Do you feel over-obligated, over-loaded and overwhelmed? Are you longing to reduce overwhelm and simplify your life? If so, I recommend starting with a review of your diary commitments so that you can approach your days with a calm energy and enjoy better balance and productivity.
Start by identifying the activities and commitments that are non-negotiable and those that you love such as work-related obligations, social engagements, children’s extra-curricular activities or volunteering responsibilities. Once you have fixed these in your calendar, look at all the other things you are spending your time on and make decisions on what can stay and what you can let go of or delegate. It is possible that some of the regular activities in your calendar are no longer either fulfilling or necessary; ditching them could open up some much-needed space.
If you’re hesitating about stopping something in order to reclaim some time, do bear in mind it doesn’t have to be forever – ‘no’ can mean ‘not now’ – and you can always revisit it at a later date.
Rather than using a traditional to-do list, try taking a diary-led approach where you schedule blocks of times for specific activities. This can really help you get a handle on how you spend your time. Using a digital calendar, such as Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar, and plotting out realistic and reasonable blocks of time, can give you a visual overview of your commitments and, importantly, your capacity. I find this makes it so much easier for me to make informed decisions about taking on additional commitments, as I can simply see at a glance whether or not I have the time to take on anything else.
This activity can be a game-changer when it comes to productivity! Make an appointment with yourself and use that time to capture, evaluate and process any outstanding items, review your upcoming schedule and generally catch up with yourself. This is an opportunity to deal with any loose ends at work and home such as unanswered emails or phone calls, notes from meetings, texts and your in-tray. You can assess your calendar for next actions and get really clear on your current tasks and activities.
One scientifically proven tip for beating procrastination is to identify a micro-goal, set a timer for 5 minutes, and then spend those 5 minutes working towards that goal. Once you have started something, you’re much more likely to finish it. This is known as The Zeigarnik Effect.
If a task is going to take 2 minutes or less, just do it! In his book, Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen promotes this rule as a way of dealing with fiddly little tasks and simple actions that don’t ever need to go on a to-do list or in a calendar. I’ve found that this can be an effective way of keeping on top of messages, as well as little jobs around the house i.e. putting away some laundry.
I use this technique for emails, incoming tasks and mail, and find that applying RAFT thinking can make processing these items relatively swift and seamless. I highly recommend that you only have your email account open when you have time to process emails not just check them.
I find it can also be helpful to keep the number of folders you use down to the bare minimum. This reduces the thinking involved in working out where to put/find messages, but means there is no need for scrolling up and down a long list of possibilities.
Why not try these simple tips and see if you can start 2021 with your diary and emails in good shape? This will help you make the most of the year ahead.
If Kate’s tips have inspired you to get some help with your productivity and organising goals this year, you can find your nearest APDO professional organisers and productivity experts on our Find An Organiser database.