10 Tips for Tackling your Day with Focus and Strategy!
I'm writing this one for my friend and fellow Hubber, Joe of hawaiianodysseus.
He asked for it!
I was thinking the other day how the world was a much different place before the internet. While on one hand, it may have been less productive for some. But on the other, I can't imagine my granny getting half of the work done that she used to do single-handedly, like ironing grandpa's handkerchiefs, if she had access to Google.
Back in that time, focus and energy were consistently placed on prioritizing chores. For example, garbage is taken out in the morning, dinner made in the afternoon, kitchen cleaned at night, and the floors mopped to start the day over again tomorrow.
Soap Operas were popular and could have accounted for a slight increase of nonproductive moments in the home.
Without the internet though, the world would have not seen as nearly as many work-from-home opportunities as it does today.
Immediately following the birth of my first child, I couldn't stand the thought of being home and not doing anything to bring in money after being a professional most of my adult life. I researched and started my very own first business! I owned and managed an online boutique! It did quite well. I absolutely learned the ins and outs of inventory, merchandising, stocking virtual rows, accepting online payments and shipping parcels. One holiday, I was shipping out over 30 packages a day. My mail carrier literally runs the other way now when she sees me in the neighborhood. It was a different climate. The economy was healthier and more stable. I was able to do well and achieve my goals because I also didn't have the responsibilities that I've grown in to having now in this stage of life.
When I started working from home, the most challenging of them all was figuring out how to put as much focus in to my work at home as I did when I was getting paid to work for someone else.
Tip #1: Schedule your time!
I am a calendar junkie. There is a stick-on calendar on my fridge where I write out my weekly appointments.
I may have even talked about this before in an older Hub because it's so important to me.
My brain is tired and mushy. That means I have to keep reminders around everywhere.
This week, school has half days on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for teacher conferences.
My husband has to call the repair shop today, Monday, because our van just failed emissions testing and needs work done.
Tuesday, the oil truck is coming to fill the oil tank and I just hope he comes after I get the children off to school.
Wednesday, we have a one-hour appointment with my son's Autism therapist, as well as an evening appointment with Occupational Therapy. In addition, I have to be at a teacher's meeting at 5:30 p.m., right in between the other appointments.
Some days, I'm not sure how I am able to get it all done. But certainly without my calendars, nothing would get done, because I would forget half of what I have to do.
Use a Calendar.
By using a calendar instead of an electronic device, the tasks are in front of you on paper, versus stored in a machine.
Get into good habits now.
Train your brain to get in to focus and form good habits now.
That way you will automatically apply the habits to daily strategizing and task organizing.
- Plan ahead
Just a note!
Make a daily agenda too!
Focus on what you need to do one day at a time.
Tip #2: Keep daily goals in focus above all else.
When you calendar appointments and tasks that you want to get done, it allows you to keep those items in the forefront of your day and mind.
Having it written down on paper establishes a record of transfer from your mind to the task list.
This is beneficial in two ways.
First, it clears your mind of clutter. Too much on the brain and we can go in to overload capacity.
Second, it gives you a place to focus your thoughts.
In this world, a lot of people use electronics to calendar daily appointments and tasks. Even when I worked in a professional office and used electronic gadgets myself, I never relied on them for scheduling. It was too easy to overlook something or forget. It was "out of sight and out of mind". It was stored in an electronic device, that may or may not have had a reminder, but even still, it wasn't in front of me.
The only way I've personally been able to focus on tasks at hand is if they are written down in front of me. The act of writing them also plays an equivalent part in remembering to focus.
A lot of people use electronic devices and go through their daily tasks with focus and breeze. That's great. I wish I could be like that. But with everything I have going on, with caring for other people, pets, and children, it only works when I write it down.
Now that the agenda items are written down (or stored in an electronic device), you must remember to focus on those first.
- If you have an appointment that requires preparation, do that first. Don't procrastinate.
- Look ahead in your schedule for the week as well. If you are planning on bringing cupcakes to the bake sale, make sure you have a list of ingredients you will need next time you stop at the store instead of waiting until you start your mixer and realize you have no flour in the pantry.
