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The Key to Productivity: One Simple Question

A lot of people look at me with wonder and say, "I don't know how you do it all."

First of all, I don't do it all. No one does, so let's destroy that myth.

But it's interesting because that question makes it sound like time is something we have to beat. It's like an enemy we need to outwit by cramming in as much as we can. I get it. And it looks like some people have more than others. But you know we all get the same 24 hours each day.

Time management is a huge topic that has tons of books, programs, and planners around it. We're all trying to master time so let me give you this one simple question to ask yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed or confused about how to spend your time. It's this:

"What one thing do I need to do right now?"

That's it. That's the one question that focuses me. Let me tell you how the process looks. At the beginning of the week, I do a brain dump to get out everything out of my head and onto paper. I categorize them into the different areas of my life. For me that's things like growing, business, marketing, projects, development/training, and personal life. Our brain does well with categories and chunking so figure out where your life categories are.

I then take that list, go through my planner and schedule the week. I look at the day in three parts--morning, afternoon, and evening. For each chunk, I ask myself, "What is the one thing that needs to happen in this chunk?" and I schedule that in. That includes downtime and rest.

Now, the chunk needs to be realistic. I don't plan to plant for an half an hour when I know full well that includes weeding and prepping the bed and amending the soil, etc. So you need to be brutally honest about your tasks and how long things will take. I promise it's usually longer than you think. This is a learning process. In the beginning, take your best guess.

If you do have leftover time, that's ok because you have this brain dump list where you have small tasks like go order that thing online that takes ten minutes to research and then order it. You don't hem and haw for 15 minutes figuring out what to do or scroll on social media. You get another thing taken care of. That feels good. Or sit for a minute. That also feels good.

Multi-tasking is a myth. To be productive, you need to be focused and give yourself a time limit so you work efficiently. Be sure you know what finishing that task looks like so you have the goal in your head. Visualizing results is so helpful. It's motivating.

Planning your week in advance uses the highest part of your brain that makes choices in your best interest. That brain is trying to move you forward in life and take care of you so later when you don't feel like doing anything on your schedule, listen to the better you that was looking out for you at the beginning of the week. That planning self knows what you need to do this week. Trust it.

Remember, planning doesn't mean cramming. It means commitment to focus. Give yourself space between things to transition and for things like meals and travel. A 10:00 coffee date needs cushion around it for travel or to stop by the grocery store.

There's a whole lot more on this subject. I'm not claiming to be an expert or particularly proficient at this, but I do have the results in my life because I am constantly asking and answering this question and following through more often than not.

Time is a gift. It constrains us to make choices. It gives us rhythm and rest. Learning to work with it and understanding our wiring will make things go smoother. Life is short friends. The choices we make with our time is what makes our life. Let's make it beautiful. When you look back on your week, remember to celebrate your wins. You did hard things and you kept your commitments. Woohoo!

I'd love to know how you manage your time and what you think of it. I've learned a lot about time management from my group coaching and also from a book called "Getting Things Done" which is a classic. There's also an interesting take on time in the book "The Big Leap" if you're interested in getting your mind blown. Go out there and live your life with intention.


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