Ever start the day with good intentions only to finish up disappointed with your results? Hands up, me too – and it used to frustrate me no end. With a business to run and kids to take care of (and a million things in between) lots on my plate was my normal. And with an overwhelming list of things to remember and do, it wasn’t unusual for me to forget things, run late, and see my scatterbrain as something I just had to put up with.
I read lots about productivity and tried different tools, but nothing seemed to stick. I’d still end up chasing my tail and getting annoyed with myself when I dropped the ball. It left me wondering, WHY IS TIME MANAGEMENT SO HARD! And how could I finally crack the productivity nut?
Perhaps you’ve asked yourself these questions too.
If so, I think you’ll enjoy these five explanations – because when you accept these, suddenly it becomes a whole lot easier to turn things around.
See how these feel for you.
1. You have too much going on!
Lots of overflowing plates can feel like the new norm in our busy society – and it’s a problem for your productivity. But not for the reasons you think.
When you’re drowning in to-dos and juggling an armful of different roles and responsibilities, you quickly get pulled in multiple directions. With your attention fragmented it can be hard to do anything really well. When you don’t feel on top of your to-dos, overwhelmed and guilt creeps in. You may even find yourself questioning if you’re good enough.
Hit this point and your brain gets overwhelmed. Overwhelm increases mental clutter and fatigue making it much harder to make decisions, think clearly, and work effectively.
In short, too much doesn’t just hold you back because you have more to do, it also stops you getting everything done because it steals your bandwidth.
If you want to be productive, you have to give yourself the space to think clearly. It’s OK to have too much on as long as you have a plan to do it. With the right tools and strategy, you can find a way to weed through the clutter and take back control. It’s not always easy, but definitely possible.
2. Stuff happens!
You have perfect plans and a clear schedule for the day and then BOOM! Life throws something at you, which you didn’t expect and the cart turns upside down! Your kids get ill (you get ill!) Work puts you under pressure with an urgent priority. You get stuck in a traffic jam. You need to do a detour back to school because your child forgot their PE kit. You get pulled into a long conversation with a friend in need.
The list goes on… But that’s life! Full of surprises that make time management almost laughable. But that doesn’t mean time management has to go out the window. Instead, try weaving in a little breathing space to your daily plan. If there’s catch-up time built into your day, you’re less likely to be pushed off course following a curveball. You can also revisit your priorities to ensure you can still get the most important stuff done – even if you have less time to play with.
3. You’re too distracted
I’m so guilty of this! I don’t mean to be, but you know how it is… that quick look at Instagram or Facebook and you’re quickly hooked.
It’s not our fault. We live in an information age where entertainment and knowledge are at our fingertips. Everywhere you turn, someone (or something) is trying to get a piece of your attention, and when they drag you in it can be hard to pull yourself out.
But we’ve got to get real with the consequences.
Distractions steal your time and scupper your plans. If you don’t take steps to avoid temptations and keep yourself focused on the task at hand, you will waste valuable time – which piles on the pressure for later.
Try putting your phone away, switching off notifications, or planning time to get your social fix. These little steps can ensure you control your phone and not the other way around.
4. It’s too easy to procrastinate
Good time management takes discipline and habit. There will be many times that you’ll have to force yourself to take action when you don’t feel like it. It’s oh so tempting to put off hard, stressful, or boring tasks for another time. But the more we delay, the more the backlog piles up (and that drains our productivity further still!)
There are a number of things you can try to beat those procrastination pixies. For example:
- Work in Pomodoros – you only need to focus for 25 minutes before you get a break!
- Eat the Frog and do the hardest task first so everything else feels easy
- Plan rewards into your day so you’re motivated to get things done
- Get clear on your WHY – it should be enough to get you going
- Make time for the things you enjoy as well as the things you have to do
5. You don’t have a plan for the day
When you don’t have a plan and you just allow the day to unfold, you lose control:
- Tasks take longer than they should
- You forget to work on what’s most important
- You don’t make the best use of the in-between time [for example, before a meeting]
Without a plan, it’s more likely you’ll have to work longer hours to catch up – or even stop doing the things you love because you’re still working on tasks you have to deliver.
A plan allows you to budget your time in the same way that you budget your money. With a plan, you can plot when you’ll get certain tasks done. You can see your blueprint for the day and therefore know at a glance whether you’re on track or falling behind. You can keep yourself focused and motivated and you can ensure the needle is always moving in the right direction.
A to-do list does free up bandwidth by making space in your head, but it doesn’t help you work at maximum productivity because it’s not granular enough.
That’s why planning your day in your bullet journal is a game-changer – because it doesn’t leave anything to chance.
For more tips to help you plan a super-effective day, check out these articles:
Do any of these five hold you back in your life? Let us know in the comments.