Many of my clients approach me because they struggle to make consistent efforts towards their goals. They start with great intentions but cannot stick with it long enough to see it through to completion. They wish they had more hours in their day or more mental endurance to power through and finish off everything in their list of things-to-do. They are always busy but can not put their arms around everything they need to get done. Invariably, they devote their time and efforts towards dealing with the ‘urgent’ rather than ‘important’. As a result, despite working hard they feel under accomplished and discontent with themselves. They want to figure out how to be more productive. As I dig deeper, I find they are in the quest to make a difference to themselves and their environment, to grow, to be significant. The trick is to focus on what matters most instead of always feeling buried under an ever-expanding list of things to do.
Here are some tips –
- Document everything – Have a system to capture everything that needs to be done. It could be as simple as your notebook.
- Fix, delegate and automate – Note down the existing pattern of the kind of things you devote most of your time on. If most of your time is taken by urgent issues rather than important ones, think about the reason you have so many urgent things crying for your attention. Fix those area/s so that you are not always busy averting crisis. Figure out what can you can delegate. Who will you delegate to? What will be your follow-through mechanism? What can you automate?
- Start with what matters the most – Everyday, pick one item from your ‘to-do’ list, which is most important to you, and focus on it till you complete it. In case this is a project that is likely to take a few days or months, break it down into smaller actionable pieces and determine a deadline for each step. Make this the first thing that you attend to each day till you complete the portion assigned for the day. Stay with it even if you feel bored, do not like the outcome, or feel the pressure to attend to something else. Consistency and commitment will get you through to completion, but if you wait for motivation to strike to get started, this may become one of those projects that you never complete. The ability to persist when motivation level is low and the results are not visible is the differentiator between those who accomplish vs those who indulge in wishful thinking. Leaving a tedious but important task in favor of something easier in the moment is likely to tick off more things on your list but will not give you a sense of accomplishment and growth.
- Stay on what is important – Once you complete the most important thing for the day, pick the next important one, and follow the same pattern as above.
- Avoid distractions – While you are working on what matters, avoid distractions. Turn off mail/social media notifications and mute your phone.
- Weed out the non-value add activities – Learn to say ‘no’ to meetings and commitments which you sign up for merely as an obligation or simply because you have always done them.
- Manage your energy – Living to your fullest potential requires energy. Make sure you are eating nutritious food, exercising, and resting enough. Know the triggers that cause you to be impatient, irritable, and stressed. and how to diffuse them so that you can stay in a resourceful state to accomplish your objectives.
To recapitulate, focus on what matters, delegate, and automate everything possible, and plan to succeed, i.e., create an action plan, schedule your actions, and carve out pockets of time in your day to give undivided attention to working on your plan. Finally, manage your energy so that you are in the right physical, emotional, and mental space to accomplish what you care deeply for.