You start each day with good intentions to move those important projects forward, take care of what really needs to be done, and make some headway.
Every day, you aim to make progress on the important stuff, and gain some traction on your to-dos.
Every day, you hope to take control of your time and your tasks, but every day, stuff just gets in the way:
- You put out fires.
- You handle what comes at you.
- You take care of others’ demands.
- You race to resolve the latest crisis.
All the while…
The Demands, and the To-Dos, and emails just Keep Coming in, faster than you can get things out.
It can feel like you’ve spent the day with one shoe nailed to the floor—spinning around in circles, taking care of what you can within arms’ reach, but without much to show for it. It’s exhausting: physically, mentally, and emotionally! It drains your energy and your time, so you have little left for what matters most: your family, your relationships, your health, your dreams…
Somehow, people around you (who you know aren’t really any smarter or more talented than you) seem to be able to stay on top of things and manage all the chaos, and make it look so stinking easy.
But it all feels out of your control.
What do they know that you don’t? What do they have that you’re missing?
For starters, they have systems, tools and strategies to support them, and give them direction. They know where they want to go, and they know how they’ll get there. They have direction, because the have a …
Productivity Compass” for their day!
A Productivity Compass is just another name for a plan for effectively and efficiently navigating your day. Like a GPS for your day, it gives you clear direction and helps you stay on route (and get back on route when you life happens).
Every highly productive and efficient person has systems, tools and strategies supporting them, and they start their days clearly knowing how they intend to spend their time, energy and focus. Sure, they triage throughout the day as the need arises, but they are clear on what high value and high-impact things should be their focus, and they can head right back in the right direction when they get off-course.
Just like your GPS guides you back on course when you make a wrong turn! “Recalculating…”
Some of those highly productive and efficient people do it naturally. It’s intuitive for them. It seems like some people were born knowing how to take control of time and navigate their days with ease.
Notice that I used the word THEY? I definitely did NOT get that gene, and I’m guessing you didn’t either (or you wouldn’t be reading this).
We’ve all met those people in real life. I even married one! They make it all look so easy. They’re like time-management Ninjas tackling their to-dos and knocking out projects left and right, keeping their inbox at zero, and running meetings like a champ. If you’re like I used to be, you watch in awe (and a little bit of jealousy with a pinch of irritation) while you struggle to keep your head above water.
It’s not wizardry or some mystical mind power–although it can feel like that much of a fantasy, I know. Been there. Done that myself.
I promise, masterful time-management/productivity is something you really can learn to do in a way that works for you, and it can be much easier to maintain than you may be able to imagine! If I can do it, anyone can. For sure.
It’s key to understand that time management and productivity mastery is complex, but there is actually some real simplicity at its core.
Productivity is complex because there are a lot of pieces that need to come together for us to be productive in meaningful ways. They are the essential elements that allow you to easily:
- Plan in a way that actually makes it easier for you to execute;
- Use your calendar like an external hard drive for your brain so that it truly support you and your troubles with time;
- Have a process for managing your to-dos and projects so that they’re not taking up space in your brain, and you can easily get things done when you need to get them done, without losing things between the cracks;
- Have a rhythm and sustainable flow to your life by having supportive routines in place to manage that soul-sucking repetitive stuff of life;
- Set and control your focus; and
- Use your time efficiently and effectively by easily establishing priorities each day that you can stick to.
And then, of course, we need to sustain all those pieces and keep up with them so that they can support us.
And if you’re still with me, you know that to say that all that is tough when you have ADHD / ADD is such a gross understatement that it would be laughable, if it weren’t so painful.
When you have the right systems, tools and support, masterful time management has a surprising simplicity at its core.
Like even the most complex things, Productivity is made up of smaller, simpler parts! When we focus on making improvement to those smaller parts, we can make significant improvement overall.
I call these smaller, simpler parts your Pillars of Productivity©. Your Pillars of Productivity© are the smaller parts that comprise the complex set of systems, tools and behaviors that must come together for you to be able to take control of your time and accomplish what you intend more easily, so that you can have the time, energy and bandwidth you want for what matters most to you.
