We’ve all watched the seconds tick away at a sporting event. If the game is close, it takes some clock management by the players to make sure a lead is preserved or a deficit is overcome. Our days are not much different. We have only so much time, and whether we are behind or ahead, it takes deliberate action to make the most of the minutes we have.
When we talk about using time wisely, a good place to start is setting priorities. By getting the most important things done first, we start our day with a victory. That’s great, but how do we know what things are most important?
Look at What Matters Most
Happy, successful people balance their time based on what’s most important in their life, not just in their career. They set goals based on the kind of person they want to be rather than what they want to check off their bucket list. The easiest way to do this is to ask yourself:
“Why do I wake up in the morning?”
“What core values drive me? A secure family? A strong relationship? An opportunity to make our world better? A chance to become more like the person God intended me to be?”
Answering a few introspective questions not only makes it easier to set our priorities but also gives us a stronger sense of well-being. That may shift our first task of the day from answering emails to reading scriptures or listening to inspiring podcasts and praying for daily guidance. It will influence whether or not we exercise or make that healthy smoothie—because exercise makes us feel better, and so does helping others, and so does telling somebody you think the world of them, and so does hugging someone you love.
Sounds like there’s not a lot of time left to do the day’s real work.
Think of it this way: if your heart is right, everything else will follow. So when you make up that daily task list, you’ll know which activities to eliminate, which to delegate, and which to schedule.
If your heart is right, everything else will follow.
Now let’s fill in the boxes.
What do I do to take care of myself so that I am happy, productive, and fulfilled?
Morning: Pray. Read. Express gratitude. Exercise. Eat right.
Morning at work: Start with the most pressing tasks that only you can do. If something can be delegated to a team member, set time aside to clarify the objectives with that team member. Now the wheels are spinning. You are locked in on what you have to get done, and other work on your list is also getting done.
Close the door. Turn off all notifications. Put your phone on airplane mode. Spend the next 25 minutes totally focused on that one thing that you have determined is most important. Then take a break. Don’t look at your phone. Stand up and stretch, take a sip of water, take five deep breaths. Now hit it again for another 25 minutes.
This time, when you pop your head up, give yourself a little pat on the back for how much you have accomplished in an hour. Measuring our progress and congratulating ourselves for having done a good job is good for our mental state.
A Word about Scheduling
Chunk out big times for uninterrupted focus. Schedule short times to get caught up with team members, express appreciation, and call home. That’s right, check in with the ones you love so you remember why you are working so hard.
Schedule phone calls and email blocks. Use the phone for conversations, and use email for delivering reports and updates and making requests for info. A lot of time is wasted in email threads when a simple conversation would do.
Schedule distractions. None of us can focus all day long on one thing.
Schedule distractions. None of us can focus all day long on one thing. Our brains work better when we take breaks: a 10-minute walk, 20 minutes of quiet time with our eyes closed, 5 minutes to read a sports blog. Many people are turning to meditation in the afternoon. Simply sit in a chair for 5 minutes and do nothing more than count your breaths—in, out. Clear your mind of everything else.
Multitasking versus Dual-Tasking
Multitasking is a huge time waster. Studies have shown that it doesn’t work. Our brains can do only one thing at a time, so switching rapidly between tasks increases the time it takes to accomplish them. But dual-tasking is different. We can do two things at once if one is physical and one is mental, like folding laundry while talking on the phone. It’s the same at work. Go for a walk while you make your phone calls. You get your exercise in and knock out your phone calls at the same time. Dual-tasking is best done in the afternoon, when mundane tasks need to be done. And if it’s a really mundane task, like restocking shelves or cleaning out files, make it a competition. Challenge yourself to get it done in a set amount of time, or compete with your coworkers.
Last Things Last
Hit the pause button before you go home. Make a list of things that need to be continued or started the next day. Then focus on your home life. Your children, your spouse, your parents, your friends—they all need you in some way. Pick and choose what you can do, and don’t let the evening run you ragged with requests from all sides. See to family first. Help with homework or housework. Make time to have conversations, to focus on the people who are the most important in your life. Turn your phone off when you’re all together. Now when you go to bed, you’ll know you did the best you could. Express your gratitude to God for the day, and you’ll be ready for the next one.
Make time to focus on the people who are the most important in your life.
Here are a few things to think about:
When we have too much to think about, we don’t do anything. Prioritize.
There is no such thing as multitasking, but dual-tasking can be very helpful.
Stay focused on the outcome. What do you really want for you, your family, or your coworkers?
You lose self-confidence when you break promises to yourself. Be realistic in your expectations.
Know what you want, and then make enough reasons to accomplish it.
Say no occasionally. Learn to give yourself a break.
Schedule things that make you happy.
Give away some of your time to make somebody else happy.
Create meaning in your life by connecting with your ancestors.
Have you heard of Marco Polo? It’s a meaningful way to chat with the people you love through video messaging, which is SO much better than texting. Many members of the Church are using the app to stay close with their ministering brothers and sisters. This is a new and improved way to connect to your action partners or members of your group. Instead of following up with a text from what you learned that week, send a Polo. Watch the video and use it for yourself!
We would love to hear your success stories! Send us a Polo of what you’ve learned in your Self-Reliance classes, and we will share it to our page.
Here’s the link to download the app to start chatting with people today.