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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
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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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