Do not always go awry. What did you think? That I would say “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”? No chance. I expected last week to go rather differently from how it went–and I am happy to say it went much better than I foresaw. And I am also glad to report that my time-management strategies are working. Somewhat. And I have productivity hacks to offer, too!
Sometimes, all it takes is action.
Here’s the background
It is funny how we can be busy throughout the day and yet, when we take stock at the end of the day, there are still a lot of unchecked items on the to-do list. Quite frustrating. My list has a tendency to continue to grow. When a few things get checked off, twice the number of things get added. Don’t ask me to show it to you. You’d laugh. I am a bit paranoid about forgetting stuff and have the habit of writing every little thing down. What’s hilarious is the fact that I’ve got an amazing memory – even if I say so myself.
I am not blowing the proverbial trumpet. Far from it. But as far back as I can remember, I’ve been the go-to person, find it person, recall details person, find the solution person in the family. I even remember what someone was wearing when I met them for the first time. I can also border on the OCD sometimes. My wardrobe is a cool sight. Open it and you’ll see everything arranged according to color. Yes. So what if I am colorblind? When I buy something, I ask my folks what color it is, and register it in my mind and remember.
So, what is my point?
However, folks, my time management has been less than perfect for a while. I was not as organized as I am used to being. You see, each morning, I have a standard routine. Here’s what I did: At around 8.30 am I’d log in to check email, with the intention of putting in a few hours of work until 2 pm, before I went to pick Vidur up from school. Of late, that wasn’t happening. Yet I was busy, busy. I did make a weekly and daily list and prioritized, but didn’t get everything done as I wanted. I found I got distracted easily and could not focus. Okay, so my clients weren’t suffering. But there’s more to life than work. And slowly I got frustrated. Stressed out.
I remember my Mom even more during these times, and wish she would magically appear and talk to me. Sigh. She often advised me to just sit for ten minutes and cool down. Easier said than done, because the items on my list played havoc inside my mind when I sat still. It is like I am incapable of doing nothing.
Okay, so things generally came to a head, and I got disgusted to see my list growing longer and longer. If it was new stuff all the way that would be okay. But I found I was carrying over stuff way too often during the last two three months. And oh boy, does the guilt build up! So I decided to revamp my routine before things got worse. And hoped I’d feel less stressed as I progressed.
Getting mad is not my way of tackling tough situations. So here are some of the things I did to become more productive:
7 productivity hacks that turned my life around instantly
- I stopped chatting. Online I mean. I just signed out of chat. Because even a legit “hello” can disrupt a perfectly good focus sometimes. Because the hello will lead to a conversation. Which I could do without as I wanted to take advantage of a quiet house in the morning to meet my writing deadlines.
- I put my cell phone on “silent”. (Is that a proper sentence? I like it) My folks know how to reach me. And I don’t get client calls. My best friend calls on my landline. So no prob with that. What did I achieve with a silent phone? I didn’t have to refuse a credit card loan, investments…and no answering “wrong number”. Phew. I couldn’t avoid the doorbell though. But that was okay. I looked at it as exercise – walking to and from the door. Plus my courier delivery fella is a nice chap and smiles quite sweetly.
- I set myself specific times to check email. Ten minutes at a time. Quick skim through the subject lines – two minutes. And if I had to reply, another five minutes. If it took longer, I’d star it and move it to the action folder.
- I use Hootsuite to schedule some tweets – because I subscribe to a big bunch of blogs I love and I like to share my favorite bloggers’ posts. I get the posts in my mailbox. If it is an RSS update, I read it in my Google Reader. What about post summaries, you’re wondering. Hehe. Google Reader has a nifty little plugin that lets you read the whole post. Then how do I tweet, you’re wondering. 😀 I remember the twitter handle of all those I interact with regularly. Really. Crazy, I know. But it takes me ten minutes to schedule my regular tweets. Other stuff I just share on the go. If I browsed around and tweeted, imagine the time that’d take. So I schedule some and share some on the go. Clever, no?
- I plan meals. One week ahead. I make a list of menus for the lunch box, actual lunch at home, dinner and desserts for the week, Monday through Saturday. Oh yes, we do eat on Sundays too. So – we have a standard menu for Sunday. I cook most of my stuff from scratch so I really have to ensure all ingredients are available. This helps me plan my grocery and veg shopping, which I do Monday mornings. Very convenient to do it at 8.30 am on the way back from school, as the store has fresh stuff, they play my favorite radio channel and best of all, there’s no queue to wait in to pay my bill. Bliss. Earlier I would shop at random but now, I do it twice a week. One day for veg, fruits and dairy and the second for groceries. It is working. This also means better budgeting.
- I enjoy unlimited broadband, but when I do my writing work, I disconnect from the internet. Not that I cannot reconnect – but reconnecting needs that extra step which will make me stop and think. And connect only if I need to.
- For some of my tasks, I set a timer. This is an idea my Mom introduced to me long ago. I also sometimes listen to music and complete portions of my work based on the length of the song. But that only works for routine stuff.
For exercise, I tackle housework, cleaning, dusting. I take the stairs. I walk. And I like to think I am fit. Physically.
What about mentally? My Mom was pretty big on meditation and she would keep urging me to practice it too. But I find that I fall asleep if I sit still for more than ten minutes. So I found other ways – music, reading, cleaning – all of which I find quite therapeutic.
I enjoy savoring the magic of the moment. And I know the choice is mine.
Why tackle stress?
But let me tell you folks, with all that we do these days, stress is unavoidable. And letting it build up is inviting a whole host of health problems. At the point when I thought I was reaching the end of my tether, I received some great news. My friend Angela of Powered By Intuition, an intuition coach, informed me she was launching a guided meditation program. Naturally I was keen to know more. I know about meditation. But guided meditation? I was curious.
On Thursday, May 3, I’ll tell you what guided meditation is all about. And also share my experience with Angela’s product, The Reawakening, which I’ve been using for a few weeks now. I have to admit I feel fantastic. I asked her if I could interview her and she graciously agreed. Please stay tuned for the next post!
What time management methods do you use to get your day’s work done? Please share!
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