When you feel like you're constantly running against the clock, putting out fires and just generally feeling overwhelmed, it can be difficult to see your way passed that growing to-do list.
Eventually you may find yourself feeling unhappy, procrastinating or even worse frantically swapping between jobs you just shouldn't be doing.
Depending on your style of time management you could be trapped into thinking "Once I get this project finished everything will be all right".
The reality is that you're caught in a "hard work" cycle and the only way to get yourself out is to make a change to the way you manage your time.
The change doesn't have to be huge or life-changing, in fact it can be as simple as having a cup of coffee.
How Do You Change?
What you do need to do is first give yourself permission to make the change, second do whatever the change requires, third celebrate after each time you've done it and finally to stick with it.
You want to give yourself permission because right now you have so much on your plate that you believe doing anything but getting all those things done is wasting time. So you've got to cut yourself a little slack and remember that you're doing this (what sounds like a high risk change) because you want to be getting everything done and more, with some free time left over for you.
You need to put the change into action so that you get forward momentum. Just saying you're going to do something, doesn't mean it gets done! So roll up your sleeves and get on with it. If you need to remind yourself to do it, then put a note in your diary or calendar. If you need to make it part of your routine then do it when you're doing your other 'habit tasks' (things you do automatically without having to be reminded or even thinking about it). Get into the "whatever it takes" groove.
You need to reward yourself by celebrating after you've done whatever the new thing is. Think about how profession tennis players and footballers celebrate when they've done something good (they pump their fists in the air, they jump somersaults and hug and backslap). The great thing about celebrating is the more you do it the more you want to do it. In fact sports psychologists will tell you that you become addicted to the feeling of celebration (and success) and that you can use this to motivate, challenge and inspire yourself to achieve the most unimaginable results. Whether true or not, if you're working as hard as you are now chances are you're so focused on the problems, that you're unable to see just how many fantastic things you've done lately. Which means it's well and trully time you gave yourself a pat on the back. Even if it feels weird at first, stick with it, you deserve it!
You most definitely need to stick with it; for longer than one week.Remember you're making the change so that you can eventually get more achieved and better results. You want to be like a celebrity; have a routine and be persistent. Movie A-listers look after their health, body and appearance with every decision they make every day, year after year. They have daily routines that ensure they exercise, eat and sleep for optimum results every day. The way they stick with it is to turn a lot of what they do into 'habit tasks' so they don't even think about "skipping the routine for a day" or "taking a day off". And the way you get there too, is to stick with it, do it every day and in a pretty short period of time it will be routine and then one day when you've done it without thinking you'll realise you're in the habit of it and it's easy.
Now you know how you're going to make the change, it's time to look at what you change.
Rather than give you a huge long list of things you can change, this list of six focuses on the changes that will make the biggest difference and get done what you're doing now in far less time.
1. Focus on one and only one project at a time.
You may be thiniing that you're actually really good at multi-tasking and hopping from one project to the next, however research clearly shows that our mind is able to change our perception of time and that it's only when confronted with the cold hard facts from our own time audit that we'll believe that multi-tasking is a great way to waste time. Think back to the last time you had to drop something you were doing to get something else done. Chances are you scribbled yourself a quick note so you could later remind yourself where to start or maybe your overcrowded memory is going to have to handle this. Either way, you'll spend some time working out what the new job is about, getting together the information and resources you'll need so you can do whatever needs doing and whilst you're actually doing what's needed you're likely to interrupt yourself with thoughts ranging from questioning whether you've already done this and could you be reusing that to wondering if you've forgotten something. Interestingly, this all adds up to a surprisingly large amount of wasted time; usually more than quadrupled what you guess it to be.
2. Rearrange your working week and have one whole computer free day.
For a tool that is supposed to make us more efficient, the computer is a trully amazing source of distractions. All those lovely alarms and reminders from calendars, email instant messaging, software and social media serve as a steady stream of interruptions. Then there's your web browser - that quick five minutes to check your share prices, scan the latest news or watch a funny video that mysteriously turns into half an hour. By giving yourself one day a week where you don't even switch it on, you'll find you suddenly becomes more creative, better able to effectively plan and have great focus on jobs that you'd ordinarily put off because they're not as exciting as working on something with your computer.
3. Shorten your to-do list.
If your daily list of things to do has more than six things on it, it's time to look at the value of the things you're choosing to do and how you prioritise. A good rule of thumb is to use a checklist against each task to determine just how important it is and whether or not it's something that's a good use of your time.
4. Outsource one thing; anything!
Util you've let go some control and get someone else to do something for you, you'll always find yourself trapped under a pile of things to do. The horrible thing about procrastinating and not getting someone else to do things for you is that while you're busy keeping everything afloat and ticking over you'll find it impossible to do any of those brilliant new things you've been thinking about. So even if it's only something really trivial, get online and find someone who will do it for you.
5. Stop reinventing the wheel.
When you need a new form, like a timesheet or a report, like a review document, get online and look for one that's already been created. Download it, put your logo on it, along with your business details and get on with business. You'll find it easier to edit and change something that's already created than to start from scratch, so rather than procrastinate and put it off, find what you need and make it your own. Once you start to look you'll be surprised just how much is already out there - slideshow presentations, video tutorials and step-by-step guides exist on just about every topic. So grab one with the right legal permission for you to use and distribute and get on with the high value stuff that your clients and customers really want from you.
6. Automate or systemise one thing you find yourself doing over and over again.
Anything that you find yourself repeatedly doing needs to be automated or systemised. When you automate it's getting done for you, when you systemise you get the opportunity to delegate or outsource to someone else. Either way you're not wasting your time doing it. Email is usually a great place to start looking for things you can change; especially if you find yourself replying to the same questions over and over again. If you've got a CRM, then create a template that also includes your comprehensive answer so that you can send it off with the click on a button. If you're not using a CRM keep your comprehensive answer ready in a draft email so you can access it quickly each time you need it. You can look into other things too like collecting your mail from the post office; get a redirection so it's deliver it to you. Look into setting up automatic payment plans for paying your bills or set up payment plans for your customers so you get paid automatically. There are thousands of ways to automate or systemise jobs you do, so explore your options and start with the ones you feel most comfortable implementing.
By looking at how you save time as well as at how you spend your time you'll quickly accumulate big chunks of free time and maintain your high levels of productivity. When you continue doing these things day after day the gains you make will compound and when you get to this point you'll wonder why you used to work so hard when all along it could have been this easy.
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