As part of my goals in 2017, I decided that I needed to change certain behaviors in my life if I was going to achieve the goals that I set out for myself this year and moving forward. Better time management and minimizing procrastination are two areas that I started working on in the first 3 months of 2017. Even though I had a few hiccups along the way, I think I am better today than I was at the beginning of the year.
Over the month of April and throughout out the year, I will be listening to podcasts, reading books and learning from the best on how to be successful and increase productivity. Here are a few things I have learned.
- Wake up early: The early morning is when you have the most control of your time. Waking up earlier than anyone else in your household ensures you have uninterrupted “you” time to reflect, plan your day and get stuff done. I have started waking up at 5.30am in the weekdays and 7am on weekends.
- Sleep early: To wake up early and still be productive, it is important to sleep early as well. Even if you can function on less sleep, getting enough sleep where you feel alert and energized to wake up the next morning will ensure you use the morning effectively. I need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep to be at my best so I try and sleep at 9.30pm to 10pm latest.
- Exercise regularly: Regularly put your body in an active state (i.e. working out, jogging etc.). This helps reduces stress, improves your mood and overall health. Find ways to move your body everyday and set aside time to workout at least 3 times a week. I try and workout at least 4 times a week. I use a Fit Bit to track my activity and heart rate and joined a spinning class every Saturday for added motivation.
- Work in block times: This might sound super rigid and over the top, but working in ‘block times’ helps to maximize productivity and increase focus. Working in block times simply means taking a 24-hour day. For example, I try and divide my day (the hours I am awake) into 30-minute block times. If I was to set aside 2 hours to study for my course, I would chunk that time even first to 4 block times and decide how much time to spend on each topic during each 30-minute period.
- Keep a gratitude journal: One of the things I started doing when we were getting out of debt was writing in my gratitude journal. I was upset and overwhelmed at the financial mess that my husband and I were in and I found the gratitude journal helped me to refocus on what was important and be thankful for what I already had. The gratitude journal helped me focus on what I could change, which was where I wanted my life to go from that point forward. I continue to use the journal at least 3 times a week (although I would like to make it every day) to focus on the good in my life.
- Have a morning routine: It is important to be productive while you are awake. Set a morning routine where you can complete the same tasks each day that will lead to a more productive and successful life. These tasks can nurture physical, emotional, spiritual or intellectual development. For example, after waking up I make breakfast, read the bible/pray, listen to a motivational speaker/podcast, then either study for my course or work on my blog (depends on where I am at on either).
- Set goals and review regularly: Reviewing your goals to make sure you are on track is important.
- Chunk your goals into smaller, achievable tasks: If you are a person that likes lists, then you are probably doing this already. For example, if I have a goal to finish reading a book over the course of a month, I will break the chapters up by week so I make sure I finish on time.
- Practice single minded focus: This one is probably the most difficult one for me to implement. In a ‘school of greatness’ talk (YouTube channel I follow) there was a speaker that talked about the importance of being single minded in our long-term goal and our day to day. This means, turning off/silencing your cell phone, getting off social media and removing yourself from any distraction that will keep you from the current task at hand. Single mindedness not only produce better quality of work, but in a shorter period of time. One way I implemented this was when I cook. Typically, when I cook is also when I play something on the television, listen to a podcast or call my siblings. Having cooked for myself for many years now, I felt comfortable multi-tasking while I cook. To follow this single-minded approach however, I now have zero distractions when I cook. No sounds, no video, no talking on the phone. I could cut my cooking time in half as I found more efficient ways to use my time in the kitchen. This freed up time for me to do other things.
- Read: There is the saying ‘leaders are readers’ and I could not agree more. Reading a variety of books increases your conversational skills and makes you aware of the world around you. It can also improve your vocabulary which is an bonus. With so much media coming to us in video and short sound bites, it is hard to want to read, but I think it is important.
- Do one thing each week/month that is outside your comfort zone: Okay this one is exciting and scary at the same time. No matter how successful or talented someone is, everyone has their comfort zone. Sometimes, pushing past that comfort zone is where the next level of success lies. Now this has been difficult for me as I am a creature of habit. I hope to improve by the end of the year.
- Fail quickly: Another one I am learning to embrace is to fail quickly. Failing is a sign of progress, but dwelling on your failure can hinder or significantly slow down your success. I have started doing some research on practical approaches to ‘failing quickly’ besides the obvious “don’t dwell on it” comment which is hard to practically implement if you naturally dwell on things. I found Toni Robbins teachings helpful on this topic.
- Prioritize: The older I get the more I am finding it important to prioritize my time. There are so many things that require my attention. I consider a day a success when I can accomplish two out of my three or four non-work related goals for the day.
- Learn to say no: Warren Buffet said that for every 100-good business idea that lands on his desk, he says no to 99 of them. Now I am nowhere near his level, but I think we can all learn a thing or two from him no learning to say no. I think this ties in well with single minded focus and prioritization. I think it is easier to say no to things when you know exactly what it is you want.
- Complete periodic self-assessments: Self-assessments are good for determining strengths and weakness. It is a tough pill to swallow but once I realized that my actions, behaviors, beliefs and limitations have been the reason for my successes and failures and where I am today…that was life changing. I don’t discount that there are advantages and disadvantages that helped me along the way, but I like self-assessment because they remove all the excuses and allow you to work with your best asset, yourself.
What about you? Is there something you do on a consistent basis that has helped you achieve success in the long term? What are some of the things you still struggle with?