The summer went by so fast and before I knew it, we were only a week away from the start of school. Where did my summer go? Incidentally, most of my projects were at it’s tailend so I vowed to complete all the project documents ASAP and then spend the rest of my time enjoying summer with the family.
Perhaps you’ve also felt this before and asked yourself, Where did my day go? Sometimes, we feel that 24 hours are never really enough to do all that needs doing if we want to live a complete life that includes self-care, well-being, career advancement, quality time with family, a well-maintained home, and so on. It is a tough juggling act we all face everyday, and sometimes we do it so badly that we end up tired, stressed, unfulfilled or even burned out.
Decluttering your schedule and living a more meaningful and productive life isn’t rocket science. In fact, you can do a quick google search and you’ll find thousands of articles on how you can do this in your life. The hardest part is really in the doing. It’s never easy to change something that we’ve gotten used to. Sometimes, living a life of fatigue and stress has become our comfort zone (as weird as it may sound), that we find it very hard to step out of it and do something.
Here are three small steps that you can start with.
Declare your Intentions
Almost a month ago, I almost got myself sucked into a rabbit hole when I was writing down my tasks for the next day. There were no client meetings on that day, so that was my chance to get things done. There was just so much to do at work then, with multiple projects already overlapping. But at the back of my mind, I knew, felt and wanted to spend more time with my son before I start another series of back to back to back workshops and meetings. So I started listing all the tasks that I was itching to do, all the tasks that are due soon, all the tasks that have been put off, and so on. I was already entering the rabbit role when I realised that with all that I had listed down, realistically, I won’t really be able to spend much time with my son. I snapped out of my auto-pilot-task-listing mode and literally crossed out everything on my list. Then, I wrote down my intention, to spend time with my son today. And then it was clear to me and everything else followed. It felt good too! After that, I trimmed down my work tasks to about 20% because I knew that everything else there was not aligned with my intention for the day.
Do you find yourself feeling unproductive, unaccomplished or disappointed at the end of the day despite checking most or all of the items on your to-do list? Perhaps it’s time you start with your intentions.
I learned from a webinar I took way back when I was in corporate, one very simple yet really effective trick to become more productive and have time for what matters. It’s to turn off nofications. It seemed shocking to me the first time I heard it, What? Turn off notifications? How do I know when there’s an important email or message that just came in? But you know what, these notifications actually distract us from the present moment. When an email pops up with the subject, “Salary Increase” or “50% off Sale at XYZ Shop”, wouldn’t you just rush to click on it and read what it says? Important, yes (and the sale, maybe important to some)! Urgent, maybe not! And when you click on that alert, read the email, you find yourself also sending a message to your good friend or colleague to chat about what you just read… And before you know it, you’ve spent a good 30 minutes already.
Focus on the task at hand. Start with small steps by muting notifications when someone goes online and when you receive a message. Remember that if it’s urgent, people will call you! Also set up time each day when you are designated to check your emails, messages, etc.
Write it down
You might have come across the Forbes article about a study in Harvard saying that those who wrote their goals down are more successful than those who don’t. Well apparently, that study never did happen, but there was another study that actually proved it. Other than increase your chances for success, writing down your goals or your tasks also helps keep you sane. When you’ve got all these thoughts in your head, it takes up brainspace and makes it hard for you to focus on other tasks until you’ve actually done something about that thing in your head. So what should you do with that thing in your head? Release it and write it down. Research shows that when you write down your plan for it, you’re freeing up that brainspace and allowing yourself to do other things and just revert back to that task when it’s the scheduled time to do it.
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