- When you have more than one thing scheduled at the same time, such as in my case on Wednesday with three appointments and only one of me, make sure you have a back-up helper. Or, re-schedule an appointment to make everything fit.
Just a note!
I've gone through four calendars in two years. They get so full, I have to buy a new one every six months.
Tip #3: It's not healthy to schedule one appointment on top of another.
I fell in to this trap the year my son was diagnosed with Autism.
It was horrendous. We had so many medical appointments, I didn't have time to think. I was running on empty, hoping that my coffee would last until I got to the next medical facility with a cafeteria.
This is not a healthy way to live. By all means, if you can avoid this, do so. Trust me, we are not meant to be super heroes. As much as I would love to wear spandex and a red cape all day, in hopes it would help me fly faster, it's not realistic.
The point is, many places today schedule appointments based on their schedule. For example, the dentist office fits you in when it's convenient to them.
I stopped living by that rule when it began to interfere with my schedule. Now, I bring my schedule with me everywhere. In fact, I use a tote bag instead of a purse for this very reason. My schedule needs to fit in it.
When you are at the dentist office, and they want you to schedule your next appointment when it's convenient for them, you tell them when you are available. Don't settle for anything beyond that and if they can't accommodate your request six months in advance, time to find a new dentist!
Tip #4: Utilize resources to help you become more efficient.
This is one piece of helpful advice I learned after starting my home-based business and trying to train three dogs new tricks.
Seriously, everything happened at once in my life.
I got married, got sick, my son was diagnosed with Autism, I adopted three dogs, and became paralyzed for eight days. I had to learn to walk again, while trying to run a home-based business, and taking care of my son's medical and schooling needs.
If you want to know how to become efficient, just ask me! I've been there, done that, and while people think I'm a little crazy, crazy has helped me become who I am.
- Get yourself an apron. As nutty as this one sounds, like who buys an apron except for cooking in the kitchen or making a cake? The point of an apron is to protect yourself from spilled flour right? Not necessarily! I am constantly running from one appointment to the next. I don't have extra money to buy new clothes. I can't possibly stop and change during the day several times. So, I bought an apron. I wear it. Why? Because if I were to spill my coffee or if a pen were to burst while I was writing, I'd be protected from stains. It also helps me stay focused. When I have the apron on, I'm in work mode.
- Wear a Tool Belt. This sounds funny too right? Not really! They are extremely useful and cost less than one dollar at your local Home Depot. They have several pockets. If I am outdoors with my dogs, I can keep my keys, whistle, treats all in the pockets and have free hands to work with the dogs.
- Wear nurse scrub tops. These tops can be worn instead of aprons. They have pockets.
Again, the points here are to protect your clothing and to have free hands! When you have free hands, you will work much more efficiently than if you are running around trying to find your glasses that you left on top of your head.
Tip #5. Stop playing Farmville.
This one hits close to home.
When I first got out of the hospital after thyroid surgery two years ago, I was supposed to be working for a client designing bulletin boards and scrapbook pages for nursing home residents. I became wound up in Farmville. For some reason, it drew me in with addictive qualities and I couldn't free myself from it's tight grip.
My husband noticed one day that I was healing from surgery and should have been able to do light stuff around the house. He asked me why I was playing on a computer with fake animals and crops when I have the real thing to tend to outside?
I looked at my husband and started laughing hysterically.
What a stupid concept. There I was, enjoying Farmville so much, that I had calendared as I obsessively do, when my crops needed picking and planting so they wouldn't wilt. He told me if I had that much zest for the real thing outside, we'd grow enough food for a small village.
So, lesson learned from me, regardless what game you play, just stop. I know it's difficult. I had withdrawals for weeks. I even had nightmares about my crops wilting. But seriously, whether you play candy craze, mine sweep or whatever other free game on the computer, take a step back and re-evaluate what's more important.
People used to tell me all the time on Farmville, the ones I connected with on Facebook, that their house wasn't clean and they had no food in the cupboards, but they had a really high score and just won a free unicorn on Farmville!
My Farmville Farm before I stopped playing.
Tip #6: Don't let negativity zap your focus.