A great place to start is with your own “Productivity Compass.”
One of the things that makes the biggest difference for my clients in their productivity is to start each day with a clear plan for direction. It’s the very first thing I help you learn how to do in the very first module of my time-management mentoring group. I call this “setting yourself up” for the day and, really, it’s the simplest way you can set yourself up for success each day. (Hence the name!) Exactly what that “setup” looks like will be a little different for each person based on what comes naturally and works best for them, including: how much structure they like and find supportive; how their energy ebbs and flows throughout the day; how they naturally organize and process information, etc. I tease those things out with my clients and in my Unleashed!© group program, but here are some basics that will help you benefit from a simple plan that gives you daily direction!
Here are The Fundamental Elements of an Effective “Productivity Compass” or Plan:
- It is clear;
- It’s specific;
- It’s task-focused (rather than project-focused); and
- It’s done in advance.
And you really can learn Set yourself up for Success in a way that helps you run your days, rather than having your days run you. (That’s just one of the skills you’ll walk away with from my Unleashed!© 90-day small-group time management mentoring program.)
The “in advance” part takes some getting used to, but can make a world of difference in your ability to accomplish the important stuff. It’s a habit to create, and a behavior to learn, but it’s very doable. It might feel awkward and cumbersome in the beginning but, I promise, the more you do it, the more natural it becomes, the less time and energy it takes, and the more clear the value is!
Here’s why, in a nutshell: Planning, or “Deciding” what to do and when to do it, takes a lot of mental processing and requires a lot of Executive Function energy. Getting started on something, what I call “Doing”, happens in the same areas of the brain and uses the same Executive Function energy. Basically, both planning and getting started are using the same pool of precious mental energy. Any time you can Separate the Deciding from the Doing, taking action is going to feel easier and you’re going to be more effective.
You have less stress, and less fatigue at the beginning and at the end of the day. When your head hits the pillow, you can feel satisfied and gratified by your day.
So here’s your challenge:
- For the next week, just focus on finding a comfortable time for “Setting Yourself Up” for the next day. Don’t over complicate it! Grab your calendar and your to-do list, and pull out the tasks you absolutely intend to take care of the following day, while taking into consideration the available time on your calendar and the timeliness of your to-dos. I promise that tomorrow’s you will be very grateful!
- If you can, attach that planning activity to something else that is already happening each day to make it easier to get used to. And, of course, you’ll probably need to set alarms, reminders, and leave notes or other prompts for yourself until it becomes easier to remember. But make sure you block that time for yourself.
- Try to make it pleasant! This is something you’re doing For You, Not To You! Grab your favorite hot beverage and your favorite pen (we know how we are about our office supply preferences!); and
- Take just a couple minutes to Set Yourself Up for an easier, successful day. Don’t get carried away creating a perfect, elaborate plan that you’ll never be able to execute. Set a timer for 3-10 minutes max, and keep it simple!
Simple is better than elaborate, because done is better than perfect. The payback is huge.
Expect that you’ll need to tweak when and how it happens. That’s all part of setting up your Pillars of Productivity© to work for you. It doesn’t mean planning doesn’t work or that you’re a hopeless case, you just need to find your way to make it more natural for you. (And if you need help, scroll down for a great opportunity to master this important skill.)
The payback is HUGE for an investment of just a few minutes each day!
I hope that gives you some ideas on how you can give yourself a Productivity Compass that gives you direction to your days!
Let me know what works for you, and leave questions or insights in the comments. And, as always, don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it!
I’d be honored to help you set up your own Pillars of Productivity© to work for you!
Lynne Edris, ACG
Productivity & ADHD Coach
P.S. Let me help you accomplish what you need AND get More Time and More Energy! My next Unleashed!© 90-day small group productivity and time management program is starting soon, and it’s filling fast! Click here to learn more and save your spot: www.UnleashedPotential.group