Why You Should be Realistic, And Not Hopeful, In Planning Your Day

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Let’s face it: Most of us overestimate our ability to get a lot of stuff done.

We often load up our schedule with priorities and non-priorities alike — thinking (wrongly) that we’ll be able to blow through all of them in record time.

That’s called hopeful thinking. Reality is often much different.

There are interruptions. There are crises. There is traffic, phone calls, and unforeseen complications with projects that leave us getting far less done than we planned for, and leave us feeling defeated at the end of the day.

I’m a big proponent of setting myself up for victory when I plan for the day. That means being realistic, rather than hopeful, about what I’m going to accomplish.

That’s why I try to never set more than three big priorities each day. Three priorities may not sound like a lot, but I believe in consistency over inconsistent intensity (another way of saying “Tortoise vs. Hare”).

By focusing on the “Big Three” priorities, I make my day manageable and I set myself up to accomplish all of my priorities, rather than piling on the to-dos and not being able to complete them.

Here are some questions to ask yourself and thoughts to keep in mind to help you realistically plan for your day:

  • Look at Your Historical Schedule Patterns. Look back historically at your calendar. Does your client usually surprise you with an unforeseen request every Monday at 10 am or Friday at 3 p.m.? Are your Thursdays usually pretty clear of calls and interruptions? If your schedule is like mine, you can identify certain patterns for each day of the week that can help you realistically plan and schedule around common interruptions, calls, etc.
  • Build in Buffers. Scheduling conference calls back-to-back-to-back is a surefire way to be late to one or more of those calls. Yes, there are things we can do to make sure calls don’t go over their scheduled time, but stuff happens, and calls can are more productive when you have a few minutes to plan for them ahead of time. Build in — and schedule — buffers. It will keep you on time (which will also help you look good to your boss and/or client) and allows you to be more productive in each call.
  • Build In Time For Your Life. “Parkinson’s Law” holds that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Making time for breaks and personal tasks is a good way to put time limits on your work-related tasks. But make sure you schedule these breaks. Did you promise your wife you’d buy those tickets to the upcoming show during your workday? Schedule it. Were you thinking of maybe taking a walk during your lunch hour? Schedule it.
  • Break Larger Projects Into Smaller Tasks. Don’t schedule something like “Write 6 Page Report” as a single to-do for a single day. Writing a six-page report has many different, individual steps that you can break into smaller tasks so that you complete it over time. Perhaps “draft initial report outline” is a task for Monday. “Download weekly sales report spreadsheet” could be a task for Tuesday, since downloading that spreadsheet is a necessary task for completing your report. “Analyze sales totals for July” could be a task for Wednesday. And so on and so forth. The bottom line: Stop scheduling confusing “projects” with “to dos”. Each project has many to-dos that can be broken up and completed over a period of time.
  • Accept That Sometimes, ‘S*** Happens’. Even if you only have one major priority schedule for a day — things can happen that make even accomplishing that one thing impossible. A car accident. Sickness. A client crisis. Whatever it is — these things happen. Don’t let it get you down. Hopefully, the fact that you’ve been limiting your priorities for each day makes missing a day not so overwhelming (you’re only missing out on three priorities instead of 23 to-dos).

You’re not superman/superwoman. Your day doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it happens in real life, with all the interruptions and unforeseen activities that it brings.

Be realistic in planning your day, and I’m hopeful it will make you more productive, less stressed and happier.

10 Productive Things You Can Do in 10 Minutes or Less

119252819Time isn’t something we ever seem to have an abundance of. Sometimes, all we have to spare is 10 minutes. What do you do in those 10 minutes? Most people would just spend it checking social media or sitting around letting it pass. But 10 minutes is plenty of time to get something productive done. Yes, only 10 minutes!

