Arnold Schwarzenegger was on George Stromboulopolous last week talking about his new book, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. The “Governator’s” life story is an impressive example of setting a goal, ignoring all the people who say you can’t do it, and working your butt off to make it happen. He used to work out four or five hours a day at home when he was dreaming of becoming Mr. Olympia. Do you dedicate four or five hours a day to making your dream a reality?
The one piece of the interview that stands out in my mind was the fact that Arnold said that everyone seems to think they don’t have enough time to do what they need to do. He said “I hear it all the time, and it’s a myth. There’s always enough time.”
He went on to share the story of meeting Pope John Paul II and how he was shocked to confirm that the Pope worked out every single day – waking up before the crack of dawn to do an extensive workout regime. He said each of the Presidents that he’s gotten to know works out every day and always makes the time. They are running the United States of America and they still find time to work out.
We all have the EXACT same amount of time in a day but it’s how we choose to use it that makes the difference.
So what is the secret? What is the secret to time management?
Personally, I don’t think you can manage time. I think the idea that you can manage time sells a lot of books (kind of like the idea that real estate will make you passive income sells a lot of training courses!).
My belief is that you can manage where you place your focus, and you can manage your energy. You can’t manage time. When you do an effective job of managing your focus and managing your energy, you will be able to fit a lot more in a day and still have some energy left to enjoy time with your family, friends and yourself!
A lot of our coaching clients who get to know me well ask “How do you get it all done?” I accomplish a lot in a day. I do outsource some tasks, I have a fabulous virtual assistant who handles a lot of day to day things for me, we have a great office manager for our real estate business who takes a lot off our plate, but in general, I get a lot done most days.
Could I do more? Absolutely? I am not perfect. Facebook distracts me sometimes. Every once in awhile I find the Yahoo! headline about some celebrity too catchy to ignore and sometimes I get angry and annoyed over silly things and that takes precious energy away from more important matters. But generally, I have found a lot of things that work to accomplish some pretty major things in a day and a week.
Here’s my 5 Best Tips to Get Important Things Done in a Day:
1. Turn off your phone and your email for at least 60 minutes a day. The more it’s off, the more you’ll get done.
Obvious? Maybe – but practically nobody does this. While I am writing this my office doors are closed, my phone is silenced and my email is off. If I don’t do that, an article will take all day to write instead of 60-90 minutes. Tony Schwartz, in his brilliant book called Be Excellent at Anything, busts the multi-tasking myth wide open. He also warns against the dangers of switching back and forth from task to task. “When we focus on more than one thing, ‘simultaneous data streams flatten content, making prioritization all the harder.’ Trying to do multiple activities at the same time effectively desensitizes us to differences and distinctions between them.” If you tend to feel frazzled and pulled in too many directions, the biggest culprit is probably email or your phone. Regardless, it is the fact that you’re not focusing on any one task for very long that is causing you to feel that way. Pick a task, turn off your phone and email, get it done. Then check your phone and your email deal with pressing issues. Then repeat.
2. Say ‘No’ More.
Are you wishing for a clone of yourself? If you are, it means you’re taking on too much stuff and you need to start using the word NO and find ways to unload your to-do list.
It’s not easy. I have a driving desire to please people. Making someone unhappy makes me feel like total crap. So, yes, I sometimes feel guilty when I say no to invitations or requests from friends or family when the only reason I am saying no is that I need to manage my energy or focus on something else at that time. I also have a hard time not responding to every Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and email question that comes my way – and some days there are dozens. I want to help everyone, but if I did I would end up accomplishing nothing significant, ever. If I said yes to everyone who offered to buy me coffee or lunch to “pick my brain” I would be fat and brainless … I HAVE to say no to many things. It’s not realistic.
It’s time to say NO and start outsourcing some of your tasks, which leads me to #3.
#3 Ditch tasks, Delegate Tasks or Just Get ‘Em Done!
