In a day and age when everything is moving a million miles a second and endless information is at our finger tips, it can be very tricky to stay on task, fit it all in, and not be consumed by social information, or should I say social distraction?
Time management is something that almost everyone struggles with from time to time. We all have different variables to account for and work around. But, I think there are several very practical and pretty easy tricks/tips I’d like to share to help you take back your day and your life, and to help you become less stressed and more productive.
Let’s take a step back, say 15 years or so ago. Before smart phones were literally part of everyone’s DNA. How were people ever productive, right? I mean, they actually had to go to libraries or do research to find information, and couldn’t respond to people instantly via text or email at any given moment. Now, you can walk into almost any public bathroom and see someone on his or her phone. Don’t get me wrong, technology has several great advantages, I wouldn’t be able to do my job very effectively without it. But it’s gone too far, too quickly, and now we are controlled by it. There are lots of movies that have been made about robots taking over the world some day. It’s already happening. We can’t seem to do anything without our phones. Some are so addicted they can’t leave a room without it, and lay down next to it at night. “Our apps are taking advantage of our hard-wired needs for security and social interaction and researchers are starting to see how terrible this is for us. A full 89% of college students now report feeling "phantom" phone vibrations, imagining their phone is summoning them to attention when it hasn't actually buzzed.” “Another 86% of Americans say they check their email and social media accounts "constantly," and that it's really stressing them out.”
If that’s not scary enough, research has found some even greater issues than simply being addicted and wasting time.
The combination of socializing and using our smart phones could be putting a huge tax on our brains.
Researchers have found smarter, more analytical thinkers are less active on their smart phone search engines than other people.
We also know that reading up on new information on your phone can be a terrible way to learn. Researchers have shown that people who take in complex information from a book, instead of on a screen, develop deeper comprehension, and engage in more conceptual thinking, too.
Of course, you’re reading this on your phone or computer right now, which is kind of funny after these last statements, so I’ll try to get to the point. Here are my tips for seizing your day, being less stressed, and more productive.
Morning Routine: I find that how I start my morning each day greatly affects the rest of my day in terms of mood, stress level, and productivity.
How to win the morning:
Get a win: This one can seem silly, but this is simple trick to getting the ball of productively rolling. We all love to get things done, check our boxes, see progress and hit our goals. When we get a win, we set the stage to keep getting wins the rest of the day. Productivity breeds productivity. This can be as simple as making your bed in the morning. And by making your bed, I mean as simple as fixing the top sheet or comforter so it covers the bed and looks made. Sheets don’t have to be tucked or changed. Just fix it up a bit, and boom! You have already accomplished a task within seconds of waking up. If you share a bed and your significant other is still in it, you can make just your side or find some other small win.
Prime the body: This will wake you up, fire up the nervous system, and quiet your mind chatter. Simplest things I’ve found are 5-10 push-ups or body weight squats. I’ll do this after I started brewing my morning coffee. If you want to take this to the next level, jump in a cold shower for 30 seconds. This has actually been shown to help strengthen the immune system and improve weight loss.
Meditate: Most people roll their eyes at this one. But hear me out: there are many different forms of this. Some find actual meditation to be extremely powerful, but we won’t go down the traditional road of that. Instead, I would suggest focusing on a few minutes of alone time. Here are a few things I would recommend that you do during this period. (Again, this can be done while the coffee is being made. If you don’t drink coffee or tea, then just sit down with your cup of water and enjoy!)
Focus on Gratitude: This is so powerful. Sit and think of 3 things you are grateful for. I usually try to do one easy one, like clean water, coffee or other everyday luxuries that we can take for granted. The next one is specific to me, or my career. Maybe something that happened the day before or an opportunity I might have coming that day. And the last one about a past or present relationship you have benefited from. This can all take less then a minute, but will greatly change your mental state.
Give well wishes: This can be done in the morning or try this during your workday. Take a few seconds and think of 2-3 people and secretly wish him or her well. That’s it. You’ll be amazed how this makes you feel.
List your goals for the day: Sometimes we simply need to write down the priorities for the day so they don’t get away from us. Right down in a diary or make a list on your phone of the top 3 things that you need to get done today in order to win the day. You’ll be amazed how this allows you to focus your energy during the day to insure they get done. When things pop up that interfere with these priorities, quickly figure out if it is something you really need to give your attention to right then, or can you come back to it after you have hit your list. If you don’t have a list, you’ll be pulled in every direction, I can almost guarantee it. You won’t always get to all 3, but I bet you’ll come a lot closer if you list them and prioritize them
For me, this is when I have my Bible devotions as well. If that’s not your thing, then your meditation time could be done after the above steps.
Now we have you setup to tackle the day. You’ve won the morning and can move forward toward accomplishing your 3 top goals for the day. But how do we insure we stay on track? Here are a few more tips.
DO NOT get on your phone first thing in the morning. The above morning routine should be done without ever looking at your phone. I promise you, everything will still be on your phone afterward. But, if you start with your phone, you’ll probably never make it to your morning routine.
Do NOT check your emails first thing in the morning. Take care of you first! Make sure you are set before you become a servant to your emails. Daymond John calls this going on offense instead of defense. You’ve probably seen him if you have ever watched Shark Tank. He’s a very successful investor. He says, “I notice that a lot of successful people who get up in the morning won’t touch their emails. They look at all the emails coming in as what everybody else wants. You’re putting out too many fires and answering the rest of the world, instead of helping yourself get somewhere. That’s the defense. Instead, they will send out stuff, that’s their offense.”
I’m not saying put off doing your job. But make sure that you have yourself straight first, because ultimately, you will be much more effective at helping others if you do.
Seek disconnect: Simple put, if you want to be productive, stop wasting so much time on social media, TV, radio, podcast, etc. Take back control. That doesn’t mean give it up completely. I use Facebook for business and personal use. But, I limit the amount of time I allow myself to be on there, and what times of the day so it doesn’t distract me from getting my priorities done. I promise you won’t miss it. Your brain will thank you, your family and friends will thank you, your stress levels will thank you.
I can’t overstate this enough. SLEEP! Have a regular sleep pattern. Same time to bed each night; same time getting up. Your stress level, productively, mood, and the point to which you recover and adapt to your training load will be directly tied to your sleep quality.
Get out there and seize your day!