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How Focusing Just 4 Hours Every Month Can Skyrocket Your Productivity

How Focusing Just 4 Hours Every Month Can Skyrocket Your Productivity

Over the years, It’s become shockingly clear to me that how I schedule my work week has a very dramatic effect on how productive I am and how quickly my business sees results. I look back and I see that I was busy being busy. Waking up every day and just winging it.

Sometimes I would plan my day out in advance that morning. Once in a while, I’d have an idea of what I’d do the next few days. But rarely, if ever, did I have my entire work week planned out in advance. I certainly never had an entire year planned out!

What’s been most surprising is:

  1. How EASY it is
  2. How little time it takes

Let me prove it.

The Difference Between Focusing And Worrying

Planning ahead and worrying about the future can sometimes sound similar, but the truth is they are worlds apart. How different they are shows up in the results. One allows you to focus and live fully in the present, doing what needs to get done while simultaneously setting yourself up for future success.

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The other one has you constantly thinking about the future that hasn’t happened yet. Creating stress and anxiety. Lowering your self esteem. Taking you out of the present moment and preventing you from enjoying your life.

How similar do they sound now?

The same way that worrying about the future creates tension and anxiety, not knowing what the future holds can create a feeling of being lost — that feeling of being in limbo. Without a clear goal and specific steps on how to reach it, everything you do can feel like walking in place.

Wake Up With Purpose

I used to wake up every day and just lay in bed, trying to figure out what I’d do that day. There was no sense of urgency to get anywhere or get anything done. There was no looking forward to the next work day because I had nothing planned. With nothing planned, it was all too easy to procrastinate, get distracted and waste an entire day doing things that were not all that important.

Goals and stepping stones are crucial to the growth and life of your business. They serve as markers and sign posts, letting you know you’re going the right way. Driving cross country from California to Boston, you’d have a map. You’d have your destination set in your GPS. If you’re old school, you’d have a paper map and printed directions at the very least.

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If you started veering off course, you would know very quickly. You wouldn’t wait till you hit the Canadian border near Vancouver to discover you got off on the wrong exit.

The thing about that example, is that it’s not even the worst case scenario. If you wasted all that time driving north to Vancouver, you could at least then ask for directions on how to go east towards Boston. Because you had a final destination to start.

Without a final destination? Without an ultimate goal? Then what does it matter, you can spend your days driving around in circles, doing busy work, procrastinating, whatever. Your destination is nowhere and there are thousands of ways to get there.

So what I want to show you is how to plan your work schedule the same way you would plan a road trip. You’re going to have a starting point, a final destination, and pit stops along the way. Each day, you have a certain number of miles that you aim to drive before stopping and taking a break. Rinse, repeat. Simple and effective.

Create Urgency In Advance

It’s important to have a sense of urgency when you’re working for yourself. Urgency creates productivity, which creates momentum. Momentum is what we want.

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How do you create urgency? Here’s one way:

(You can do this for anything, by the way — not just work)

  1. Figure out your 1-year (12-month goal) and what would need to be in place for it to happen (i.e. number of leads coming in, your conversion rate, number of ads, squeeze pages, etc.)
  2. Split that in half and you have your 6-month metrics
  3. Now break that down to your 3-month and 1-month numbers
  4. Break down your 1-month goal into weekly goals
  5. Break your weekly goal into detailed, daily tasks

This is called drilling down. You literally take your big goal and drill it down until you have bite-sized, daily, actionable steps.

The 1, 3, and 6-month number serve as your stepping stones — your markers, so that you know you’re on the right path. So how do you create urgency? Take that 12-month goal and make it your 6-month goal, and drill down from there.

Take your goal and give yourself half the time to accomplish it. Don’t freak out! Just try it. You’ll find that once you drill it down to daily actions, it will look very doable. Are you going to be busy? Well, yeah. Absolutely.

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Don’t tell me that’s a problem.

Planning each week becomes the golden nugget here. Everything will depend on how well you plan out your daily tasks for each week. Your commitment is to sit down every Sunday or Monday morning, and plan your week out in advance.

Featured photo credit: From Chaos To Order via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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