Master Your Day in Just 10 Minutes – Part 2

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 20, 2010 in: Freelancing, Time Management Strategies, Tips in 10

In the last article of Tips In Ten I showed you how to create a schedule (the night before) that would help you to master your workday. But it’s not JUST about prioritizing tasks and reducing urgency. There is something else you should know: Creating a schedule is a great first step but implementing that schedule is the real battle.

In the interest of full disclosure, this article of Tips In Ten has less to do with specific ten minute activities that you can do. The activities I’m going to talk about will help to support your other ten minute activities (like scheduling, which you read about in the last issue, but in fact all of the various ten minute activities I’ve shown you in these Tips In Ten articles).

A couple of activities that take more than ten minutes

The first thing I’d recommend – and this definitely isn’t a ten minute activity – is to make sure that you are taking care of yourself physically: Are you getting a good night’s sleep? Are you eating properly? Are you exercising? I’m not your mother so I’m not going to talk about this too much but I will say this: You are way more productive when you live a balanced and moderate life and you get rest, nutrition, and exercise. Since productivity can help you make more money, I see this as an investment. So take the time to take care of yourself.

Understand yourself

It is vitally important that you understand yourself in order to maximize your productivity and be more successful. For example, you need to know when you need to eat, if you might need to nap, and when your mental peaks and valleys are. I don’t like doing anything first thing in the morning, but I’m usually at one of my peaks within 30 to 60 minutes of first thing in the morning. I get less work done in the afternoons. I peak creatively between 11pm and 1am.

As you can imagine, when I know that about myself, I can schedule appropriately. I schedule those important/urgent tasks for my very first peak (but not before because I’m probably not going to start them at that point anyway).

To this end you should be mapping out how you feel each day and watch for patterns. Are there times in the day when you are doing great? Are there times when all you can do is stare at your screen? It happens to all of us and if you know in advance how you are, you can allow for it.

Mapping your ability to work at various times in the day won’t take a single ten minute session but it shouldn’t take you more than a few moments throughout the day to jot a note to yourself. (Set an alarm to ring every hour. When it rings, take note of how you feel: Creative? Eager? Totally unmotivated?).

Another important thing to know about yourself is to know what your limitations are. Maybe you’re a great visionary but you have a hard time knowing how to start something. Maybe you’re a great starter but you don’t finish so well. Maybe you have a hard time starting things but once the ball is rolling you can complete it with excellence.

Great! That is so important to know about yourself! Again, it’s not a task that you can “do” in ten minutes but spending some time thinking about it is well worth the investment. Once you know these things about yourself, you can schedule appropriately.

Adjusting your schedule for who you are

If you are a morning person, fill your mornings with really important stuff. If you are a night person, put it all at night. If you have peaks and valleys through the day, fill your day with the really important stuff during those peaks.

And, in terms of starting or finishing well… If you start really well, figure out ways to help you finish. And vice versa. Let me give you an example:

  • How good starters can become good finishers: A client of mine is a great starter but he struggles with finishing. He knows that about himself after he and I spent time analyzing his work style. He has great ideas for projects and he can really get the ball rolling but then he loses steam after a while and lots of projects falter. So we’ve addressed it in a few ways. For example, by making big projects into a series of smaller projects, he can “start” each project (and because it’s small, he can maintain his enthusiasm through the mini-project). Thus, the finishing happens naturally because he’s starting more often.
  • How good finishers can become good starters: I’ve worked with people who were great finishers but not great starters. In their case, they found that delegating the start work to an assistant was enough to get the ball rolling. It turns out that they just needed “something” to get them going, even if they had to change it all once they were into the project. That “something” was done by someone else – a virtual assistant in the one case I’m thinking of – who started it and passed it back to them. When that happened, their productivity went way, way up.

Create milestones and rewards

I believe that one reason people aren’t always productive is because they just see a long day of hard work ahead of them and the finish line at the end of the day seems so far away. Keeping your momentum through the day is so important, and it gets challenging as you get into what is commonly known as “the afternoon slump”.

To combat this, I recommend a series of milestones and rewards that you use throughout the day as mini finish lines. Maybe you like playing with your dog; why not use your dog as a reward for a period of hard work. Maybe you like to chat on Facebook; why not set that as a reward after a specific number of tasks. One colleague, a writer, has a set number of words he wants to write per hour. When he does that for 2 hours at a stretch, he takes a half hour break and works on a creative project. (In fact, he keeps a list of creative “reward” projects for just such a purpose).

At the same time, I’d also recommend that you track some important, ongoing numbers – whatever is appropriate for your situation. Maybe it’s revenue generated or words written or minutes spent coaching. In this way, you can watch your day’s success grow and each success helps to propel you to the next one.

Observation and encouragement

Creating a schedule and sticking to it is not easy! Start by spending ten minutes the day before to put together your schedule. That should only take ten minutes. But implementing your schedule is another story and it takes something else: Understanding and mitigation. You need to figure out yourself and how you work best and what pitfalls you succumb to that keep you from work. Then you need to address those by maximizing the things you do best and minimizing or eliminating the pitfalls. And, success takes diligence. You need to create best practices and stick to them.

You can do it! But it will only be successful if you know yourself first.

Heather Recommends:

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