Advice on getting more out of life, by David Leonhardt for The Huffington Post Canada.
Start with a plan
No matter how hard we wish to deny it or change it, life is short. And each of us has so many things we want to do. Yet, there never seems to be enough time.
In fact, there is more time than most of us realize; we just waste so much of it. Here are seven tips I have observed to make more of your time. Use these for business. Use these for daily life. Or use these for any specific project you want to accomplish.
- you get a brainstorm
- your situation changes
- you find out that one of your assumptions is wrong
The chances of ending up where you want to increase dramatically when you have a plan. A plan is simply a start point, an end point and a list of steps to take to get from start to end.
Write it down. A plan in your head is fine, but it's like mist drifting through the air. When you write the plan down, it takes on a solid state. You are more likely to follow it. That's why to-do lists are effective.
That does not mean the plan can't change. Sometimes, there is a good reason to change plans:
But altering your plan for a good reason is not the same thing as letting it change due to drift.
You might have 50 things to do today. You might end up doing 35 of them. But will you do the 35 most important things? Or, at the end of the day, will you have still have a few important things to do?
Do the most important things first. Make sure they get done. If you don't, you might "waste" time on less important things and run out of time to do what you most need to do.
The bigger the project, the more important it is to prioritize. As real estate agent Anita Clark puts it:
Block out time
"If you take time to prioritize up front, you will not waste many hours chasing homes that are really not right for you."
Then do the things you tend to procrastinate on. We all have those. If you do those early on, you'll still be motivated to do the things you like at the end of the day.
Marginal gains on everything
So when you write it down, group items in such a way that you can tackle them most productively.
Do one thing at a time. Sure, we can all multitask when we need to, but we are less efficient and less productive. Saying otherwise is pure bravado.
Focus and concentration on one project at a time will make you more productive. You will end up with more hours in the day.
Imagine if you could make very small improvements to everything you do. For instance, what if you could reduce your commuting time by five minutes every morning? That would save you 20 hours per year.
Let's take this one step further. Let's suppose you use those five minutes each morning to do exercise. That's 20 hours of exercise. How many calories have you burned?
What would be the huge benefit of changing all the plates and bowls in your house to slightly smaller ones?
What would be the huge benefit of eating lunch while you worked or while you went for a walk?
What would be the benefit of increasing your freelance fee by just 25 cents per hour?
Harness your afternoons
Many small changes can make a big difference in your life.
If you sit all day, don't expect to be productive. Especially in the afternoon, you are likely to lose energy. Too much and too little exercise have a similar effect on us: they tire us out.
The key is to make sure you move every now and then. Get up from your desk. Stand at your desk sometimes, if you can. Especially try to move when you feel the ebb of energy.
Keep track of your progress.
Afternoons are the toughest for many people. It's siesta time! Energy is low. Find out what you do best when your energy is low, and what you do worst.
For instance, I get easily distracted in afternoons. If I try to multi-task too much, I end up getting lost in social media and reading the Huffington Post. I do much better working on large writing projects in the afternoon.
Save for the afternoon those things that low energy effects the least. Here is the "ideal" daily schedule.
What you can't measure, you can't change. As long as progress is positive, keep going. When it stalls, look for more ways to become productive or revisit the steps above. Make whatever changes you need to keep growing more productive, or to avoid becoming less productive. Make sure you are moving toward your goals.
It's your life. It's your time. You can use it or waste it. You can do as much or as little with it as you wish. These seven tips are not the only ways to become more productive, but they should work for you if you apply them to your situation.
Or you could keep wasting time, but waste it more productively.
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