Action Planning, Business Productivity, Daily Routines & Rituals, Managing Distractions, Personal Productivity, Process Improvement, Task Management, Time blocking, Time Management

Do You Struggle with Time Blocking?

Has this ever happened to you? You started the day motivated, full of good intentions to get a lot accomplished, but nothing got done. You let another productive day slip away.

It’s not easy to keep yourself disciplined and focused on your most important work, especially when you are only accountable to yourself. Interruptions, notifications, email, and interesting information steal our focus and time. It happens to the best of us. How can you stay focused and on task to get your most important work done?

The answer is time blocking.

I mentioned this to a client who said, “I suck at time blocking. But go ahead, let’s talk about it.”

Time blocking is NOT scheduling every minute of your day.

Time blocking is setting aside time on your calendar to do your most important work. It’s simple. Block out a chunk of time to work on your top priority and just do it.

Blocking the time is easy. Doing the right thing during that time isn’t always so easy. So what do you do?

Get crystal clear on the task to be performed during the time block. You want to sit down and do the work, not spend the whole time figuring out what to do. Be specific enough to act.

Protect the time. For real. If this is truly your most important work, silence your phone, shut the door, close open tabs, and eliminate distractions. Put a sign on your door if necessary. No, you don’t have a sec. You want to get in the zone and stay there. The rest of it can wait.

Schedule the right amount of time. Don’t automatically default to a 30-minute or one-hour time block, especially if the task is small. Your most important work may be a 15-minute task. Remember Parkinson’s Law: work expands (or contracts) to fill the time available. Conversely, your most important work may be a bigger project. Break it down into manageable pieces and time block the pieces. Or set a longer time-block and take short breaks to stay fresh, then get back to work.

Don’t time block everything. Time blocking isn’t the same as scheduling. Sure, might have a general plan for batching phone calls, checking email, working on a marketing piece, etc. When everything’s important, nothing’s important.  

Try this tomorrow. Review your priorities and block time to do your most important work. It will take repeated practice to make this a habit, but it’s the repeated action that leads to results.

Action Planning, Business Productivity, Daily Routines & Rituals, Goal Setting, Health & Fitness, Solopreneurs

Create Game-Changing Habits

Creating and changing your habits is hard.

If it were easy, we would all floss our teeth daily, eat healthy foods, quit smoking, exercise faithfully, have wildly successful businesses, and so on. Even when you’re highly motivated, mustering the self-discipline to take the small, consistent actions required to form a lasting habit (or break a bad one!) can be challenging.

As F. M. Alexander said, “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.”

Think about this. Most people choose the wrong habits.

They create short-term habits to achieve a short-term goal. For every new goal, they have to create different habits. The result is a series of short-lived bursts of activity, rather than sustainable long-lasting habits.

Short-term habits aren’t really habits at all, but rather tasks done for a short time in pursuit of a specific outcome. Once the outcome is achieved, the behavior stops. The behavior hasn’t been practiced long enough to become automatic, to become a habit, like buckling up when you get in a car.

Let’s say you want to lose weight and get in shape, so you set a goal of losing ten pounds. You might try a new “lose-weight-fast” diet, work out every day for an hour, take appetite suppressants, or some similar tactics. After you lose the weight, you celebrate your achievement and promptly stop doing the things you did to lose the weight. Chances are you will go back to your old habits that helped you gain the weight in the first place and the lost weight will reappear.

What if you chose a better habit or even a better goal?

What if your goal was to be strong and fit for the rest of your life? Would you employ the same short-term habits you used to lose ten pounds fast? Or might you instead look at the long-term habits required to be strong and fit for life? Chances are, the habits required to be strong and fit for life would not only help you lose the weight in the near term, but they would also help you to continue to be strong and fit for years to come.

This paradigm shift was a game changer for me.

Instead of simply setting goals, I now consider the game-changing habits I need to create not only to achieve the specific outcomes, but also to achieve my bigger goals in the future.

Yesterday I met with a fitness trainer who drove the point home. My long-term goal is to be strong, healthy, fit, and flexible for life. It’s not a SMARTER goal because I’m not looking for a specific outcome (although I do want to lose the muffin top). This is a long-term strategy to help me become leaner, stronger, and achieve some specific training goals along the way.  To achieve the long-term outcome I desire, I need to think differently about exercise, training, and moving my body daily. I need fitness habits that are sustainable for life.

My new game-changing habit is weight training 2-3 times a week. I expect to become leaner, stronger, and develop the shoulder, core, and upper back strength to achieve my next milestone goal: hold a handstand for 10 seconds.

As you’re setting your 2021 goals, think about the game-changing habits can you create to help you crush your goals and set you up for continued future success!