Sometimes the daily to do list turns into a ball and chain that you drag around with no hope of ever putting it down. Between the household chore list, the never ending things to get done at work, and personal errands, it seems that we're all running at a break neck speed to get it all in. Hence the plethora of productivity podcasts, blogs, and programs. Now, I am all about the latest productivity hacks. I love to hear the latest and greatest techniques for anything that makes me more productive. I like to do All. The. Things. No really. I have every book, journal, and guide to help me achieve more in my day. So I will be the last person to give up all of that. It helps, it really does. But I have found that even more important than the how to get more done attitude, is the how to reduce stress on the body so you can be more productive with the hours you have.
As a recovering perfectionist who tried to take on anything and everything piled on me by myself and others, I have discovered that my number one defense is a better offense. What do I mean by this? I have a new saying in my life. I like to tell myself, "Protect the asset." The asset is me. And in your life the asset is you. I am reminded by the flight attendant's instsructions that in the event of an emergency, please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting those around you. It is important to be able to breathe if you're going to save someone else's life. When we run from project to project with no reserves, we will stress out, max out, and burn out. Here are my most valuable tips to getting more done with less stress.
1) Set a bedtime routine. I used to be a night owl. I could stay up half the night getting things done. But then the next day, I couldn't get up and get going. The first part of my day was always stressed and rushed as I got the kids ready, got ready for the day and rushed off to conquer that to do list. Instead of arriving at work ready to serve my clients and my team, I was often snippy and stressed. After studying the habits of dozens of high performing individuals, I have changed my bedtime routine in order to get a jump start on my day. By going to bed earlier, I can wake up earlier, avoiding the stress that used to come with my morning rush.
2) Set a morning routine. Once you've conquered the habit of going to bed earlier, a morning routine is much easier. The main thing to focus on is yourself in the first hour(s) of your day. Resist the urge to check emails or turn on the TV. Your email is just one big list of things to do that other people have compiled for you. You'll have plenty of time to get to that later, but that should not be your first priority. I resisted this tip for years, thinking that everyone must hear back from me the minute I awaken. However, all it did was set me up for an overwhelmed morning, which led to a stressful day where I always felt two steps behind. I also stopped listening to the news first thing in the morning. Most of it was depressing and stressful as well, and not what your brain needs to hear to plan an energy-filled, productive day.
Instead fill your first hour of your morning with activities that will feed and nurture your mind and soul. Start with a positive reading from a devotional or a personal development book. A quick entry in your journal or meditation can also help clear out anything you're worrying about so you don't bring that negative emotion into your day. Most importantly, be sure to move in the first hour of the day. You can do your work out for the day, or if time is limited, just fit in a 10 minute Yoga video or 20 minute brisk walk. Activity fires up the brain and will help fuel you throughout the day.
3) Plan your day. High performers plan everything-their workouts, their work day, their deep work time, their goals. Have you ever gone to bed wondering if you got anything done that day? That happens more often than not when we haven't made a plan for the day. Plan when you will answer those emails, take appointments, make dinner, work out, work on your momentum tasks that will move you toward your goals. Chances are if you don't plan your day, you will do nothing but respond to the demands and requests of everyone around you. Block out the time you need to get your main projects done so you can look back over the day with checkmarks next to everything you've accomplished.
These three things are simple but they're not always easy. It takes practice and dedication to implement new strategies in an already busy life. They may seem like common sense, but they're not always common practice. I know from personal experience that these simple changes will help you deal with the constant demands and stresses that you'll face every day. So face them with a rested mind, an energized body, and a clutter free mind to take your productivity to the next level with much less stress.
Which one of these has been the most difficult for you to implement? Consider talking to an accountability partner and changing one of these this week and see how it changes your day and outcomes.