Why is it that when we think about doing something “big” we tend to delay making decisions or even getting started? The thought of starting can seem overwhelming. Or conversely, you start strong and then after a few days or weeks, your energy fizzles out and you’re back to where you started—not taking action.
One of the things I’ve learned this year, is that “finding” time is futile and useless. You’ve got to “make” time for your top priorities. Like—you have to schedule it, preferably as early in the day as possible. Why early? When you do the most important things first, they actually get finished. You won’t run into issues of other seemingly more important things popping up at the last minute, or being too tired later in the day. Not only do you have to “make” time for your priorities (as in schedule time), you have to be consistent scheduling this time.
Sounds great. Don’t we have check-lists or to-do lists for figuring out what we have to accomplish each day? We do. But … have you ever stopped to think about whether the line items on your list are the “right” to-do’s. If you’ve defined a big goal or a big task you want to complete, are your to-do’s really helping you reach your goal or get your big task accomplished? I mean, how many times have you already done something only to write it down on your list so you could check it off—100% guilty! You know you do it too.
The problem with to-do lists is that creating them doesn’t usually take into account what you need to prioritize—or what you actually need to accomplish. The dark side of to-do’s lies in their format which gives equal weight to each line item. You just complete each task, check it off, or cross it out and you’re done. Yea! Got that done! Onto the next …
The thing is, if you don’t stop to think about what is really important to you, you can get caught up in checking and crossing off, but still come up empty making progress on your goals.
I bring this up because there are a lot of things that I want to accomplish this year and I only have 24 hours in a day just like everyone else. The only way for me to get more done is to work smarter and prioritize. I had the big goal of writing a book this year—which I recently finished and will be publishing soon (more details on that to come). How did I make more time to write and still get all of my other daily tasks running the studios done? Two words: time blocking.
The concept of time blocking is pretty simple. You create blocks of time to get your most important tasks completed first and then everything else gets done at the end of the day. Each night you also set aside a block of time (could just be 5-10 minutes) to plan your next day and ensure your top priorities are actually tasks that will help you reach your broader goals. Planning the night before means that these top priorities are just in fact that—top priorities not just line items on a list.
If you get to the most important stuff first thing, you’ll actually get important things done. Imagine that! You won’t run the risk of being sidetracked or getting tired in the afternoon and not finishing the things that are most important.
To work smarter, you’ll have to build a better to-do list by making your to-do’s things that are actually important and help you accomplish your goals. But is there a way to actually build a better list? Or learn to prioritize? I’ve found that using my Day Designer Planner is a great way to prioritize my top to-do’s and schedule my time blocks. Let me explain how this low-tech solution keeps me on track.
Day Designer Planner
I love technology. Anything that can make my life easier or more efficient and eliminate paper and clutter is tops in my book. Except…my planner. I tried to embrace my iCalendar. All the syncing and the iCloud was great, but I was missing appointments or showing up late—A LOT. And the constant alerts were kind of annoying. I also had to carry around a separate notebook of to-do’s, ideas and events. So, I went back to the planner. But not just any planner, Whitney English’s The Day Designer.
You can get a version of it at Target, but if you’re serious about keeping your schedule, goals and to-do’s organized, you’ll want to spring for the Flagship Edition ($59). If you amortize that across the year, that’s less than $5.00/month to keep your schedule together—totally worth it, if you’re as busy as I am! The mid-year version starts June 1st, so it’s not too late to take your first steps to prioritizing and structuring your time. I’m kind of obsessed with the White Marble cover!
It’s the layout of the planner that is what I like best about it. Each day gets its own page starting at 5:00 AM and finishing up at 9:00 PM—perfect for me because sometimes I have to teach an early class. The appointments are on the left and the to-do’s are on the right, so your whole day is right there on one page. There is also a spot to prioritize your top three to-do’s which is always helpful when you have lots to accomplish in limited time. Taking the time to determine your top three to-do’s the night before (as we mentioned in the rules of time blocking) can provide some serious structure to your day and ensure that you are always achieving your most important tasks before tackling other items of less importance.
You can check out free downloads of a day’s page here to test out how the planner might work for you. Another great free download is the Monthly Goal Progress page—I use this to make sure I’m on track with my larger goals and tasks that can’t be completed in just one day. And, the Food & Exercise Log or Weekly Meal Plan pages are helpful to hold yourself accountable to your workouts and healthy meals.
What big tasks or goals are you trying to accomplish right now? Are you having trouble getting started? Planning out your time to accommodate your top priorities is the first step to actually achieving them. A simple check-list isn’t going to cut it. Time block for what’s most important and stick to your schedule. Setting yourself up for success means having the right tools—whether you get a Day Designer or use the calendar on your phone or computer—find what works for you and stay consistent in your efforts. Who knows? You might find that you had time to run your business and write a book!
On Friday, I’ll share a new cosmetic product that I’m using every day—and it’s not from Trish McEvoy. Crazy, I know!
Until then, stay on your toes!