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5 Ways to Immediately Regain Control of Your Day

5 Ways to Immediately Regain Control of Your Day


    How often do you begin your day with this thought:

    “Ugh.  I’m too tired for this.  I wish I could get settled before the nonstop hassles start?”

    How often do you end your day with a thought like:

    “I’m exhausted…I can’t remember what I accomplished today, but I feel like I slogged uphill carrying my desk?”

    For many of us, the answer is “far too often”.

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    There are many things that could contribute to those feelings, and many are beyond our control – immediate or otherwise.  However, there are several things we do to ourselves that contribute to ending a day with such work exhaustion that it guarantees the next day will begin with it. This starts a self-reinforcing cycle that will end in burnout.

    Fortunately, there are several things you can immediately implement to start gaining control of some of your day and give you the perspective to seize control of as much of the rest of it as you possibly can.  Here are five things you can do…beginning today.

    1. Stop scheduling meetings for first and last thing

    You just gave yourself three hours right there.  If you have a 9-hour workday, it just became a 6-hour (normal) workday with three hours at the beginning and end to review your plans for the day and revise as necessary, identify whether meetings need to be scheduled or rescheduled since yesterday, and finish out your day by making any final notes (either in your calendar or in your daily notebook) about what transpired and any required follow-up actions.

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    2. Schedule breathing room

    Don’t allow incursions.  Really.  How many times have you tried to schedule a meeting with someone to find their calendar completely full from beginning to the end of the day, and possibly with overlapping or conflicting appointments?  Annoying, isn’t it?  And completely counterproductive.  No one can possibly hold all of those meetings, and if even just one or two slip, the remainder are usually slipped later in the day rather than killing or rescheduling one meeting in favor of saving the others.  Protect your ability to remain effective:  schedule islands of meeting prep and recovery time (for assembly of briefing materials beforehand and documentation afterward) to start gaining control of your day.  A fifteen-to-thirty minute hold on your calendar around most meetings will suffice.

    3. Schedule lunch

    Protect it.  Lunch is important, even if you don’t eat.  But, eat.  Skipping a meal guarantees you’ll crash sometime during the afternoon, and almost certainly overeat at dinner.  Lunch is also a crucial middle-of-the-workday decompression time.  If you don’t want to spend half an hour or an hour in a restaurant, take your lunch to a nearby park, picnic table, or somewhere else that will get you outside if the weather is good, and away from your desk regardless.  If you aren’t eating lunch for some reason, at least take time for a constructive break.

    4. End meetings with clear expectations of what’s next

    “What’s the next action?”

    David Allen’s Getting Things Done espouses this principle as one of the most crucial to being productive.  I happen to agree, and practice it almost constantly.  Ending a meeting with no clear expectation of what is owed to whom guarantees something – or everything – will be late.  Declaring “I need something” does not equate to issuing an action.  Identify the action, the desired result, the expected delivery timeframe, and the person who is responsible.  Ensure they understand this information…have them repeat it back to you.  The trick to gaining control of your day is not to assume they understood you simply because you think you were clear.  Meetings that are scheduled to end at 5PM and do not include a time before the end of the agenda to review action items are not properly-scheduled meetings.  It doesn’t matter if you have a great GTD tool you use, or are using a paper planner, capture the next actions in a way that allows you to find them again.

    5. Make daily notes

    Do it more often than once a day!  Waiting until the end of the day to make all of your daily notes will virtually guarantee that you will have forgotten an action or an important detail, and it will frustrate you when inevitable interruptions occur during your carefully-constructed end-of-the-day notetaking time.  As much as possible, jot down memory-jogging notes about your meetings and decisions as you make them, or very quickly thereafter.  An easy way to do this is to add notes to calendar appointments, or print the calendar and take it with you; you can then simply add it to your notebook with the appointment “pre-populated” and the notes written on it, automatically placing them in context.

    (Photo credit: Man Holding Clock via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on June 3, 2020

    How to Write SMART Goals (With SMART Goals Templates)

    How to Write SMART Goals (With SMART Goals Templates)

    Everyone needs a goal. Whether it’s in a business context or for personal development, having goals help you strive towards something you want to accomplish. It prevents you from wandering around aimlessly without a purpose.

    But there are good ways to write goals and there are bad ways. If you want to ensure you’re doing the former, keep reading to find out how a SMART goals template can help you with it.

