Just a few months ago we all had a routine. Maybe you ran a few miles in the morning before heading to work or maybe you got the kids up and out the house for school before snacking on TeaSquares as you drove into the office. Whatever your routine, the COVID 19 outbreak pretty much disrupted everyone’s schedule.
In the months since we’ve had to come to terms with our new daily lifestyle and figure out some way to manage through the chaos. Like many of you, I found myself seeking some sort of structure to help me navigate each day, and feel more accomplished. After some personal reflection and reading, I put together a simple plan to feel accomplished every day.
The key to feeling more accomplished can be answered by these two questions:
Question 1: What do I want to do today? (Plan)
Question 2: Did I complete what I planned to do? (Reflect and Refine)
Feeling accomplished is measured by whether you did what you said you would do. It doesn’t matter what you did with your time, as long as it’s what you planned to do. It’s fine to watch Netflix, sleep on your deck, or mindlessly scroll social media, as long as that’s what you planned for the day.
Alternatively, checking work email, a seemingly productive task, is a distraction if it’s done when you intended to spend time with your family.
Our life priorities have all changed during this time, so it’s a great opportunity to revisit your life goals. Be sure to read my article on How To Optimize Your Life.
On a weekly basis identify any activities or tasks you’d like to specifically accomplish each week, while being realistic with how much time it will take and how much time you have. If you’re used to having 6 productive hours at the office, but now have your kids at home, you might only get 3 productive hours each day. It’s important to set realistic expectations in order to feel accomplished. These activities don’t just have to be work related. Include any activities that are important to you including family time, hobbies, and any volunteer work. Examples of accomplishments might include:
- Finish reading my new book - 4 hours
- Attend 3 business webinars - 3 hour
- Setup projector in backyard for movie night - 3 hours
- Run 5 miles every day - 8 hours total
Then, use your calendar or todo list to organize those tasks throughout each day of the week. Make sure you time box each activity based on what’s realistic. Arrange each activity on a specified day and time, adding in at least a 30min buffer between activities to account for the unexpected. Have a morning routine that you enjoy like coffee, exercise, or reading the news? Set a consistent wake up time and block out time for your morning routine each day.
My favorite tool to manage this process by far is an app called Sunsama. It’s a Todo list + Calendar productivity suite that allows you to easily plan out your day and week. It syncs with google calendar and your email. It also allows you to review what you accomplished each week, and how often tasks get pushed over to the next day. If you’re looking to up your organization level, definitely sign up. It’s invite over, so email me: firstname.lastname@example.org for an invite.
Now that you’ve created a routine for yourself and have goals to accomplish, its time to measure how you did.
REFLECT AND REFINE
At the end of each week, add 15min to your calendar to reflect on your accomplishments each week. Ask yourself, “When did I follow my schedule and when did I get distracted?” Answering this question requires you to note when you got off track. What I’ll do is add a start and finish time to each of my tasks on Sunsama. Then at the end of the week, I can go back and measure my distractions.
Sometimes distractions come from internal triggers, like remembering an e-mail you meant to respond to. Other times distractions come from external triggers, a social media ping, or your kids asking for help with their schoolwork.
Once you understand where your distractions are coming from, make adjustments to account for them.
One internal trigger I have is constantly thinking of ideas or remembering something I forgot to do. My urge is just to stop and do it before I forget, but that’s a mistake. Now instead, I’ll add that idea or task to my to-do list in Sunsama and plan a future time to take care of it. That way I won’t forget it, but it’s also out of my mind.
Maybe something unexpected came up. If you find that unexpected things happen every day, reduce how much you expect to accomplish and plan for more buffer time (ie. flexibility) each day. If you habitually underestimate how long it would take to complete certain tasks, begin with your estimate and then double it. It’s better to accomplish tasks faster than expected.
If you’re getting distracted by members of your household, talk with them to figure out a plan that works. Communicating your expectations and listening to theirs will save everyone lots of frustration. If you need quiet time to work, ask that they don’t disrupt you during a specific time. Listen to their needs as well, and be there when they need you to be.
After reflecting, refine your schedule for the next week and repeat.
Follow these steps, and you’ll start to feel more accomplished.