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It's All in the Plan

Updated on April 6, 2018

Sometimes, all we need is a cup of hot tea and a good planner.

Ways to have a more productive day

“There is just not enough time in the day!” I am certain that everyone I know has exhaustively proclaimed that statement at least once. I have said it to myself on numerous occasions. Ironically however, there is just enough time in every day. Each day, we are provided with twenty-four hours to do with what we will. When we think of the most successful people in the world, we think of people like Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. Coincidentally, even the most successful people have twenty-four hours in their day as well. It is in how they use those twenty-four hours that makes all the difference.

Plan. Plan. Plan!

It’s such a novel concept, I know. But, if you think of how so many of the most successful people in the world manage their time, well, it must be effective. You hear it in the movies often, and, depending on the environment, possibly in real life; the phrase, “let me check my calendar.” We are only granted so many minutes in every day, and with so many tasks that must be completed, trying to fit in the things that we want to do too, well, winging it just won’t cut it. I know, I know, I have prided myself on being the self-proclaimed “world’s best winger” most of my adult life. However, when I took on some monumental life changes, like a full-time job, going back to school and taking a full time accelerated course load, and trying to build on relationships with my new husband and granddaughters, well, I had a hard reality check. Work is work, it pays the bills, and it must be the time blocked in my calendar first and foremost. School assignments, well they tend to have those pesky little deadlines, so they must also be entered in the planner, but then I had to go a step further, and block off time to do the work to turn in by the assigned deadline. Doing things with my husband and spending quality time with my granddaughters are no less of a priority than the aforementioned, but they are more fluid, and do not have hard and fast time constraints set on them. Whether you try calendar blocking or any other method of time management, you need to develop a system of putting your plans in place. A recent report on socialmediatoday.com states that the average American spends about two hours a day on social media. That adds up to a whopping five years and four months over the span of an average lifetime. It is no wonder we are unable to complete the things that we need to get completed. Imagine what could be accomplished in that two hours spent on social media. It is imperative to make the things that must be done a priority. Even if you choose not to use a physical calendar or planner, we all have a handy dandy smart phone at the ready at any given moment, set reminders, set alarms for specific times that need to be spend on important tasks, and use the timer to block out times- and remember to put the phone on do not disturb mode when you are working on important tasks that require focus and attention!

Wake up early!

It is harsh, I know. I hate doing it myself, But, I can say with all certainty that when I get out of bed early, there is a marked difference in how productive my day goes. Mostly, I just feel better overall physically and mentally. We face a lot throughout the day with work, traffic, kids, or just any number of life’s little surprises. It will serve you well to wake up with enough time to prepare yourself for those daily challenges. Jumping out of bed, throwing on the first t shirt you grab, and running out the door is not the way to face the day like a lion ready to be the king of the jungle. Waking up early is not just enough to satisfy the idea here, there must be purpose in doing so. Do you ever wonder why all the great productivity gurus and successful people are always talking about having a morning routine? Hint: it’s because it works! There has to be a method to the madness, so to speak. So, when you wake early, have a plan in place as to what your morning will entail, but important things that will help you mentally and physically prepare for the day. Everyone’s morning routine will differ, but they should all include a few choice things such as (in no particular order):

1) Meditation/Self Reflection

2) Exercise

3) Read

4) PODA (Plan of daily activities)

5) Self-Care

Meditation/Self Reflection- morning time spent alone can be so soul rejuvenating. Think about this, you spend countless hours a day engaging in conversation with other people, from work to the grocery store, to your family. If you allow yourself as little as ten minutes a day to just sit quietly and reflect on how you want your day to go, or think out some of your personal goals and ideas, you will be surprised at how better equipped you are to mentally give to the countless others you will be answering to throughout the day.