Here are 10 productive things you can do in 10 minutes or less:

  1. Update your to-do list: Sometimes, we create our to-do list…only to forget all about it. Spend a few minutes to update your to-do list. Check off what you’ve already done and prioritize what’s left. Spending a little bit of time on your to-do list will help you feel more organized or more prepared to tackle the day ahead.
  2. Organize your emails: Email inboxes can be a never ending vicious cycle. You spend hours cleaning it up but it seems to get full and cluttered the very next day. The key is being consistent. You have to be on top of your inbox. Otherwise, it’ll just get out of control. Spend 10 minutes every day organizing your inbox by filing emails away or deleting them. Keep the emails you still have to respond to.
  3. Do squats or lunges: When we’re short on time, exercise is often the first thing we drop off our list. However, getting a workout in daily, even a small one, is crucial to our health. You don’t necessarily need an hour or even 30 minutes to get a workout in. A few minutes will do. Just get up, stretch, and do a few squats and lunges.
  4. Organize your desk: Want to feel more productive instantly? Clearing away clutter will do the trick. If you have too much on your desk, organize it. File away your papers and put your pens back in the drawer. Something as simple as organizing can make you feel less stressed.
  5. Meditate: There is just so much going on at any given point in time that we can feel extremely overwhelmed. If you feel like you have too much to think about, take 1 or 2 minutes and just meditate. Sit down, close your eyes, and clear your mind. It may sound silly but it can really help you relieve stress and be a little happier.
  6. Clean out your fridge: When’s the last time you cleaned out your fridge? If you don’t remember, it’s time to do it. It only takes a few minutes. If you can’t remember when you bought it, it goes in the trash.
  7. Wash your dishes: Dishes don’t do themselves. So whether you need to load the dishwasher or hand wash some dishes, tackle the pile sitting in your sink.
  8. Clean out your wallet: Wallets seem to tell the story of our lives. They’re jammed packed with everything, from credit cards to business cards. You should clean out your wallet from time to time so that you’re not that annoying customer rummaging through your entire wallet for a credit card at the checkout line. Throw away any receipts you don’t need and try to use up all your change.
  9. Listen to your voicemail: Ever since the age of email, voicemail has taken a back seat. But don’t forget about it. You might actually get an important one from time to time so take a few minutes to listen to them.
  10. Strike up a conversation: If you have a few extra minutes and you have nothing to do, strike up a conversation with someone. Whether it’s in person, over the phone, or through text, it’s nice to just say hello and see how someone’s doing.

The next time you have 5 minutes to spare, try any or all of these suggestions. You’ll feel just a little more productive as a result.

 

Reduce stress through a dose of minimalism

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Minimalism. It’s the new “IT” word these days. Everyone either claims to be a minimalist or wants to be one. And you’re left thinking “what’s all this fuss about?”

If the word minimalist makes you think about living in a 1 room apartment with only a mattress and a desk, you might be a little off. Minimalism doesn’t have to be about living with as little as possible. It should be able living without the things you don’t need. In moderation, minimalism can actually help you relieve stress, increase your productivity and, best of all, save money.

Here are 4 ways you can embrace the minimalist in you:

Reduce clutter.

The first step to becoming a minimalist is getting rid of what you don’t need. Having too much clutter can be a waste of time. You find yourself always trying to locate something. Clutter can also lead to stress and anxiety. All the stuff in our lives can be truly overwhelming. Go through all your things and determine what you don’t need. Just because you like something doesn’t mean you need to keep it – will you actually use it? Either toss or donate the items you no longer want.

Buy less useless “stuff”.

After you’ve gotten rid of everything you no longer need, the next step is to maintain it. In other words: buy less. Being a minimalist doesn’t mean that you can no longer splurge on things you want. It just means you have to be more thoughtful about it. Will this item truly add value to your life or will it just sit in your desk unforgotten?

Focus on one thing at a time.

The mentality of living with less clutter should also carry over to your work-life. Not only should you de-clutter your desk, you should also clean up your to-do list. Instead of trying to do multiple things at once, focus on one thing at a time. You’ll actually be able to finish it faster and better if you single-task.

Simplify your life.

Less is more. That’s the mantra every minimalist lives by. Evaluate everything in your life in totality, not just your things. Technology is a great example. How many social media accounts do you have? Do you truly use all of them productively or do you just use it to waste time? Similarly, take a look at your computer and delete any files or programs that are just taking up memory space.

