How to Work Like You Are Running Out of Time
Time ticks away relentlessly, no matter what you do. The only thing you control is what you do between the ticks on the clock. You are what you have to manage.
Here are five things you can do now to be super-productive.
Plan your weeks and your days
If you don’t know what you need to do, you can fall into reactive mode, doing little things that don’t move the needle for you. If you show up to work without knowing what you need to do, even if work is your home office, hours can go by without you doing anything meaningful. This is why so many get so little done.
By planning your weeks and your days, you know what you need to do, and you can start on it right away. Without having to make a list, and without having to clean your desk first. Having a plan as to what work you are going to do eliminates the wasted time deciding what to do, and it reduces the likelihood that you are distracted by small things.
prioritise your three most important projects
If everything is a priority, you have no priority. Priority is singular. If you have two, you have competing priorities. What is the most important priority for you now?
Your number one priority should dominate your calendar. Your calendar is evidence as to what your priorities are, and if your priority doesn’t have large blocks of time dedicated to that priority, you will never be productive. You’ll just be busy.
It isn’t likely that too many of us are fortunate enough to work on only one priority. So let’s make it three. What are your second and third most important outcomes, initiatives, or projects? This is where your time and energy should be invested, and in the order of importance.
choose three tasks each day and block time
In my experience, I can get three major tasks done each day. That means blocking 90 minutes per task for my three major tasks. That’s four and half hours of time, not much of your twenty-four hours, but more than most people dedicate to their primary outcomes in a week.
Choose the most important task that will move your most important priority forward and block time to do this first. Block time for your second most important task and do that task only after you have completed the most important task. Then, block time for the third.
Productivity isn’t how much work you do, or how busy you are. It’s a measurement of your results. By doing what is most important, you are going to be super productive.
negotiate for time with no distractions
What can make this difficult is all the people and things that can distract you from your real work. You may need to negotiate with the people at work for time that you can work without distractions. You may also have to negotiate with your family. You will almost certainly have to negotiate with yourself.
The time you spend working without distraction is worth ten times the time you spend distracted. As I am writing these words, by phone is far enough away from me that I can’t reach it. I saw the screen light up when a text message came in. It will be there when I finish my work. The only software program open on my computer is Ulysses, the text editor I use for all my writing. Nothing else will command my attention before I finish writing this and reviewing the editor’s notes on my second book, The Lost Art of Closing.
Focus and energy are what allows you to do quality work.
wake up early
A half a dozen of my friends are now waking up at 5:00 AM. At first, they were unhappy with me for sharing this recommendation with them. It’s easy to be grouchy when you haven’t had enough sleep. But, they are adjusting, and they are more productive. I have moved my wake-up time to 4:30 AM from 5:00 AM, which wasn’t that difficult of an adjustment.
Your first two hours can win the whole day. You can get so much done in the first two hours of the day that it is almost impossible not to be super productive. It’s quiet. There are no distractions. For me, my brain is much fresher, especially for work that requires me to think.
If you haven’t tried waking up early, you are missing out on one of the keys to getting more done. Yes, you will feel tired for a few days or weeks. Yes, you will go to bed earlier (like 9:30 PM, in my case). And yes, you will get more done faster.
Time is your single, finite, non-renewable resource. Anything so precious should be treated with the greatest care. That means you should invest it in what’s most important and not fritter it away.
What deserves your time and attention?