I used to live an orderly life.
When I practiced law, I managed files, phone calls and clients in an organized manner.
After that, I homeschooled my four kids while maintaining an active freelance writing life. Our days were pretty structured because there was just so much to do!
Today, my kids are almost grown, my house is half empty and my schedule is my own, pretty much.
Over time, I have gone from a driven type-A to a disorganized dawdler! I’m a mess!
This is the classic illustration of the adage that work expands to fit the time available. Give a busy person a task and it will be completed expeditiously. Give a person of leisure a task and it will take an interminably long time.
Yes, I have deadlines here and there and I meet them. For no reason, sometimes they are only met at the last minute due to my dawdling.
What happened to this well-ordered, finely-tuned brain?
I got relaxed. When life was not moving from crisis to crisis (as it was for many years), the attention system in my brain took a long, deep breath and declared, “You’re not going to run me ragged every day anymore!”
And so my slide into ding batt-hood is accelerated.
I have to get a grip!
I’ve undertaken a study of productivity and time management. Here are some of the ideas and strategies I’m going to implement.
1. Multitasking doesn’t work for me. I’ve been reading about this a lot lately, and indeed prided myself on being a queen multitasker in my day. Guess what? Researchers are now saying it’s inefficient. The reason is because the brain gets focused on one thing, and then has to rapidly refocus if you try to do more things at the same time. So rather than efficient focus, your attention is pinging from this to that, and is diluted in the process. So I need to settle down and do one thing at a time!
2. I need to work during my most productive time of day. Nearly everyone has times of the day when they are most effective and times when they tend to drag. It’s smart to schedule the most critical tasks for your most effective time of the day, so I am reserving early morning and after dinner for my most intense times of working/writing.
3. I will get the icky stuff out of the way first. Writing is overall a very pleasant experience, but some of the activities surrounding it are not so much fun for me. I am going to pledge to do the unpleasant items quickly and as early in the day as possible.
4. To do lists work if I work them! In the morning, decide what you want to accomplish that day. This can be even more effective when planned the night before. Once you have a sense of direction, you can spend all your time getting things done!
5. I need to turn off everything that dings, pings, vibrates or breaks into song. While you’re working, turn off the phone / cell phone, and don’t check your email. Hang a sign that says, “Do not disturb,” if necessary. You don’t have to do this for all your tasks, but at least do it during the more difficult items.
6. I will batch similar tasks together. Do all your emailing at one time. Make all your phone calls at another. Open your snail mail during a set block of time. You’ll waste less time by doing your work in this fashion.
7. I will set a timer, probably on my phone. Even if a task might take hours, starting will seem easier if you simply give yourself 20 minutes to get as much done as you can. A time limit seems to help many people concentrate and work better, too. For my brain, Ican focus hard for 20 minutes, and then my brain needs to do something else for a bit. Rather than fighting with it, I’m going to work with it!
8. I will analyse the benefits of the things I think I need to do. For example, there are some tasks that bloggers do that do not really help them. I found myself spending hours a day doing things that were of no benefit to me. If something doesn’t bless you or others, forget about it!
9. I will look at planners, apps and programs that might help. I have struggled for years with the choice between electronics and pen and paper. Because there are so many wonderful products out there, I have picked out the best of both that work for me. So check things out yourself and try them on. Google Calendar and Trello, for just a few examples, are free and work across all devices.
I’m working to implement these ideas into my life to get more done in my days. My goal is not to work myself to death in this life. My goal is to work hard to bless others and to be a good steward of time in life – to work life into my days!
What ideas do you have for working smarter?