Last week, we talked about the “Hierarchy of Competence”, a psychological model that helps us to understand how we learn and acquire new skills.

When I work with folks, however, their goals are usually around things that feel a bit more high-level than learning specific skills. We’re often looking at goals like:

  • Feeling organized
  • Having enough time for the things you need (and want) to do
  • Having time for yourself
  • Feeling “on top of things”
  • Reduced stress and anxiety

However, to achieve those goals, skill building and habit building are necessary. But, what exactly are those skills and habits? What tactics can you learn, what strategies can you apply, what habits can you build so that you can achieve these high-level goals?

Well, today I’m going to let you in on a little secret, one that you wouldn’t normally have access to unless we’d worked together. What I want to show you are the 8 elements, the 8 key steps, to feeling satisfied, every day, that your time was well spent:

  1. Take stock of your situation
    • Before you get started on any journey, it helps to know exactly where you’re starting from. The first step to achieving your goals around time is to take stock of your current reality. This means understanding where your time is currently being spent, and defining the gap between where you are and where you want to be. And it also means learning a bit more about yourself and your natural tendencies because I’ve found that it’s MUCH easier and more sustainable to build habits around who you are already than to try to squeeze yourself into a box just because something worked for some guy who wrote a book about it.
  2. Build a system to manage tasks and projects (for work AND home)
    • Task management, in many ways, IS time management. Task management might not sound very sexy, but when you get this right, everything becomes easier. Task management is about creating a system (not just a list!) of everything on your plate, so that you can drop the stress of relying on memory and prioritize with confidence. When you have a working system for your tasks, you get to live life without the anxiety of potentially dropped balls. You get to put an end to procrastination. And you get to end every day knowing that what you did was more important than what you didn’t do. (Spoiler: You’re not gonna do it ALL. And neither am I.)
  3. Integrate planning
    • Have you ever heard “A dream without a plan is just a wish”? Well I couldn’t agree more. When you separate the planning from the doing, you make better decisions and get more done. In fact, my definition of productivity is “doing what I’d planned to do”. Will your plans always go smoothly? Nope. But planning is about preparation, not perfection. And learning how to plan realistically (based on the time you have available) and flexibly (because you have to expect the unexpected) is central to achieving your goals.
  4. Wrangle communication (email, Slack, etc.)
    • Does it ever feel like communications are coming at you so fast you barely have time to read them, let alone reply? Learning to drink from the firehose (without choking!) is central to spending your time in support of your goals and values. Email, Slack? They’re never-ending. But that’s no reason to throw up your hands in defeat. There are simple skills you can learn to stay on top of communications without spending all your time in email or Slack.
  5. Conquer your calendar
    • It can feel like your calendar is a beast that will never be tamed. But it can be. Instead of being a source of anxiety, your calendar can be a boundary enforcer, it can be a guide to your day, and it can be a friend that helps keep you on track throughout the day.
  6. Build sustainable habits
    • Approx. 43% of our day is run by habit, so you want to ensure that your habits are support your goals instead of the other way around. When learning to take control of your time, that moment when new skills become habit is the holy grail. But habits are not build on willpower or motivation alone. Science-backed techniques (and practice!) are key to building habits.
  7. Embrace efficiency
    • Once your tasks, your communications and your calendar are sorted, and your habits are well under way, it’s time to put the icing on the cake. Instead of using brute force, you want to get tactical about “working smarter, not harder”. Skills like template-izing, delegation, outsourcing, and batch processing are just a few of the tools at your disposal to get more done in less time and with less effort.
  8. Focus
    • And finally, in the last step in living a life where your time is well aligned with your goals and values is to learn how to focus. Even on the stuff you don’t want to (but have to) do. Even in a room full of distractions. Even when you feel paralyzed by competing priorities.

When you look at the 8 steps above, maybe you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. Maybe you’re doing well in some areas and not others. Or maybe you feel like you have room to grow in all of these areas. (Heck, most of us have room to grow in most areas of life!)

But the good news is, wherever you are, there are tactical, practical skills you can learn to start living a life where you feel, every day, that your time was well spent.

Now, if we haven’t had the opportunity to work together yet and you want a taste of what that could be like, I want to extend an invitation to you; I’m offering a free masterclass, called “How to Bust Through Your Productivity Roadblocks”. And you can register right HERE for free. If you join me, you’ll come away knowing: 

  • The 3 primary roadblocks to productivity (and what to do about them)
  •  My favorite tool for keeping track of EVERYTHING (so that it doesn’t have to live in your head, taking up valuable space I’m sure you’d rather have for something…anything…else.)
  • A simple technique that increases productivity AND decreases stress, at the same time

I hope to see you there!