- Make your bed as soon as you get up. Seriously. It may seem unnecessary, but if you don’t get anything else done the rest of the day, at least you did that!
- Drink 8-10 glasses of water every day. Put it on your to-do list, and relish crossing it off!
- Turn off notifications on your cell phone, tablet, and laptop for two hours every morning. You will be astounded – at least, I was – to see how much you get done without all those dings.
- As soon as you sit in your desk chair, pull out a sticky note or scrap of paper, and write at the top: The single most important thing for me to accomplish today is____. Then, do that thing! It seems simple, right? But how many times do you think, “It’s already 5:00, and I’ve gotten nothing accomplished!” This will ensure you have your Most Important Thing done!
- This last one’s a biggie and something I’ve only recently started. When I plot my day, I now estimate how long a task will take. I write that amount in pencil next to the task or meeting. Then, when I complete the task, I write down how long it actually took. Four days into this routine, and my eyes are open wide! I had my schedule all kinds of under- and over-estimated. Now, I’m honing in on a more accurate idea of what I can accomplish in a day. (By the way, I used almost one hour less time yesterday than anticipated. Hello, bonus nap!)
I knew I wanted to be a writer in elementary school. Well, a writer or a paleontologist.
I know how lucky I am that I get to do what I love every single day. Even though I love my job, I don’t love all of my projects. Sometimes, the work can become tedious, and I often feel uninspired. The way I’ve learned to stay motivated, though, is to add a little of my loves to every work day. In other words, I craft my time around my passions.
For instance, I’m obsessed with my dogs. I love the little buggers, so I launched a dog blog as a fun side project. Then I landed a guest post with a popular dog magazine and assignments from animal publications like Petside.com.
I’m also passionate about living an eco-conscious lifestyle, so I’ve tried to target publications that share my beliefs. Bonus: I landed a gig as the pet expert for an eco-friendly website!
Even though none of those are make-me-rich projects, they’re soul enriching. Cheesy? Maybe. But it’s true.
How can you infuse your passion into your work? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- If your passion is totally unrelated to your day job – you love knitting sweaters for turtles but you work as a corporate accountant – launch a blog and use your lunch hour to write posts.
- Find an interest-specific activity on Meetup.com or join a forum.
- Create a Facebook page that revolves around your passion. Not only will you meet like-minded people, you’ll also discover tons of sites and resources that you were probably too busy to locate on your own.
If all else fails, use a picture of the cutest turtle wearing your chicest sweater as your screen saver. Everyone needs a little passion in their work day, no matter how you weave it into your routine!
Image: Kurt Thomas Hunt
What does your morning routine look like? Do you frantically search for your keys while downing a cup of coffee? Do you bolt out the door a few minutes late every day? Do you practice yoga or meditate? Hit the gym? Hit the snooze button?
I have never been a morning person. Ever. But recently I’ve found some serious value in a morning routine.
A morning routine sets up your day for success. And you don’t even have to be a “morning person” to take advantage of a routine. Once you adjust to a new way of doing things, it becomes easier to stay on task and on point.
There’s no “right” routine other than finding what’s best for you. (Lifehacker has some tips, though I’d never suggest giving up coffee! zen habits has a suggestion, too, though I can’t imagine waking up at 4:30 in the morning. But, again, it’s about finding what works for you.)
Here’s the loose outline of my morning routine:
- 7 to 8: My ideal morning routine starts with a steaming mug of coffee between 7 and 8. I know many productivity gurus suggest not checking email first thing in the morning, but that causes me too much mental anguish. I spend that cup of coffee reading emails, checking my Google reader, updating Facebook and Twitter, and making the rounds through my favorite blogs.
- 8 to 9: Once I’m caught up online, I head out for a dog walk. It usually takes about an hour to get the puppy tired, which is the amount of time it takes for me to wake up fully.
- 9 to 12: After the walk, I sit down at my desk – with another cup of coffee and my breakfast – with a clear head, ready to tackle my day.
It’s so simple. Three steps, really. But this easy routine has doubled my before-noon productivity.
What about you? What does your typical morning look like? Have you tried to implement a routine?
Image: Gregory Szarkiewicz
Did you make any resolutions for 2011?
January’s almost over… How are you doing with those?
Several years ago, I realized a truth about myself: I can not keep resolutions.
Sweeping statements (I will lose weight! I will re-read all the classics! I will clean out my closets!) are the stuff of resolutions. Unfortunately, unspecific ideals aren’t achievable. At least not for me, and I’d wager not for the majority of us.
Because we’re human!
“I will lose weight” becomes “I’ll work out tomorrow,” which becomes “This weekend I will cook healthy food,” which becomes “Diet starts Monday.” By the time Monday rolls around, you feel like a failure.
Why set yourself up to feel bad?
Instead of resolutions, I recommend goals. These goals must be specific, bite-sized chunks that you can cross off your list (preferably with a flourish). Instead of “I will re-read the classics,” try “I will re-read Great Expectations in January and Moby Dick in February.” Plan all the books you want to read for the year, and cross each one off as you complete it. This type of goal-setting sets you up for success; you’ll feel so accomplished each time you cross a book off your list!
But the big question: What does any of this have to do with writing or running a small business?
To set achievable goals – and you do set goals, right? – the same principle applies. Instead of “I will get more clients and increase revenue,” set really specific goals like “I will meet one new potential client each month by attending a weekly networking breakfast.” Then break that goal into its individual steps: I will send a “nice to meet you” email to the new contact the very next day; I will send an industry-related news article the following week; I will invite her out to coffee at the end of the month. Or whatever fits your biz.
The idea is to break a big goal down into tiny steps. The act of crossing off each step not only will propel you forward, but what’s better than feeling like you’ve accomplished your goals?
When I was 14, I worked at Burger King. It was an awesome job. My friends worked there, I got to eat fast food for dinner two nights each week, and I could drink as much free soda as I wanted.
Turns out, it was a great job for another reason: I learned about time management.
Each shift started at 4:00 and ended at 8:00. I couldn’t clock in one minute early or out one minute late due to child labor laws. During that four-hour period, I had to take and serve orders, sweep the dining room, restock condiments, take a 30-minute dinner break, and count my drawer. Because I worked with several friends, it was tempting to stand around and chat. The manager spent most of the evening in her office smoking and doing paperwork, so I could have gotten away with it… except my work wouldn’t get done.
So it came down to managing those tasks and that four-hour period. I asked myself: How can I streamline my work so I can budget 30 minutes or so of standing around and talking with my friends?
Budgeting my workload to include goofing-off prepared me for a lifetime of careful time management.
Just like my chatty 14-year-old self, I still budget my workload to include time for friends and family, which is crucial to prevent burnout.
Whenever I find myself getting off balance, I flash back to Burger King. What helped me so carefully budget my time then? My timesheet!
Because my time card had to be so precise, it kept me on track. Now, whenever I get overwhelmed or whenever I can’t figure out how best to manage my time, I whip our a grownup version of my Burger King punch card.
It works amazingly well!
Next time you feel stuck or overwhelmed, try using a timesheet. I guarantee that, even if it doesn’t help you cross things off your list, it will help you to think through and prioritize all those to-dos!
By the way, I recommend the 168 hours time management spreadsheet as a streamlined time tracker system. Not too many bells and whistles, which is super important when tracking your time shouldn’t take much time!