Your Keys to an Effective Day

#1: Make Your Bed!

I added this #1 key recently after reading an excellent brief book by a retired Navy Seal trainer, Admiral William H. McRaven, entitled Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World. It is based on the Commencement Address he gave at his alma mater, the University of Texas in Austin. His talk was so well received that people kept asking for copies of it, and it became the little book. It presents simple lessons that are important in dealing with the challenges of life, no matter what one’s occupation.

It made me realize that making the bed not a “given” for everyone, and why it makes a big difference. Like many of you, this is something I have always done without giving it a lot of thought. I just know I don’t feel right without doing it—like going around with uncombed hair or ragged underwear all day. Start the day doing something well that you can be proud of, and you’re off to a good start.

It’s your first WIN of the day, and helps get your mind in order and confident as well. You have the discipline to do this small job and make your world a better place. You feel in control, productive and at the end of the day you are reminded of the order and accomplishment in your life.

#2: Prepare Your Mindset

Make time for mental preparation that enables you to be at your best. Instead of getting up and rushing to work, allow time (even 5-15 minutes will make a big difference) to read something to inspire and uplift you, help you feel centered and well-grounded. You might like to write your goals for the day, or favorite thoughts. Many people start the day with prayer or meditation.

It’s well worth getting up a few minutes earlier to ensure the best quality for your day. Replace rushed and frenzied feelings with calm, constructive thoughts. Build your day the way you would like it to be, instead of just reacting to whatever happens. A good mindset is vital to a good day.

#3: Identify Your Top Priorities

Write down the top 3 things you need to do. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too much. (You’d be happy to get those three things done, wouldn’t you!?!) Number them in order of importance and you will have prioritized your work. Focus on the first one until you have finished it or made significant progress. (See #4 Focus below). Take a break, then do the same with the second one, and so on. If you do your top 1, 2 or 3 consider the day a success!

This approach is much less distracting than looking at a big list, making it easier to stay focused on one thing at a time. We’ll talk more about focus in Key #4.

#4: Block Out Time

Waiting until you “have time” to get things done? Worrying about to-do’s because you don’t know when you can get to them? That’s where blocks of time come in. You may need a Reality Check! Are too many things crowding out what’s most important? We must “make time” for the important things. It gives us peace of mind, knowing there is time set aside to do what’s needed.

You can use a spreadsheet or click here to download our “Design Your Day” spreadsheet. (For complete information, read my article, “Design Your Day: Optimize Your Time, Energy and Results” featured in the book Jump-Start Your Success with Brian Tracy. Fill in your essentials (like sleep, commuting, work, family, personal routines, etc.) Carve out prime time (your best energy & environment) to work on your highest priorities that will carry your life and business forward (such as Focus Time, in Key #4).

Allow extra time as things often take longer than we expect, because sometimes the unexpected happens, and so you won’t feel rushed. Build in things you want to do for yourself and others things that refresh you. Even though we don’t always follow the plan exactly, the planning pays off in actually saving time and getting more done.

#5: Focus

One of the top frustrations I hear about is interruptions. But they’re not always from other people, are they? Research shows that we interrupt ourselves most often. We multitask, we get distracted, we think about something other than what we are working on, we think of things we need to do, and on and on.

If we really want to be productive, we need to focus. Multitasking, studies show, actually make things take much longer, as we are shifting our attention back and forth. We must shut out the world to do high priority work. Even in an hour or less we can make huge progress plus reduce those feelings of guilt and stress!

So ignore email, let the phone go to voicemail, close the door or go to another room. Keep pen and paper nearby to capture distracting thoughts, and set a timer. Park yourself in that chair and FOCUS for 25 or 50 minutes on the most important thing that will move your life and/or business forward. Take a 5 or 10 minute break (depending on how long you focused) and repeat. Do this as early as you can each day and you will reap the rewards.

#6: Don’t Let the Email Monster Eat the Heart of Your Day!

Studies and first-hand reports show huge productivity gains when email is put in its place–later in the day. (And for goodness sake, turn off the dinger!) Start with your prime Focus time, and do what is really important to move your business and your life forward.

If you are very disciplined, you may take a quick peek to see if there is anything that is a day-changer (such as the time of an appointment), even though time sensitive information is better delivered by phone than email. But that is dangerous territory, because it is so easy to get sucked into email. Set a timer for 5 minutes to “wake” you.

As I have a home office, I have about a 10 minute window of time before breakfast when I check email and dash off a few quick replies, as needed. But that is a contained, limited period of time, before my regular office hours begin. Beware the email monster–don’t let it eat the heart of your day! Julie Morgenstern, an organizing and productivity consultant for Oprah (and a personal mentor of mine), wrote a book entitled Never Check E-mail in the Morning. We should all take that seriously and be wise.

1-Make your bed
2-Prepare your mindset
3-Identify your top priorities
4-Block out time
6-Don’t let the email monster eat the heart of your day!

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