Today, we can do in minutes what would have taken years only a lifetime ago. But just as our capacity increased, so too did our appetite. Invariably, it seems that there’s never enough time in the day to do everything we want, leading to stress and frustration.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right strategies, techniques, and discipline, we can do all that we want, when we want, the way we want to do it.
The first step is clearing your mind, allowing you to focus on the task at hand. Depending on how scattered you feel right now, this may require a couple of actions. Begin by making a list of everything you "need" to do. Find some calm in offloading the burden from your mind onto a piece of paper, or into an app (I like Wunderlist and Asana).
Categorize these "needs" by urgency, importance, and those that are both urgent and important. Prioritize each accordingly, with your urgent/important tasks on top, followed by important, with the hollow urgent tasks at the bottom of the list. Now think about how many of these tasks you need to do. Are there opportunities to outsource or automate all or parts of the task to someone else that will save you time, energy, and even money? Look especially hard at those tasks that are recurring.
Now that you have a better idea of your action items, it's time to evaluate your routine. As much as possible, take the guesswork and decision-making out of it. Save your mental energy for the decisions that are important, and build a routine around minimizing those decisions that are not. (There's a reason Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day.) Within your routine, set a block of time in which you will tackle the most important task of the day: the one that will make it or break it for which you can look back and say to yourself, "At least I got X done." You'll also want to set time for the other tasks; and, as much as possible, batch those that do little more than distract you, like checking email, reviewing headlines, and scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed.
Now pick out your bookends, the activities that you will begin or end the day with that support your personal work-life balance and mental/physical well-being. As an example, my morning bookends are usually 20 minutes of reading, 10-15 minute of meditation, and either a Yoga class or a 1-2 mile run. In the evening, it's usually housework, a CrossFit class, and an hour or so of Netflix. Figure out what's important to you with a mind towards those that carry benefits into other areas of your life.
With everything planned out, now comes the discipline. Stick to it, while adjusting based on what you see and feel; but, don't lose sight of what inspired the intention in the first place. Aristotle's words are as true today as they were 2300 years ago: "We are what we repeatedly do."
Recommendations for tools and other resources are available on our website, www.fitizen.org, in The Guide.