“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” – William Penn
Time is our most important asset, but so many people have the wrong perception of it. Most people understand that to be massively successful, you have to take massive action (which is true, FYI), but they assume that to take massive action, you have to be extremely busy.
This is where people start to utilize their time in the wrong way. As Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth explains, people spend their time ‘doing it, doing it, doing it,’ creating a false sense of productivity. By simply ‘doing it’, there is no time for smart work, only hard work. So they only do what’s next on their to do list with no timeframe, no perception of what’s working and what isn’t, and no time to do anything else.
This leads to stress, confusion and frustration. I can see where people are coming from. They think that the best thing to do is to just get on with it, and hopefully the results will come. I’m suggesting that to drastically increase your productivity and start to build some momentum, you should take a step back and create a success schedule. Here’s why I believe it will help you, and how you can do it.
Getting all your ideas and tasks out of your head by writing a to-do list definitely clears your mind. But doing each task one-by-one with no real structure or direction will get very confusing, very quickly. Creating a schedule and fitting in tasks in order of importance in conjunction to your goals will provide a steady level of clarity – you’ll always know what to do, and where you’re going.
As mentioned in the introduction, a common mistake people make is to fill their time with any task they see on their list that is urgent. By doing this, they become operators of their business, not owners. They take a managerial role and not that of a leader, meaning there’s less potential for growth. With careful scheduling and planning, the urgent can be done before it becomes urgent, therefore time can be spent on the important.
Being Accountable to Yourself
If you create a solid routine for the whole week, broken up into details like how long each task should take (I give myself 60 minutes for the first and most important task of the day), you will be held accountable to the routine.
I’d recommend setting reminders to keep you on track throughout the day, and printing off the routine to place around your living environment. I used to have my morning routine on my bedside table, so the first thing I did in the morning whilst developing the habit was to read through it as I did it. We all know the feeling of letting ourselves down, and by having your routine constantly reminding you of what you need to do, you’ll be far less likely to break it.
Builds Success Habits
Having a routine in which you are accountable to yourself is the perfect opportunity to develop good habits. For example, when I first created a daily routine I ensured that I’d wake up at 5AM every day. By scheduling it in, I knew I had to do it or that day would be a failure because I’d miss all the tasks I’d set for myself, especially that all important first task of the day.
Every time I woke up at 5AM, I’d feel a sense of accomplishment. That feeling became addictive and I developed the habit within a matter of weeks. It’s the same with going to the gym – I simply couldn’t afford to let myself down because I knew that the only way to have a successful week was to stick to my schedule. Sure enough, I developed that habit too. So not only are you being productive by having a schedule, you’re positively impacting any area of your life that you choose to incorporate.
Gage How Busy You Really Are
When you’re caught up in just doing it, you think you’re busy. A lot of the time though, you probably spend your working day doing urgent tasks and procrastinating, so when it gets to the time you should be doing something else, you have to cancel it because you’ve still got stuff to get on with.
If you’re working to a time-constrained, prioritised schedule, you get what needs to be done in the time it should take. You’ll probably even find yourself with a few extra hours at the end of the day if you stick to your schedule. Therefore, by planning ahead and sticking to what you’ve planned, you’ll waste no time doing menial tasks and procrastinating, you won’t get stressed out by urgency, and you’ll be able to fit in leisure tasks around your work. No more feeling stressed out when you’re out with friends because of that urgent email you forgot to reply to earlier in the day.
How to create the perfect schedule
Use the Covey Time Management Matrix when planning ahead
You can categorize any task into this Matrix in order to plan efficiently. When you’re starting, you’ll probably find you have a lot of quadrant 1 tasks to get on with. I’d suggest spending a whole day on quadrant 1, then going back to the Matrix and planning your week. The key is to spend the majority of your time on quadrant 2. This way, you will never be stressed out and you’ll have time to plan ahead and grow your business rather than maintain it. Any spare time can be spend on quadrant 3, and try not to spend any time on quadrant 4.
Eat that frog
Set the most important task (quadrant 2) as the first task every day. This way, the rest of the day will be a breeze, and you’ll be making solid progress every single day. Don’t start your day answering emails – they may seem important but look at the bigger picture: doing the highest leverage task first thing will produce far better results than spending time on menial tasks. Don’t create a false sense of accomplishment with the small tasks, it’ll only lead to stress when you arrive at the important tasks later on when you’re already losing your daily willpower. Start your day the right way!
Set time constraints
To ensure you get everything done and keep making progress, make your schedule as precise as possible by setting a certain amount of time for everything. I like to give myself 60 minutes for the first and most important task of the day. Obviously you can’t gage exactly how long each task will take but having a time constraint will mean you power through everything and don’t leave anything untouched that may lead to stress in the evening. You want to wake up determined and go to bed satisfied – so instil a sense of urgency in your schedule.
Schedule time for planning
Have you ever had a really productive day, and then been complacent the next day because you feel like there’s nothing else on your to-do list that you really need to do? I have, and it will only lead to frustration and halt your momentum. Try to schedule in some time for planning ahead and doing more quadrant 1 activities so you still make progress even when you seemingly have done all you can do. It doesn’t hurt to keep going so you don’t have to worry in the future. I like to schedule out blog/social media posts when I have time to spare.
What to do now? Create a calendar on a spreadsheet or by writing it down so you can edit it and create a draft. Then input it into your calendar on your phone/computer. Try to sync the two so you can access them wherever and whenever. Get the quadrant 1 tasks done ASAP and once you’re done, plan your days around quadrant 2. Good luck!