Here's a really important point to ponder.
I think we've all been there at some time.
For example, yesterday my family went for a car ride on a beautiful fall day, looking at the leaves changing. The air was crisp. We were all in a great mood. We stopped to get a snack at the local coffee shop. Cheerfully we go to leave, and a customer outside of the door, barges through us, almost spilling our beverages (including mine that was hot), didn't apologize, no excuse me, and didn't thank me for holding the door open!
That bothered me. And then, of course, I couldn't stop thinking about that rude person. How dare she! I thought about what I should have said to her and how I really wanted to march right back in there and tell her I'd like to thank her mother for never teaching her any manners!
But then, who would be the rude one then? That would be very rude of me. Eventually I calmed down, but my husband told me that we shouldn't dwell on people like that. We should be thankful we aren't like them. What an empty existence it must be to live a life like that, not stopping to enjoy the small stuff.
While my focus was on the beautiful day, I did allow it to be taken away by that rude person, only for a short time, until we turned on the radio and started singing to our favorite songs. It then brought me back to a positive note.
Tip #7: Prepare for appointments ahead of time.
I'm guilty about this one.
Often times I have appointments that need a lot of preparation, and I wait to the last minute.
I admit it, I procrastinate. I just don't like doing thing I don't like to do. I know it should be done first, but I wait until I have to do it. It's not a healthy way to do things.
Looking forward in my calendar this week, I see on Thursday I have a school meeting to discuss my son's amazing progress he has accomplished during this school year. It should be a happy meeting. But even still, it's a meeting. Thank goodness it's not on a Monday. I don't like Monday meetings at all, and I've had my share of those! You'd think I would start today and get those folders organized so they'd be ready to go out the door with me come Thursday morning. But no, I'm going to wait like always until Thursday comes. Then while I'm rushing around doing a hundred other things it will dawn on me that I have to be out the door in a few minutes, and I never organized the folders.
So take it from me, don't stress yourself by waiting and procrastinating! It's not worth it. Plan ahead for items on your weekly calendar.
How many times do you shop at the grocery store every week?
Tip #8: Make one store trip a week.
Schedule time to go to the grocery store.
I've gotten in to a terrible habit. I go to the grocery store several times a week. That's counter-productive to my schedule.
I keep a whiteboard on the fridge to mark down any grocery items we need from the next shopping trip. But lately, I go out several times a week and buy those items, including a big shopping trip once a week. What a waste of gas and time!
Here are some tips for avoiding that trap:
- Plan ahead for meals. Prepare a list of meals you want to make for the week and write down a list of ingredients to take with you to the store.
- Shop once a week. Ask ahead of time what everyone in your household would like and pick it up at the weekly shopping trip.
- Keep a generic list. Print out a generic list of items you buy every week. I keep a home inventory so I know what items we are out of or are coming close to running out so that I can buy them ahead of time.
Tip #9: Keep your phone off.
If you are feeling bogged down by intrusive phone calls, keep your phone off.
I started doing that a couple of years ago. Because there were two of us that needed medical care at one time, I was often interrupted with phone calls on a daily basis. My son and I both had a case manager from our insurance company, as well as numerous doctor appointments.
Those calls obviously took priority over anything else.
It became painful to have to repeat to well-intending friends why I couldn't stay on the phone with them. Eventually, I turned my phone off and only returned calls to the most important first. Everyone else had to wait.
Tip #10: Plan time for fun.
Life isn't supposed to be about working 24/7, nonstop.
We aren't machines. We are complicated beings with arteries and vessels that work together in rhythmical motion. But yet, we also need to stay upbeat and active. Sitting down or rushing off constantly is no way to live.
Take it from me, you have no choice in this life but to live. So live it with focus and determination to be the best you can be, including scheduling time for fun.
Or hey, even better, if your spouse comes home unexpectedly, don't shrug them off to work. In the spur of the moment, rekindle that passion that once brought you together.
Five minutes of happiness will make up for ten minutes of being overworked.
Road trip to New York.
I realize these suggestions may not apply to everyone.
How do you attack your day with focus? Please comment below and tell us how you get it all done.