    The following video is a summary of how you can write SMART goals effectively:

    What Are SMART Goals?

    SMART Goals

    refer to a way of writing down goals that follow a specific criteria. The earliest known use of the term was by George T. Doran in the November 1981 issue of Management Review, however, it is often associated with Peter Drucker’s management by objectives concept.[1]

    SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. There are other variations where certain letters stand for other things such as “achievable” instead of attainable, and “realistic” instead of relevant.

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    What separates a SMART goal from a non-SMART goal is that, while a non-SMART goal can be vague and ill-defined, a SMART goal is actionable and can get you results. It sets you up for success and gives you a clear focus to work towards.

    And with SMART goals comes a SMART goals template. So, how do you write according to this template?

    How to Write Smart Goals Using a SMART Goals Template

    For every idea or desire to come to fruition, it needs a plan in place to make it happen. And to get started on a plan, you need to set a goal for it.

    The beauty of writing goals according to a SMART goals template is that it can be applied to your personal or professional life.

    If it’s your job to establish goals for your team, then you know you have a lot of responsibility weighing on your shoulders. The outcome of whether or not your team accomplishes what’s expected of them can be hugely dependant on the goals you set for them. So, naturally, you want to get it right.

    On a personal level, setting goals for yourself is easy, but actually following through with them is the tricky part. According to a study by Mark Murphy about goal setting, participants who vividly described their goals were 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully achieve their goals.[2] Which goes to show that if you’re clear about your goals, you can have a higher chance of actually accomplishing them.

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    Adhering to a SMART goals template can help you with writing clear goals. So, without further ado, here’s how to write SMART goals with a SMART goals template:

    Specific

    First and foremost, your goal has to be specific. Be as clear and concise as possible because whether it’s your team or yourself, whoever has to carry out the objective needs to be able to determine exactly what it is they are required to do.

    To ensure your goal is as specific as it can be, consider the Ws:

    • Who = who is involved in executing this goal?
    • What = what exactly do I want to accomplish?
    • Where = if there’s a fixed location, where will it happen?
    • When = when should it be done by? (more on deadline under “time-bound”)
    • Why = why do I want to achieve this?

    Measurable

    The only way to know whether or not your goal was successful is to ensure it is measurable. Adding numbers to a goal can help you or your team weigh up whether or not expectations were met and the outcome was triumphant.

    For example, “Go to the gym twice a week for the next six months” is a stronger goal to strive for than simply, “Go to the gym more often”.

    Setting milestone throughout your process can also help you to reassess progress as you go along.

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    Attainable

    The next important thing to keep in mind when using a SMART goals template is to ensure your goal is attainable. It’s great to have big dreams but you want your goals to be within the realms of possibility, so that you have a higher chance of actually accomplishing them.

    But that doesn’t mean your goal shouldn’t be challenging. You want your goal to be achievable while at the same time test your skills.

    Relevant

    For obvious reasons, your goal has to be relevant. It has to align with business objectives or with your personal aspirations or else, what’s the point of doing it?

    A SMART goal needs to be applicable and important to you, your team, or your overall business agenda. It needs to be able to steer you forward and motivate you to achieve it, which it can if it holds purpose to something you believe in.

    Time-Bound

    The last factor of the SMART goals template is time-bound (also known as “timely”). Your goal needs a deadline, because without one, it’s less likely to be accomplished.

    A deadline provides a sense of urgency that can motivate you or your team to strive towards the end. The amount of time you allocate should be realistic. Don’t give yourself—or your team—only one week if it takes three weeks to actually complete it. You want to set a challenge but you don’t want to risk over stress or burn out.

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    Benefits of Using a SMART Goals Template

    Writing your goals following a SMART goals template provides you with a clearer focus. It communicates what the goal needs to achieve without any fuss.

    With a clear aim, it can give you a better idea of what success is supposed to look like. It also makes it easier to monitor progress, so you’re aware whether or not you’re on the right path.

    It can also make it easier to identify bottlenecks or missed targets while you’re delivering the goal. This gives you enough time to rectify any problems so you can get back on track.

    The Bottom Line

    Writing goals is seemingly not a difficult thing to do. However, if you want it to be as effective as it can be, then there’s more to it than meets the eye.

    By following a SMART goals template, you can establish a more concrete foundation of goal setting. It will ensure your goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound—attributes that cover the necessities of an effectively written goal.

    More Tips About Goals Setting

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

    Reference

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