Are you feeling overwhelmed by the festive season? We’ve all been there, but if you stay focussed you can sail through the chaos, make decisions better and ensure that you actually enjoy this amazing time of year.
Last Christmas, I had been working on a large project that was drawing to a close, Christmas was fast approaching, everyone seems to be in a rush, I had a large Christmas family gathering to prepare for, Christmas shopping to content with, and to top it all the whole shebang was happening at my house. There were times when I felt completely swamped and lost with what to do next.
When my brain felt fried and sleep-deprived, my goals helped direct my efforts and prioritise what needed to be done and when.
Creating clear goals for yourself can help give you motivation and focus, setting you up for success when you might otherwise feel overwhelmed.
This article is about giving you the top six for setting goals that get you through the season with a spring in your step, and a ticked off list of things to do.
Essentially, planning is nothing more than taking a piece of paper and a pen and writing down the tasks and associated steps that you need to take throughout the day to ensure that your goal is completed.
a) To start, get yourself a notebook and label it as your Personal Productivity Journal or your Professional Productivity Journal. (We recommend keeping a separate journal for work and for your personal life, so you can focus on them at separate times, thus maintaining your optimal work/life balance.)
b) Label each page with the day and the date and what needs to be done that particular day.
c) Next, prioritise each task in order of importance.
d) Highlight the top three items and focus on those first.
e) Cross off items as you complete them. Items that are not completed should be carried over to the next page.
Maximizing the Power of Your Productivity Journal
Personal development expert Brian Tracy believes that when you write down your action list the night before, your subconscious mind focuses on that plan while you sleep. By planning the night before, you will also start fresh and focused on the most important tasks for the day. Of course, you will want to review your list in the morning, but you will have a head start on your day.
Always have your productivity journal with you during the day to avoid becoming side-tracked. Crossing off completed tasks will give your subconscious mind a tremendous amount of satisfaction. This will also help to maintain your motivation to complete the remaining items on your action list.
If you find yourself moving uncompleted tasks over into the following day, and the day after that, then you need to ask yourself why that task is on your list in the first place and what value it has in your life. If you postpone a task three times, it does not belong on your action list.
Eat the Frog Before the Cake
If you haven’t heard of the phrase, ‘eat the frog’ when it comes to time management, let me introduce it.
Imagine if you have two plates in front of you, one has a frog and the other a slice of a chocolate cake. The problem is that you have to eat both. Which order would you eat them; the frog first and then the cake; right? Well, always remember this when dealing with things on your to do list, do the things that either you dislike doing, which might be either boring, or need focus or need time to do; do these things first. Then only to the ‘cake’ activities which are your more regular things or things that you enjoy or are quick to do.
Your frog is the task that will have the greatest impact on achieving your goals, and the task that you are most likely to procrastinate starting.
Nominate a Time for the ‘Regular Things’
You will know from experience what things tend to always come up of things to do. Nominate a date and time of when you do these particular regular things and keep to that date and time.
We tend to always go for the easy things to do, and our regular things is one of them. But if you find yourself doing these regular things at a time that isn’t allocated, then you will find yourself procrastinating. You will also find yourself taking too long doing these regular things instead of focusing on the things that actually need to be done which, for you, isn’t easy and nice to do. An example; I will only do my filing on a Tuesday and Thursday at 4pm. Another idea; I will do cleaning and tidying of the house only between 6pm – 7pm which includes washing.
Prioritise Your Goals
Ranking your goals will be just as important as setting them. Besides stating what the goals is, state how important each goal is to you. Remember to answer the question ‘Why?’ to yourself.
Here are three strategies you can use to make the most of your time:
- Set aside a regular mandatory “no work” time.
I know of a CEO who makes it a rule not to check emails between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. As the mother of three children, she also prioritises getting home in time for dinner with her family. Think about it: If a CEO is able to get home to spend time with her children, how can we make time for our interests and relationships outside of work?
Setting a period of time where you don’t work has a couple benefits. First, you get a chance to renew your energy levels for the future. Secondly, being able to step out of your usual work zone gives you the chance to come up with different ideas.
- Create a Daily Theme.
Do you ever find that switching between different tasks is more tiring than focusing on one task at a time? Assign a theme to each day. By focusing on one specific type of work each day of the week, it helps you stay accountable and monitor progress on every aspect of your goals. It also helps you stay focused on work.
You can use a similar method of creating themes, such as family, house, reports, collaboration, and presents to ensure all aspects of your goals are covered and that you’re working efficiently.
- Plan Your Time.
If you don’t plan out how you want your day to go, it’s very easy to end up in reactive mode. You end up refreshing your email inbox, replying to messages, and responding to calls that don’t push you forward. While these activities may make you feel productive, they actually take away time from your priorities.
I remind myself frequently that ultimately, I’m the one responsible for how my time and efforts are spent. I put my phone on silent and stay away from emails when I need to deep focus on my work. When it comes to my goals at home, I allocate when I will look at my phone and answer messages.
Still, I get off track at times and have to deal with surprises that pop up. But I know that by practicing effective strategies on a consistent basis, I can focus on the largest gains and stay proactive in managing my work and keeping a balanced family life.
Prepare for When the Storm Hits
There will always be a crisis’s and you need to prepare for it and include this in your goal setting since these storms can take you off track if you don’t anticipate them. The key to successfully handling a crisis is to move quickly and decisively, but carefully.
The first thing to do when a crisis hits is to identify the point of contact and make them aware of the situation. (For this, we’ll assume that point of contact is you.)
Then, you will want to gather and analyse the data.
- What happened?
- What were the direct causes? What were the indirect causes?
- What will happen next? What could happen next?
- What events will this impact?
- Who else needs to know about this?
Above all, take the time to do thorough, proper research. You don’t want to jump into action based on erroneous information and make the crisis worse.
You will also want to identify the threshold time; the time that you have before the situation moves out of your control or becomes exponentially worse. You may also find that the crisis will resolve itself after a certain point of time.
Creating a Plan
Once you have gathered the data, it’s time to create a plan. The best approach is to identify the problem, decide on a solution, break it down into parts, and create a timeline.
Below is a sample Action Plan.
|Problem: Aunty Michelle and Uncle Michael tells us last minute that they are also coming with their kids.
|Solution: Get presents and an extra Turkey.
|Timeline: Must be complete within next 48 hours.
|Put a list of present ideas for each person together.
|Two or Three
|Gather information on which websites to source these gifts and compare prices. Buy gifts and arrange to be picked up.
|Arrange who and where each present will be picked up from.
|Me and Henry
|Collection of presents
|Me and Henry
|Me and Henry
|Collect another Turkey when Shopping
Nine Ways to Overcome Procrastination
Your ability to select your most important task at any given moment, and then to start on that task and get it done both quickly and well, will probably have greatest impact on your success than any other quality or skill you can develop! If you nurture the habit of setting clear priorities and getting important tasks quickly finished, the majority of your time management issues will simply fade away.
Well, I hope these strategies give you the motivation to keep going and assist with you not feeling overwhelmed when it comes to all the things you need to juggle during this Christmas season. Remember to be nice to yourself and give yourself a break when you need it.