How can we do it all?
We’re already a couple months in to 2020 – how many of us have given up on our New Year resolutions? Most people bail on their ambitious goals for the year by the middle of February. Life happens, right? We probably already have a lot on our plate and trying to squeeze another hour out of the day to go to the gym seems literally impossible. I know I could use a few more hours of daylight each day and maybe even an additional day to the weekend. Then MAYBE I can get it all done.
Productivity and time management are crucial components of success, particularly in a leadership role. It can be overwhelming to think about “all of the things you need to think about” – the company you are responsible for, the projects you’re managing, the team you are leading, and the field that needs to be planted. Then there’s family time – dentist appointments, baseball games, dance lessons, and birthday parties (although I’m pretty good at making time for cake, though). Don’t forget the awesome two-year leadership development program we’re part of! Is work-life balance even possible?
This past seminar, we reflected a lot on resiliency and met a lot of productive people. I found myself thinking a lot about how these people can do it all. How are they managing the process of overcoming challenges and moving forward? How are they managing rapid growth? How are they managing complexities of policy and politics? How are they managing all of this with their personal lives, hobbies, and families?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried to find my own work-life balance (and by balance, I really mean try to find time to do it all). There’s no “one system” that you can pay a monthly subscription for that works for everyone. There are, however, an insane number of books discussing productivity and time management techniques. Here’s the kicker though: “reading more” is one of those resolutions that usually gets abandoned early on.
Below are some of the most helpful pieces of information I’ve found in my quest for 24+ hour days and 7+ day weeks. From books and blogs, I’ve developed my own system of productivity. Like most other things, it’s been a lot of trial and error. It’s still not perfect, but it gives me a chance to dream, think, and do. Here are some of the guiding principles that help me get it all done.
- Take advantage of procrastination. Wait, what? Yeah – that’s what I said too. I am a huge procrastinator. It’s natural to procrastinate – the mind is expressing a desire for curiosity and novelty. Instead of fighting it, learn to use it. Acknowledging and validating the urge to procrastinate actually trains your brain to see it as something neutral rather than a threat. This helps with your confidence to get it all done.
- Little habits lead to big impacts. I’m also one to dream up some pretty big goals, which usually require big changes. Big changes all at one time can be overwhelming. Break the changes up into smaller, bite-sized habits. Not only are the smaller changes in routine more palatable, they can also be more sustainable.
- Implement the 4:55 rule. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to think through the next day. If you’re a list maker, this is your chance to prioritize what has to be done and jot it down in your planner on tomorrow’s page.
- Find a method of organizing your projects, to-do lists, etc. This could be a fancy planner, little black notebook, or the calendar app on your phone. I would encourage you to try a couple of different options. I’ve noticed that as my workload changes, my preference to organize my lists and notes changes too. Right now, I’m using an app called Things.
- Give meditation a try. This is a new one for me and I’ve still got a lot to learn. However, making this a small habit everyday helps me to think clearer. It’s a good workout for the brain. I use an app called Headspace to guide me through this process every day.
While there’s no secret recipe for superhero-levels of productivity, there is definitely a major ingredient found in all systems and strategies: the word “no.” It’s just a really hard word to say. Saying “yes” to our coworkers, friends, and family is a lot easier. Because it’s a lot easier to say, we say it a lot more. Then our lists are out of control and whatever system we’ve invested in to help with our productivity or time management becomes overwhelming or inadequate. Saying “no” to one thing is actually saying “yes” to a lot of other things, including the items already on your to-do list, projects you’ve already committed to, and the things you are most passionate about.
Don’t give up on your resolutions just yet. Make the most out of each day.