Exercise- it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. In all seriousness though, you can look up any of half a dozen to a hundred of health articles that will corroborate the many health benefits of working out in the morning. First, exercise releases endorphins that act as a mood regulator and can keep you feeling in a great mood all day. Also, exercise increases brain power, which can help you maintain a sharper focus and more clarity in your thinking. Aside from the traditional benefit of sweating it out like detoxifying your body, according to an article published in Psychology Today (2004), exercise makes you smart, sweating releases “a protein called BDNF, for "brain-derived neurotrophic factor." This chemical, which helps nerve cells grow and connect, is important for fetal development. But it turns out to be critical in the adult brain, as well.” The article goes on to state that, “It turns out that the brain-body connection is more powerful than anyone thought. Shaking a leg (or curling a bicep) doesn't just make you stronger, healthier and better-looking—it also helps your brain shrug off damage and the effects of aging.” (Jozefowicz). Do you need more reasons than that?

Read- it is the one thing that the most successful people in the world have in common. According to an article published in the Huffington Post, “when Warren Buffett was once asked about the key to success, he pointed to a stack of nearby books and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”” (Merle, 2017). From the time we are children, reading is fundamental to building our vocabulary, and opening our minds to experience new worlds through the written word, that we may never otherwise experience with our own physical eyes. Find something that you are passionate about, read on it, study it, learn every aspect of the ins and outs of it. There is no more sure-fire way of obtaining self-growth than through reading.

PODA - your plan of daily activities. In essence, what is written in your planner, on your wall calendar, or jotted down in the reminders on your phone. It is about taking a few minutes each morning to look over the things that must be accomplished for that day, and strategizing a plan for making the most effective means of getting those things done.

Self care- that should be a given. Whether it is a morning skin care ritual, a few minutes of quiet time with a cup of hot tea, or taking a few minutes to read something of interest, you owe it to yourself to block out a set amount of time every morning take care of yourself before you begin taking care of anyone or anything else.

Eat the frog already!

Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” In modern times, many a time management guru has come to equate “the frog” with that one dreaded task on your to-do list that you keep putting off. You know the one, that pesky thing that makes you cringe, yet, it is always there, staring at you. There is no escaping it. The premise of eating the frog, means to take the biggest task of the day, usually that one that you put off because you just don’t want to do it, and get it out of the way first thing. The idea is that once the big task is completed, you can enjoy the rest of your day basking in the revelation that nothing else you do all day will be as challenging or monumental. So, tackle the big task first, and set the tone for the remainder of the day. Even if you do not accomplish one other thing the rest of the day, you will still fee like a certified bad ass for getting that one dreaded huge task behind you

Pomodoro, please!

The Pomodoro method is a system of time management that, uses a productivity interval which has been shown to improve your productivity. It gives you a prescribed interval of 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break. After 4 work intervals, there is a 15-minute break. There are apps and websites in which you can access a Pomodoro timer, such as http://www.online-timers.com/pomodoro-timers. The idea is that breaking tasks into smaller manageable blocks of time, and allowing yourself a little break in between, there is less likelihood of suffering from burnout or mental fatigue. This especially comes in handy when working on large homework or work-related assignments, such as reports or term papers. It is also quite beneficial when, ahem, eating that proverbial frog!

It is quite possible to have a productive day. The important thing is learning how to manage your time to allow for productivity, yet without feeling like you are running an exhaustive marathon. A little forethought and pre-planning can go a long way in setting the course for a more productive and less stressful life. There are limitless resources online to teach better time management. I encourage you to research them all, try a few dozen or so, until you find your niche.

Resources

Asano, Evan. “How Much Time Do People Spend on Social Media? [Infographic].” Social Media Today, 4 Jan. 2017, www.socialmediatoday.com/marketing/how-much-time-do-people-spend-social-media-infographic.

Jozefowicz, Chris. “Sweating Makes You Smart.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 1 May 2004, www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200405/sweating-makes-you-smart.

Merle, Andrew. “The Reading Habits of Ultra-Successful People.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-merle/the-reading-habits-of-ult_b_9688130.html.

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