So, you know you’ve got a big day coming up, filled with tight-deadlines, admin, expectations, and conflicting priorities. Add to that the inevitable distractions of colleagues, homeoffice, and pinging emails and you just know that it will be a day of stop / start stress, and you’ll be lucky to get much done at all. All you want is a calm yet productive flow state, right? All damn day, so you can just pump that shit out and GET IT DONE!
So, how do we get it done? How do we take back control?
Planning. Real, conscious planning. Taking your energy, engagement and stress into consideration and planning accordingly.
So it’s not just a to-do list! Although that is a great start. The classic “planning” looks a little like this:
To Do List: However you capture your tasks, make sure it is a system that actually works. That is, you truly write everything down, and you truly regularly review your list, and you can’t misplace it. It should be something you look at every single day, multiple times, and review in-depth once a week. If you haven’t already, I thoroughly recommend the Getting Things Done methodology, by David Allen – changed my life!
Prioritise: I’m not going to tell you how to prioritise things, that is up to you and relates to your wants and values, as well as how you work best. A few questions to ask yourself:
How have I successfully prioritised things in the past? Do I like to tackle the hardest things first? The longest things? Do I split up my day into time chunks and apportion work that fits within those timeframes? Is there someone that needs something urgently, or by a certain time? These questions will lead you to the correct order for your to do list.
This is often where people stop their planning, which is a shame! You won’t easily reach a “flow” state if there are other areas sapping your focused energy for the tasks at hand.
Let’s take back control by considering the following 6 elements as well:
Environment: Is it noisy here? Is it cold / hot? Is there sufficient light? Your environment can be very distracting, so consciously make sure that you will be comfortable for the full time you need to focus.
Mental: Do I know exactly what needs to be done? Do I have all the necessary information? Shall I open up all the required documents before I begin, and close all others so there are no distractions and my information is exactly where I need it? Do I have a plan?
Social: Can I go to a quiet place for the work, or use headphones? Can I go to a café instead of a busy office or home office? What will my response be if a colleague comes over for a chat? Will I answer chats / emails, or will I close the apps and just check in breaks and lunchtime?
Physical: Have I slept well? Have I been to the bathroom? Am I hydrated enough? Do I need to put slippers on? When will I have breaks?
Spiritual: What is the bigger picture for the task/s ahead – what is the overarching goal, and how do I feel about this? Is it motivating to me, or does it conflict with my values? How committed am I to this goal? The more connected you are to the goal or vision, the more focus and energy you will have towards the task. Yes there is always boring admin work! But if we look at the bigger picture and are aligned with it, this can give us the focus we need to accomplish the task.
Emotional: Take a quick check of how you are feeling before beginning – are you still overwhelmed, stressed, jittery, worried, nervous? Or are you calm, centred, focused, and excited about a challenge? Some stress can be helpful, and actually help you focus! But too much will lead to distraction and a negative mindset. Check in with yourself, and try to calm yourself before taking on the busy day – have a morning with a quick meditation, or a walk to the office, or just stare out the window for 5 minutes before you begin. Whatever helps you calm your breathing and come back to a focused state again.
These things can take just a moment to consider, but the conscious consideration of these will give you an amazing sense of control, which can be the key thing that’s lacking when you have a busy day!
Take back that control, kick some ass, and get that stuff done!