I’m no Bill Gates or Richard Branson, but I still manage to get everything done (usually within a reasonable amount of time) and still have time to play hard, too. That being said, between organizing a charity fundraiser, managing my client load, training for a half marathon, editing my book, and completing my research, sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed.
I’m probably not the only one who feels like this when there’s a lot going on.
Instead of freaking out, which is usually my first inclination, I do the following to keep my day on track and my mind ready for what’s next.
1. Weekly to-do lists
There’s something so gratifying about crossing something off when it’s done. The great feeling of striking through an item with a pen is often incentive enough to get something completed. Making a list may seem tedious. Plus if your list is long, looking at everything can make your head swim. That’s why I make a list of everything I need to do during the week and break it down into . . .
2. Daily intentions
This may sound a little new age-y. Sorry. I started out separating my weekly “to-do’s” from my internal daily intentions, which were much more about personality traits I’d like to change (talk less, listen more, be genuine, act more sane, etc.). However, there’s something cathartic about writing things down, and I’ve already gone on and on about how nice it is to cross things out. Therefore, I changed things up a bit and began to combine my weekly to-do list and daily intentions. My intentions are not only tasks from my weekly list that I want to finish in the next 24 hours, but a few more personal objectives, such as running five miles or calling my mother. I always add a little too much to my daily intentions list, but that’s okay, because I can always carry over an item or three to the next day.
3. Keep my email inboxes clean
It sounds insane, but when my email inbox is out of control, my mental state follows suit. This is probably psychosomatic, but often times I get so stressed out that I should probably coin a new phrase: A well-kept inbox is a sane mind. My email accounts are divided between incoming clients, volunteer, research, and personal matters, and I leave emails that include outstanding items or “to-do’s” in my inboxes. Therefore, I set a goal to never let more than 50 emails accumulate in each inbox. This keeps me current on most projects and keeps my inboxes in check simultaneously.
4. Don’t stick to a pattern
This is probably where I differ most from all the productivity gurus out there. When I read lists about the top characteristics of successful and productive people, I feel like keeping a schedule or sticking to a pattern is always on the top of the list. Personally, I think routine breeds laxity. If I know where I’m going to be tomorrow and the next day and the next, I get lazy. To me, with such a routine there’s no point in doing anything to innovate or expedite. So I work hard, and I like to change things up to see what works and what doesn’t. This leads to a very busy, versatile schedule and lifestyle. I like that because it keeps me efficient organized.
5. Exercise is critical
Not sure about you, but when I’m busy with work and social events, the first thing I axe is exercise. My daily fitness regime goes out the window the minute I decide to sleep in an extra 30 minutes or work through my lunch break so I can grab drinks with friends at 7. However, just like list making, exercise keeps me sane. Since exercise has become so critical to keeping me balanced and calm even in the most stressful of situations, I’ve started to make time for it even if it means working late, losing sleep, or skipping out on social events.
6. Everything is a learning experience
I find that many entrepreneurs, including myself, are perfectionists, which can lead to very rigid ways of thinking. I hate being challenged almost as much as I hate being proven wrong or not being in control of a situation. Find something about my work product or idea you don’t like? Put me in a situation I know I won’t be able to control? It used to be that I’d get extremely defensive and anxious. But you know what? I learn something new every day because I’m open to the opportunity. If you keep your mind open, some of the stuff you’ll pick up is really amazing. And some of it can be rubbish, but it is up to you to distinguish between the two.
Now I’m interested . . . what keeps you productive?