Making the time to focus on what matters every day is easier said than done. It often feels like there are never enough hours in the day to do what we really want to do.
But why are you so busy and distracted and why willpower and productivity won´t alone solve the problem. And what are the best strategies to manage your time?
What consumes your time every day?
It isn´t just the modern world that keeps us busy; it is also ourselves who make us busier than we have to be. And when we´re done being busy, we often spend the rest of our time on social media, television, and email.
The solution may seem simple; just stop being busier than you have to be and try to avoid all distractions that consume your valuable time. However, you need to understand the cause of busyness and distraction to fight it.
Why there is not enough time for the important things? A simple answer would be there is just too much to do on any day. To much work, too many messages to answer too many series to watch. The truth is that the lack of our time is often self-imposed.
It can be parted into two phenomes:
- Busy Bandwagon: It is the modern mindset which tells you to squeeze as much work as possible into every moment of the day. To be constantly productive, with the overload of inboxes, packed calendars, and a never-ending to-do list.
- Infinity Pools: All social media and streaming websites like Netflix, Youtube, Instagram, and news sites. These are digital sources with unlimited new content of information and entertainment.
The big problem is when we are done for the day and exhausted by the Busy Bandwagon, we go in the Infinity Pools and consuming their content. It results in endless tasks and endless distractions, which bounces back and forth between the two all day long.
Why productivity just leads to more busyness?
In the modern world, there's an endless series of tasks you could be doing, so when you finished one task, it could be replaced by another. You could consequently rush through your to do list as quickly as possible to reach the mythical endpoint. But the more you get done, the more you find new things to do.
More productivity leads to more busyness. When you focus so much on getting through your to-do list as quickly as possible, you are not only setting yourself an impossible task; you also encourage yourself to be busier.
By prioritizing things that others imposed on you, you are deprioritizing yourself. When you only subordinate yourself to other people's priorities, you lose time and energy for your passion and projects because you postpone them to another day, which never comes.
When you are exhausted by productivity, you´ll easily fall into the Infinity Pool of distraction. Avoiding these Infinity pools is easier said than done as they have been expertly designed to keep you attached to their endless content.
It is better to prioritize the things that are meaningful to you. Also, eliminate all task in your to-do list that you could do next week it will make your list shorter, and you are much clearer on what task have to focus on.
You don´t need to have a too competitive and perfectionistic mindset.
A good idea is to make theme days where you bundle similar tasks together to keep your mind focused. And then divide the day into different sections to work through one at a time. The more specific you bundle, the more efficient you can go through the to-do list.
Strategies to manage your time
Each person is different, which is why you need to find tactics for your specific personality. A strategy can be simply broken down into four steps: highlight, focus, energize, and reflect.
Even if you want to save time by giving yourself a more and more short-term task or want to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, you only make yourself busier.
While to-do lists schedules and goals help you track your progress and get things done, they aren´t enough to help you regain your time. You need a sustained activity or project, which is your daily highlight, where you can look back with satisfaction at the end of the day.
What should be the highlight of your day?
Find a highlight by looking at your to-do list; maybe you already have something that is meaningful to you, and you can do 60-90 minutes daily.
What would you enjoy the most at the end of your day?
It is only what you want to do, not what you need to do. A project you might want to do for a long time but couldn´t have free time for it until now. Usually, it is something you can use your skills or something where you get an accomplishment that is important to you. Also, a passion you might not have discovered can be a highlight.
What will give you the most joy?
To being more mindfully proactive, you don´t need to have a perfectly planned day with your goals in mind. It is about living a fuller and more joyful life. If you want to live that life, you just need something simple you enjoy doing.
You can choose one of these questions for a highlight of the day that feels right to you. There are many tactics you can use to select your highlight, try some out, and find what works for you:
- Write down a list of your priorities for daily highlights and then rank them and find out what is your highest priority and decide between the two highest-ranked.
- Repeat yesterday's highlight if you didn´t start or finished. Or if you want to improve your skill and simply enjoyed it so much, you want to do it again.
- Combine a bunch of little annoying task into a big one it. You get satisfaction when you have done the tasks, and then you don´t need to pay attention to them anymore.
- Look at your to-do list and do the task that is most important to you.
- You can choose a longer project and break it into steps to have multiple day highlights.
Think about how long your highlight will take to accomplish and schedule it into your day. Additionally, select a certain time for your highlight. Or you can also break down your day into a detailed schedule where you set when you do a specific task and when you eat etc. It helps to get more time out of your day.
You can also find commitments that are not so important and schedule them or get out of them.
Plan to be spontaneous; you never know when you suddenly have free time. You can look at your highlight list to do something that you enjoy doing and what is meaningful to you.
Find a time when you work best, either becoming a morning person or if you work better at night. Of course, you make sure you get enough sleep as this is important for your health.
Avoiding distraction and getting energy
There are many strategies that you can use to focus on your tasks. You can delete your social media apps you don´t need and keep your phone on silent or turn it off. However, social media is designed to distract you and make you addicted, so you have to make sure you can fully focus, especially on your highlight tasks.
Also, if you are on your Pc or Laptop, you can use a different browser for social media Firefox and, for example, learning a skill or working the Chrome Browser.
Stay away from negative news as much as possible without losing track of what is happening in the world. But if you only look for what bad thing is happening, it can make you feel worse, and this won´t benefit you. Only consume news at a specific time where you do something fun afterward.
You also need the energy to feel ready to tackle any tasks. Because if you do not take care of your body, you lose a lot of time when you are sleepy and demotivated, you also get easier distracted. You need a lifestyle where you eat healthy food instead of all-day only junk food.
Many use caffeine to boost up their energy levels, but a caffeine crash can be devesting for you. Try to avoid it by drinking a coffee about 30 minutes before a crash. Or even better don´t drink coffee or energy drinks if you don´t need it, it is healthier to eat fruits like apples and bananas or vegetables and salad anything that gives you the boost you need when you feel down.
Find a sleeping schedule that you don´t change every other night and stick to it.
Have a short 5-10 minute break after you did a certain task or after an hour because it is important to recharge your energy and to get full in the zone when you need to.
Ensure you do some daily movement activities like walking or exercise for about 20 minutes to get more energized as when you only sit all day long. There are many things you can do, like running, yoga, or weightlifting, or high-intensity interval training where you do a short 5-10 minute intensive workout. It is up to you what movement you want to make as a daily routine remember to feel more energized you need to do something.
Social interaction with positive people can help you have more focus and lift up your mood for the challenges you need to take on.
Your brain keeps easily wandering off, so when you have a brilliant idea, write it on a nearby notepad, so it doesn´t disappear in your thoughts.
Remember, for the four-step strategy, the highlight focus energize and reflect on the results to enrich your days with something meaningful. There are many tactics to try out, but you don´t need to do all of them at once. Think strategies are three recipes for breakfast lunch and dinner. And each day you try out one recipe per meal at most.
It can be helpful to write down what you want to try with a date. If you are done for the day, you can rate the recipes on how much energy and focus you got on a scale of 1 to 10. To make it more positive, you can write down a moment you feel grateful for.
When you work from home you also need to make sure you have a separate room for your work if possible.
If you find the right tactics, you can get the time energy, and focus on the activities, projects, and people you care about.