If you are feeling like there isn’t enough time, write down a list of EVERYTHING you have to do today. What is on that list that you can ditch (for example, do you think you need to read a Time Management book to get more time? Ditch that task … there you’ve just freed up 4 or 5 hours!). I promise there are things on your list that you don’t need to do. You think you should do them but you don’t really have to. There are also things on your list that someone else in your family can do for you or that you can hire out for a lot less money than you think. Once you’ve gotten rid of those things there are probably a couple of things that YOU and only YOU can do. What do you do then? See tip #1 – turn everything else off and just get it done. It almost always takes less time than you think. My strategy is ALWAYS do the most important thing in my day FIRST. Then I move onto other things on my list.
#4 Take a Nap
When the moment hits where I am dragging … I’m staring at my computer clicking mindlessly from email to Facebook to websites and back to email I try to catch myself and figure out what’s wrong. Usually I feel dead tired … having dedicated myself to a string of tasks that too a lot of mental focus or dealing with something that was emotionally draining, and the only way to recharge and get the most out of the rest of the day is a nap. Not a long nap – just a 15 minute rest will do the trick. After that, I have a big glass of water and a small snack and I get back to it. I can usually get another 3 or 4 hours of productive time out of myself and have energy for family time afterwards when I do that. When I try to power through by drinking tea or coffee, I end up grumpy and annoyed.
Sneak out to your car if you need to … or if all else fails, just take a walk outside. It’s not quite as good as a nap for me, but it will revive you, clear your mind and help you refocus.
#5 Get Clear on What You Want to Do & Then Set Difficult Goals
First, you must get clear. It’s unreasonable to expect you’re going to manage your day to day responsibilities and learn a new language, advance your career and buy 10 properties this year. Pick the most important thing and focus on that. Which one is most important to you and the life you want to create for yourself.
Tackle one big project at a time. It’s much more effective – especially when our daily lives are so demanding. But make sure that the thing you decide to focus on is a goal that makes you nervous and excited at the same time. If it isn’t doing that for you – it’s not the right goal. You’ll get distracted easily and it will just pile on with all the other things you think you should do but never find time for.
When I decided to write my book, More Than Cashflow, I didn’t just decide to write and publish a book (which, in itself is a ton of work), I wanted to sell the heck out of it. Specifically the goal is to create a Canadian Best Seller. This is not a small task for any book, but it’s a HUGE task for a self-published book on a niche subject like real estate. I have a long way to go, and the road is totally uphill as I battle to get it on book store shelves and continue to spread the word about it (Thanks to my fabulous Rev N You readers and clients that job is SO MUCH EASIER – so thank YOU for your reviews, shares and continued promotion!!). I can’t tell you if I will get to Canadian Best Seller status … we’re off to a great start. I can tell you that setting an ambitious goal is HIGHLY motivating.
You can radically improve your financial position, run a marathon, get a promotion or learn a new language – except for rare cases – we all have the talent and the capacity for such things. Mark Murphy, author of Hard Goals, says “when people under-perform their potential, it’s usually more an issue of motivation than of innate talent.” He also says “attitude does matter more than aptitude.” But here’s something you might not hear very often, set difficult goals. They work better. A hard goal tells yourself and others that your work is important. Mark ends his book by saying “You should feel outside your comfort zone, not so far that you feel like you’re on a bed of nails, but not too comfortable either. You’ll know when you find your sweet spot, because you’ve been there before, and it’s that place where you achieve your absolute best.”
I haven’t even got into some of the brilliant studies by Tony Schwartz on managing your energy in the day … rituals, focus, breaks and a focus on being healthy are all critical components as well … but we’ll save those for another day.
I’m with Arnold, we all have enough time, we just need to spend it more wisely and get revved up to achieve great things in our lives. Status Quo is comfortable but it’s probably not what you want or you wouldn’t be reading Rev N You! Let’s ditch the idea that we need to learn time management and focus on what you really want in your life, and manage your energy so you’re getting that done!
Woman with Clock Image Credit: © Ryan Jorgensen | Dreamstime.com