Big, brown puppy eyes beg you for attention. Laughter fills the other room as you work to complete overdue tasks. It’s one of those days where you end the day with more on your plate than when you started. Do these days come too often?
If you find yourself suffering from Friday brain every day of the week, feeling overwhelmed, or fearing burnout already mid-January, these can be signs that something needs to change.
Take a deep breath. You can turn it all around.
It means reorganizing the way you work and reprioritizing where you focus your energy, but some of these tips could help you Get Sh*t Done, achieve more during work hours, and use evenings for family time (or snuggling with that brown-eyed pooch).
1. Schedule Time for Tasks
You may have heard that lists are out, and time-blocking is in. Time-blocking means taking the time to consider where each task fits into your day. Instead of blindly following a list, plan a commitment to work on a specific task during an allotted period of time.
There is no one formula that works across the board – how your schedule looks will vary depending on the types of tasks in your day-to-day, the type of work you do, and if you rely on others, like collaborating with a team. Custom build a schedule that works for you.
These general guidelines work for many people:
- Prioritize the larger, more challenging tasks first. This serves a number of advantages. Your mind is fresh, and if work takes longer than expected, you have a buffer in the afternoon filled with shorter, less important tasks that you can afford to reschedule, or are easier to get out of the way quickly (even if those may be more enticing to check off your list first!).
- Delegate tasks that someone else can do. According to Forbes’ article “Want to Work Smarter, Not Harder? Follow These 14 Tips,” if a task takes longer than 30 minutes, and is a task you don’t need to do yourself, try to find the person who should be doing it… and assign it to them.
2. Remain Flexible
Know yourself, your company, your team, and your clients. Make an effort to understand both your needs, and theirs. This will allow you to communicate effectively if you need to put out fires or urgent matters arise. Agree early on what an urgent matter is, or what kinds of ideas deserve attention over your planned goals. Be willing to abandon your schedule if it means gaining a win or exploring a new direction that is beneficial to your business goals--increasing productivity overall.
3. Define A Win
Don’t just agree on urgency – agree on what a win is for you, and for your business. Are you working for yourself, or for a company? Agree on what success looks like to eliminate decision fatigue, as well as wasted time on tasks that don’t speak to your business vision.
A common tool for identifying goals that help you discover a win, is outlining SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. There has been some speculation as to how helpful the “Achievable” part of this formula is, pointing out that it may make us underestimate our ability to reach for an incredible vision.
The reasonable thing to do? Create goals in different sizes. Like tasks, dreams can be big or small. Remaining aware of the direction you want to go in and the markers along the way that show progress allow us to identify progress.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Planner-type personalities can find themselves haunted by the weight of the day’s schedule constantly on their mind, and get consumed with planning to the point of not being totally present in the task at hand. Practice the art of being present, so that what awaits doesn’t paralyze you. Stay in the moment by breaking down larger tasks or projects into smaller tasks, which can help you experience small wins and progress as you go. If you’re in a meeting, give 100% attention to the others in the room.
Mindfulness also means giving your energy to areas where you can affect change, and letting go of—and learning from—situations that are out of your control. According to Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini, mindfulness is the key to his success. It involves taking the good with the bad, and letting “some of it go by knowing where I can make a difference.”
5. Take Time for Breaks – You’re Not a Machine
When you’re passionate about your work (and if you’re a perfectionist), unplugging your mind can be difficult. Maybe you find your mind drifting on the drive home: how you could have done better, or you are still thinking about ways to create a better campaign or headline when you rest your head on your pillow.
Well, try to preserve your sanity. Pushing through work on too little fuel (emotional, mental or physical) can mean that you sacrifice quality for quantity.
Studies show that taking time to pursue recreation or other interests unrelated to your work will affect your work positively, by being a source of relaxation and inspiration for your brain and body alike. Motivational speaker Lewis Howes believes that health is the key to success.
Maintaining health will look different for every individual, because we inherently have different strengths and weaknesses. It may include focusing on nutrition and exercise, hydration and recovery, or practicing moments of quiet, breathing, and calmness. Others feel reenergized by talking to someone or listening to something that inspires then, entertains them or makes them laugh.
Whatever it is that energizes you, approach your health like a professional athlete, so that you can perform like an MVP (a much more agile MVP than a robot can ever be).
6. Allow for Anomalies
Unlike a robot, we also have the power of autonomy – to choose where we spend energy. Arianna Huffington put it this way: one way to complete a task is to drop it.
Accept the ways that your business, and you as an individual, are different. Recognize that there is no one formula that will work for everyone, but you can make one that works for you.
Taking time to assess the status quo is useful in itself. Lewis Howes recommends reflecting on your day with a journal that organizes your thoughts, allows you to reflect, and to plan for success the next day. He uses a Project Evo journal, which helps you organize and schedule your goals based on the way you think.
Bonus Tip: Ask for Help
Managing a business or a plateful of tasks and goals can be challenging. Besides delegating smaller tasks, ask for help on big ones, too. At Hudson Fusion, we meet challenges head-on and develop strategies to overcome them. Whether that includes digital marketing or rebranding the way you present your business online, we can help.