You may not be ready to embrace minimalism completely but there are surely certain aspects of your life that can be simplified. Learn to be happy with less.

4 Tips to Salvage Your New Year’s Resolutions

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Every year, you strive to make it a better year than the one before.

Now that 2015 has settled in a little bit, your New Year’s resolutions might be on the top of your to-do list. Or, on the other hand, your resolutions may be on a express train to nowhere. While we make resolutions with the best intentions, the part where most people fail is actually getting started.

If your resolutions are going no where, you’re not alone. Many people make resolutions but never follow through on them. Don’t become one of those people. Here are 5 tips to help you salvage your resolutions:

Revise your resolutions as needed

Your resolutions are not written in stone. You change and your priorities change, which means your goals can change too. Don’t just give up on a resolution because you no longer are passionate about it. You can revise and rework your resolutions as needed to fit in line with what your longer term goals are. Just be sure you aren’t doing it to be easier on yourself or to avoid something all together.

Create monthly goals & checkpoints

When you create a huge lofty goal for yourself, you can get caught up in the big picture. This makes it hard for yourself to see your progress or celebrate your small wins. When that happens, you feel unmotivated or like you haven’t accomplished much. Instead of thinking about the big picture, create monthly checkpoints for yourself and evaluate your progress at each checkpoint. This will not only help you see how much you’ve accomplished but also help you reassess and refocus if necessary.

Strive to create habits

When you are thinking about your resolutions, strive to create habits. For instance, instead of trying to lose 5 pounds, make it your goal to go to the gym 3 times a week. Habits are long term and once you get into the groove of things, it’ll be hard to break. When you try to just reach a goal or complete a challenge, you can fall back into your old ways easily. Don’t let that happen.

Take small steps

A year is a very long time. We’re not even a month in yet. If you haven’t made much progress on your new year’s resolutions, don’t feel dejected. You still have a lot of time to work towards it. Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint.

7 Tips to Becoming Happier at Work

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In a perfect world, we’d always love our jobs. But many of us don’t. The stress of work can get the better of us sometimes and the unhappiness we feel from our jobs can often trickle into our personal lives. While we may want nothing more than to say “I quit” and walk out, that’s not always the right answer. Instead of trying to find ways to walk away from your job, try another approach: learn to be happier. Our unhappiness stems more from out mindsets than from our jobs themselves. Here are 7 tips to becoming happier at work:

Focus on the good things

The hours are too long. Your boss is too demanding. The salary sucks. These are all examples of negative thoughts we focus too much on when it comes to work. In order to find long term happiness at work, you have to address them one by one. But in the meantime, try not to forget about the good things. There has to be something you love about your job. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be there. Think about what you actually like. This will make the day go by faster.

Speak up

Many of the things you hate about your job can be fixed by simply speaking up. If you’re overworked and overwhelmed, consider talking to your manager about it. You’re a valuable asset to your team and you managers want to keep you happy, even though it might not feel like it. Feel comfortable in addressing your concerns with your boss.

Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t mean you can’t do your job. It just means you have too much on your plate. Instead of trying to rush through everything, focus on what you can do and do it well. For the things you don’t have time for, push it aside or ask for your team to give you a hand. You can return the favor later on.

Do more with your personal time

You spend anywhere from 8 to 10 hours of your day at work. That leaves more than half of your day to yourself. If you’re burnt out from work, you may be tempted to just go home and crash. Don’t do it. Instead, do more with your personal time. Schedule activities and meet ups with friends. You’ll have something to look forward to and your work day will go by much faster.

Make friends at the workplace

It’s not always easy to make friends in the workplace. But having one or two people you can talk to at work (aside from your boss) makes your job much more bearable. Try to put yourself out there and make a few friends. You can lean on each other when the work gets tough.

Start a side hobby

Many people don’t find passion in their work but just need to do it to pay the bills. That’s OK. But that doesn’t mean you have to put your personal interests aside. Spend your free time on a hobby or passion of yours. Who knows? It can turn into something much bigger.

Remember, it’s just a job

At the end of the day, remember that your job is just a job. It doesn’t define you. Learn to separate your work life from your home life and don’t take anything personally.