Taking Back Control Over Your Day: 7 Steps to Laser-like Focus

Where are we going wrong?

At the end of day do you sometimes realize it’s 5 o’clock (or 6 or 7?) and you ask yourself, “What happened”?

You’ve been busy all day long doing exactly what needed to be done…answering emails, returning phone calls, going to meetings, reading, writing…yet the you never completed any of the items on your “To-Do” list. Your desk just got messier and the list just got longer.

No matter how hard you work, it seems there is really no end in sight. So how do you take back control of your day?

For me, personally, I try to do too much. I always over estimate how much I can do and how long it will take. My plan is to “knock out this task real quick” and then get back to my daily plan. NEVER HAPPENS. I don’t take my own advice about clearing the workspace, brain dump and time blocking. It’s makes the difference between being busy and being productive.

Dealing with daily chaos is normal.  We all have five or six issues that pop up and we get caught up dealing with them. This could be our own doing or forced upon us by others. In the David Allen – GTD lingo, it means fighting off the URGENT to get to the IMPORTANT.

If you feel overwhelmed or the wheels come off during the day, it’s time to STOP and make a plan. Follow the steps below to take back control and get that laser-focus you need:

1) Brain dump:  Start with a list of everything you want to get done. Get it all out there – start with big ones, then all the small ones. Make a list of your priorities that keep getting pushed back. By taking the time to brain dump, you will find your stress level decrease. Even when the list is overwhelming, you can get a sense of peace once it is written out.

2) Prioritize quickly: You should clearly see some priorities in your list. Focus on the IMPORTANT, not the URGENT. Use the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule. Find the clients, items, projects which deliver the most impact. Devote 80% of your time to these areas.

3) Break it down:  If an item on your list looks more like a project, you should break it down into tasks or activities you need to do. Sometimes, we don’t know where to start, so we don’t do anything. As you get the mini-tasks completed, you will start to feel energized!

4) Pick 3: Your list might be pretty long at this point. That’s OK. Keep it simple. Just pick the three items that you would LOVE to get done. Imagine it was 5 o’clock and you didn’t get anything done today BUT those three tasks. Not a bad days work right? 

5) Set a timer: Now attack one of the three priority items. Use principles of time blocking and Pomodoro. Literally block off chunks of time to devote to the task. The hope is that this will be uninterrupted time. With Pomodoro you work in increments of 25 minutes of laser-like focus and then take a five-minute break. It takes discipline but don’t make excuses. Make it happen.

6) Be anti-social: Let others know you will be unavailable. And unless the building is burning down, you are not to be interrupted for the next 30 minutes, hour, etc. Now the hard part: avoid checking email, answering the phone or texting. No social media, internet browsing or TV. Close your browser if possible, shut off email notifications, silence your phone.

7) Schedule email time: If you’ve never done this, it sounds crazy. But this can make a huge difference in your daily outcomes. When do you normally check email for the first time? If you are like most people, it’s one of the first things you do each day. I promise you that if you will delay checking until 10 o’clock it will change your life. Ultimately, the goal would be to check email only 2-3 times per day with the first being 10 o’clock in the morning and then again late in the afternoon. Try it for one week and you’ll be amazed.

The rest is up to you.

We all have a zillion things we could be doing. And many things we should be doing. But forget about the things you COULD do and pick the items that will have the greatest impact. The rest of it can wait. If you do this on a daily basis, it will absolutely transform you results and mindset.

David Moore is the owner of APG:Legal, a division of Advantage Print Group, a full-service print and marketing services provider to solo, small and mid-sized legal firms. To learn more about David, visit: http://www.apglegalprint.com/

 

3 Methods For A Most Productive Year by David A. Moore

How many productivity and goal setting articles can you read at this time of year? Just so many right? And then it becomes redundant and you realize you are just procrastinating. You’re 1) not being productive, and 2) you’re not goal setting, you’re dreaming.

I’m a world-class procrastinator. I mean black belt level. Think Bruce Lee of procrastination. But somehow I’m a productive procrastinator. You might be one of those too.

As you kick off the New Year, you are probably setting goals for the growth of your practice as well as personal growth. Productivity can play a key role in helping you accomplish both of these goals. A simple example would be if you were highly productive during your work day, you might be able to get out of the office to meet more prospective clients or referral sources AND be home at a reasonable hour to have more family time.

So let’s look at some goal setting methods that can help:

Goal Setting Methods

Google “Goal Setting” and you’ll have 27.9 million results to keep you busy. Most of us don’t have a problem “setting” goals. The biggest problem is trying to tackle too much. We always think we can do more than we actually can OR we choose conflicting goals (i.e. make partner at the law firm versus spend more time with the family).

Below I highlight three methods (books) to help in your goal setting:

  • Zig Ziglar’s Pick Four: Selected by Seth Godin as part of The Domino Project this is an extremely helpful guidebook based the goal setting principles laid out by Zig.  The concept is simple. You pick four major goals and are taken step-by-step on a 12-week journey toward achievement. You review goals daily and must record what you have done to advance. If nothing, you must write “nothing” which means you must pay attention.
  • Getting Results the Agile Way: This book/methodology is a productivity system itself. The team at AsianEfficiency.com has done a great job of walking you through many of the “12 Core Practices.” The book is written by J.D. Meier who was a project manager at Microsoft. It would be nearly impossible to digest and implement all of the techniques simultaneously. But…the RULE OF 3 is mission critical. The idea of focusing on three major yearly goals, three monthly goals, three weekly goals, and three daily goals, all supposedly supporting one another, is one of my favorites.
  • Chris Brogan 3 Words – Chris Brogan is a mega-personality in the online world and has been for years. For several years I have received his “My 3 Words for (enter year)” email and linked post. The concept is very simple and very zen-like. It’s an exercise where you pick three words that help you focus on your annual goals and filter your daily activities. For example, last year one of my words was “EARLY.” This was to remind me that I had a goal of getting up at 5:30 a.m. But this also helped me accomplish a fitness goal of getting to the gym first thing in the morning. This, ALSO, helped my wife start working out with me, which we found out we both enjoy that time together. So instead of picking a word like “Workout” or “Fitness” a broader word like “EARLY” accomplished many things in many areas. You get the idea?

There you have it. Together, we can make 2015 a productive and profitable year!

David A. Moore is the owner of APG:Legal, a division of Advantage Print Group, a full-service print and marketing services provider to solo, small and mid-sized legal firms. David
helps firms automate the order process, increase efficiency and eliminate mistakes.