

We took our first steps into the unknown. And the rest, they say, is history.

The heart says one thing, the mind says another.

There are many conversations we have with ourselves when we’re determining the merits of taking risks. Different sides of our inner self want different things, and it’s quite funny how there can be such differing of opinions with oneself.

To battle through this and gain some sort of clarity, I’ve found these 3 questions will guide you forward (I’ve put in some handy answers too).

Question: What have you got to lose?
Answer: Almost always there is nothing to lose except a bit time and money

Question: In 6 months time, what would you be doing if you didn’t take this step now?
Answer: Probably the same thing you’re busy with now – no better than before. The time would be summed up as ‘All talk and no action’.

Question: Could this open other opportunities?
Answer: Almost always this is a resounding yes. Unless, of course, it’s a complete deadend. Even then, you’ve learnt from the experience and only lost a bit of time and money.

Move forward, no matter how slow.

Regardless of how small a step you might be taking – it is a movement in a forward direction. You are not where you were before. This is a powerful place to be.

What are you currently afraid to step into? Is it to publish your book, start a blog, learn a new skill? Ask yourself the questions above, contemplate some more ideas, and let’s see how you get on.

No matter our status, we are still human

Every day we deliver judgement on people in higher societal status positions such as Presidents, CEO’s, celebrities, even our managers. We expect them to be 100% correct all the time. We expect them to act perfect all day every day. We lambaste them when they falter.

What we fail to realise most of the time, is they are still human – just like you and me. They, too, love watching a good movie. They also enjoy the relaxation of a lazy Sunday afternoon, or the sweet success of finally completing a personal project.

And – again, just like you and I – they fail. Often.

Recently, I watched the first few episodes of a new T.V. series named Lip Sync Battle. It’s a show in which celebrities attempt to perform a live act on stage while lip syncing to a song of their choice. It’s hilarious.

What was more interesting to me, was the opportunity to see a little more of the people behind the celebrity faces. Dwayne Johnson letting off steam to The BeeGees, or Anne Hathaway pulling off Miley Cyrus. The banter they had going between sets added further personality and insight into who they are.

It’s about time we stopped putting celebrities and people of power on a pedestal. It’s time we stop perceiving them as unattainable, different, or better than us.

Because they are not any different to us. They are still human.

Next time you’re reading the gossip magazines, or news headlines about some mistake one of these people have made. Stop. Try put yourself in their shoes. Would you act the same way? What would you do in their situation? Have some empathy and compassion, as they are making the best decisions for them at any given point in time.

Bringing this closer to home, think about your managers, your friends, your family. What compassion can you show them when they have made a decision? What are they feeling when they make certain decisions? Sometimes, they certainly make bad decisions or a different one to you, but they made a decision all the same. How do you want people to treat you when you make a bad decision?

I’m guilty of being judgemental of others’ decisions. I have laughed at celebrities, or baulked at a politician’s personal response. I know I’m wrong, and I’m an ass for even thinking it. But I believe our world won’t get any better if we continue in this way.

These people are human. Just like you and me. I can’t imagine the pressure of the world watching me 24/7. Watching, waiting, pouncing on every word I speak with a vengeance, and talking as if they know me.

So, I’m going to cut them a little slack. How about you?

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