My favourite Productivity Hacks – Seven Tips to claim back your Diary
Have Done Diary

When clients ask me how they can fit more into their day I tell them to forget time management. We manage our time when we have enough of it. When we are stressed and under the pressure of delivering something on time we forget all of the methods and act like crazy headless chicken or chucks.

Over the years of my early career having worked with bankers, I learned that time is money, and efficiency is considered a must. Responsiveness during the job meant that I would call back immediately and respond to emails as fast as possible. Today, I feel this paradigm has shifted to social media, WhatsApp and other messaging systems. 

When you are constantly in response mode it is hard to get any work done. With the pandemic and all of us sitting on video calls all day you might often feel drained in the evening and as if you did not get a lot of important work done during the day. If this feeling continues during the week and then several weeks you might not only feel drained but also frustrated with yourself.

If you also struggle with productivity these seven tips will help you to claim back your diary. Do you want to have more time with family and friends? Do you want to start a new hobby or continue one you started years ago and then dropped? 

If your answer is “Yes, but I don’t have time”, practice one or two of the methods given below.

1- Have-Done Diary

In consulting firms, you have to maintain a timesheet in which you document daily how you use your time. This can be great to give you an understanding of where you are focused and where your priorities lie. Similarly, you can increase the value of this exercise by maintaining a daily diary in which you document your accomplished tasks (Have-Done-Diary). I recommend a notebook and handwriting for this exercise.

2 – The Pomodoro Method

Find your most productive time in the day and block 90 minutes for creative and conceptual work. Set a kitchen timer for the task to 25 minutes. Work without picking up the phone or checking emails or social media. Then take a five minutes break where you actually get up from your chair and move.

Then work for another 25 minutes and take another 5 minutes break and a third junk. See how much you accomplish with this method. This is called Pomodoro-Method and you can even get a timer on your browser.

For many professionals, the most important brain time is the early morning but I hear there is the other camp of night owls as well. So it is up to you to find your best 90 minutes in a day.

3 – The Eisenhower Matrix

When you are overwhelmed use an easy categorizer. So when you’re backed up on work and overwhelmed, using an easy categorizer will help manage your tasks. Work with an A, B, C, D categorization system whenever you add a task to your diary or task list. Use your time block for A tasks, schedule B tasks and delegate C tasks. If you can’t delegate to anyone think about blocking an hour in the afternoon to just work on those C tasks.

Very similar, but not exactly the same is to work with the next one.

4 – The Pareto Principle

“What is important is rarely urgent, what is urgent is rarely important.”

20% of the most important tasks will have an 80% of impact on our success according to the Pareto principle. So it is critical that we understand what these important tasks are that we should spend time on. One example: You might think you don’t have time to make networking a priority even if we know that if you want to move ahead in your current job or if you are looking for a new job, this will clearly be a game-changer. You might know that you should sit down and write that book you have been dreaming about for the last five years but other operational work always seems more important. The book would catapult you into the league of experts in your field and enhance your personal brand and might even give you the peace of mind that you have accomplished one of your “Big Five”.

5 – The Peace Island

In your busy and tightly scheduled day, try to build one island of peace. The island can be lunch with a good friend, a massage, running, or sitting outside watching birds. Simply put, taking the time out to enjoy a peaceful moment in the day. The island of peace needs to  be a place where you cannot use your smartphone or have it be switched off to ensure no distractions and  you are not allowed to take away tasks from this place. This could be your meditation space, your garden, or a café you love. Ideally, you bring your diary with you and use your time there for reflection.

6 – Repetition Checklists

Repetition, routine, and checklists are great ways to take the stress out of tasks that need to be accomplished but do not require much of our focus. I personally prefer to work on such tasks in the late afternoon or evening as I feel more available then. Examples are packing for an event, preparing your travel cost claim and scheduling meetings and other appointments. 

To establish a weekly routine especially if you are working from home every day right now I recommend a weekly planner, where you schedule a few regular tasks on one day of the week, for example on Mondays you endorse contacts on LinkedIn and you return the glass bottles during your lunch break.

7 – Outsourcing Housework

I encourage you to outsource your housework from grocery shopping to cleaning, this idea might be new or odd to some but it makes the most sense. Most of the housework you might still be stuck with but at least you can win about three hours per week and more importantly some peace if your house is cleaned by another person. You will also notice that you keep the house tidier if you have regular external help.

Add one of these practices to the weekly practices in the RockMeApp and answer the four reflection questions in the RockMeApp on a weekly basis. Practice one method for several weeks and let me know what happened. If you wish to further work on your focus and productivity I recommend you join our RockMeRetreat from 18 to 25 November 2021 in Switzerland at Kloster Ilanz. Sign up here to be invited and we’ll set up a call to discuss this further.

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