Scramblers, those who rush around finishing tasks before bedtime. Procrastinators, listen up too. And also on the guest list are those who:
- Get into bed wondering where their 24 hours went
- Need a double ration of hours in their day
- Want to give up on life by lunchtime
The following method could quite frankly change your entire life. It is simple, but it works like a magic trick. How? First, by freeing up mental space to make you even more focused than a heat-seeking missile. Second, by emphasizing immediate action — the only type that counts.
1. Decide what to do today
Write everything down, but don’t forget that first word — decide. It is of prime importance. It’s the acknowledgement that there are always more things to do than you have time for. Which is fine. Most of it is not worth your time anyways.
2. Group activities
If you subscribe to the Getting Things Done philosophy, you know how important a clear mind is. Your brain is not a storage unit. Rather, it is the workshop in which you construct all your brilliant ideas and inventions. To take this analogy a little further — what is easier to move around? A pile of knick-knacks or a box of knick-knacks?
In order to do your best thinking, the minutiae of your day needs to be put away somewhere reliable. This is where grouping comes in. Instead of having a laundry list of tasks on your mind, figure out the key goal of the day in each of the main areas of your life.
Keep the details on one part of the plan, and the general breakdown in a separate section. I keep it real simple. My listed areas are work, food, sleep and other. “Other” is the knick-knack box to end all knick-knack boxes — cooking, laundry, cleaning, personal emails, errands and so on. These individual subdivisions don’t have dedicated spaces in my plan because they are flexible and constantly changing. Time and experience have taught me that life runs smoothly if I allocate two hours to this general category.
As for the rest of the areas, work is the second major one — I list the hours to spend writing and the specific project to complete. Sleep is not quite as complex — I just have a bedtime written down. And food doesn’t require me to write down a general target at all –rather I put away the details of this subject by quite literally boxing them in. My plan has a little box with the menu for the day and the times at which I will have each meal.
So now, when you are considering your day, you can play with this overview and be free from the details until you are ready to go deeper into a particular area.
3. Halve your day, halve your tasks and halve them again
Take the number of hours you have set aside for each of your major categories and halve them. This amount is what you will have to do by halftime, roughly eight hours from when you woke up. Halve it again. Congratulations, you have your general breakdown for the first quarter of your day.
4. Assign exact times and specific tasks
This is where the detailed list comes back into the picture. Four hours with breaks should give you approximately three different segments. This really feels like the sweet spot. I have a theory that the mind doesn’t want to hold onto more than three goals at a time.
Do make sure to build in breaks, especially if you have trouble with procrastination. You have full permission to do this because the goal is not maximum efficiency. It is finishing by the end of the quarter. That’s one of the major advantages of this method. It shows you that you have time to work and also to rest.
5. And… go!
- Try front-loading your schedule slightly so that you can take advantage of the morning, when you are freshest. This also has the advantage of helping you build momentum.
- Work towards moving things out of the final quarter and into the first three so that you can keep the last part of the day free. Again, breaks are the way to go!