May 25, 2018 admin

How to be less busy, and have more impact

Focus

I’ve been through a major shift in how I plan my days and get things done over the last few years.

I used to think a good day was getting as many things done as possible. I felt productive as I ploughed through my lists. But now I realise, I was actually just busy. I could get lots of things done, but my impact was inconsistent.

A better way of putting it is, I didn’t get the return on investment for the amount of time I put in, or the number of things I completed.

Reading How to write a million words – on a slacker’s schedule by Nate Green was a key moment for me. I realised it was better to have fewer focuses, and single task for 60-90 mins at a time.

Reading Deep Work by Cal Newport was another massive nudge in the right direction. It explores the benefits of focusing, concentrating and single tasking. Particularly the environments and routines which can help you get lost in a task or project.

Daily Rituals by Mason Currey is another really great resource. It’s full of short examples of people that produced huge bodies of very successful work. Most of them spent far less working than you might expect. But, what most had in common was the ability to focus, concentrate and single task.

Nowadays, I try and plan my days around a handful of meaningful things. I use focus blocks and single task wherever possible.

Of course, sometimes you have no choice but to power through a list of tasks or run errands. It is, what it is. But, I tend to batch those tasks into an admin time-block now — even if that’s half a day. I find this far better than being distracted throughout the day by these types of small tasks.

For example, this is what my day looks like today:

  • 06.00 – 08.00 – work on some mindset stuff and plan the day
  • 09.00 – 10.00 – two phone calls (both relating to a project I am working on)
  • 10.00 – 12.00 – write and publish this post
  • 12.00 – 13.30 – GMB Elements
  • 13.30 – 14.00 – lunch
  • 14.00 – 16.00 – work on a course I am building
  • 16.30 – 18.00 – take my daughter Fearne to a disco
  • 19.00 – 21.00 – murph (hopefully it doesn’t take me 2 hours 😉 )

As you can see, there is a trend of big things and blocks of time. A decent chunk of exercise, work and family stuff.

Now, I know it’s not always possible to plan any, or perhaps most days like this. For example yesterday I was looking after Fearne and had a list of errands I simply had to get done. And, everyone’s life is different and responsibilities change over time. But, it’s always worth consciously trying, where possible, to block off meaningful chunks of time, to do meaningful single tasks.

This morning I read an awesome post – Slow Down Time by David Cain. It’s somewhat related. He talks about slowing things down and avoiding living life on autopilot. It reminded me how when I was a kid, time really did move slow. A day could last forever.

Now that I think about it, I usually did fewer things, and was more present with whatever I was doing. Most of the time I did one thing at a time. It might have been playing football or video games – but it was still a chunk of time where I just did that one thing. I got lost in it.

It takes a bit of effort to take a step back and think about where you want to spend your time and how to manage it. But, I promise, the payback is always huge.

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