They say that if you want something to get done, give it to a busy person.
Have you found this to be true? Why is it that when we have more on our plate, we tend to be better at managing our time than when we have an entire day free? You would think that more time equals more done, but in many cases the opposite is true.
3 Reasons we get more done when we’re busy…
1. When there are more demands on our time, there is less of it available. We are more conscious of what time is available, and forced to get specific tasks done within that limited window. The deadline forces us to…
Choose only the most important tasks (prioritizing).
Get those tasks done very quickly before we have to switch gears and move onto the next item on the calendar (pacing).
2. With more to remember in any given day, we’re more likely to write down what we must do. The act of writing…
Helps create connections in our brain, internalizing it.
Forces us to commit to the items we’ve written.
Enables us to remember/refer back to the items that we’ve committed to and follow through.
3. Lack of motivation can no longer be a blocking factor. Without any choice (since we already had to choose the top “must do” priorities and force them into a limited amount of time), there is a higher chance that there will be negative consequences if we don’t do those select few tasks. When there is an unlimited amount of time available, finding “motivation” can often be a barrier. If I don’t need to do it now, I can do it later. All of a sudden the day is gone and we’re not quite sure where it went.
Building in Time Constraints
But I don’t want to feel overwhelmed…
I agree! So the trick here is to be able to mimic any of the steps above on those less structured days and get the same benefits. Don’t overwhelm yourself, but create enough structure to get things done and then set aside time to relax and unplug from work at the end of the day.
Assign a start and end time to each task. (Pacing)
Make the time-frame short but realistic. Push yourself to stick to that amount of time as if it were a hard deadline. Set a timer. Schedule something else at the end of the timer to push you. Lock your phone and other distractions in a closet until the time is up. Sign out of all of your social media accounts so that when you accidentally open up the tab in your browser (“Wait… why did I just do that??”) you are reminded of the original task at hand when it prompts you to log in.
Pick only the top three things you MUST do that day. (Prioritizing)
Do not work on anything else until those three tasks are done. We tend to put more items on our list than would be physically possible to complete. Try challenging yourself to choose the most important three and stick to them. If you are only allowed to do three, which three would move you the furthest along? Which three will have a trickle affect for making other tasks easier? Which three would start momentum for bigger projects? What can I delegate or remove if I have to choose only three for today? Then be satisfied with the top three. If you’re able to stop working once the most important three things are done, great!
Create structure by writing things down. (Committing)
Although I work better with pen and paper, others may work more easily with digital systems. Do what works best for you. Write out the structure of your day, filling in time slots with specific tasks and hard stop times. Build in ways to hold yourself (or have others hold you) accountable. Schedule a call with someone at the end of each time slot who will ask you about your progress. Physically writing out the tasks you will do and adding the start and end times will make it clear what you need to be working on at any given work session during that day. Confusion about a task can often lead to procrastination, but clarity can help with motivation.
How to get the right things done, but move away from “busy.”
The goal here is not to become overly busy, but to create structure for your tasks in an otherwise unstructured day. This will help you accomplish more of the right things. This will also help you feel better about the intentional time you spend “off the clock.”
There are many ways to create more structure in your day and to overcome barriers. Don’t lose sight of the fact that being more productive (doing the right things, not necessarily more things) is all to help you reach greater heights, but also to create more balance. Fitting more and more into your schedule will simply lead to burnout, so be sure to schedule in time for friends, family, me-time, exercise, slow eating, mindfulness, and more.
Have other tips and tricks that have helped you structure your days? Share with us below in the comments!
Want an assessment to see how you might be able to structure your days differently for more fulfilling work and down time?
Happy doing and happy resting,