NEW NORMAL - Take back your time in 2023 with these simple planning strategies
ASSESS YOUR WORKFLOW (EVEN OUTSIDE OF WORK)
First, start by observing how you are spending your time. Note the things that take up large amounts of time and those habits you’ve developed to get things done or recurring tasks to which you’ve committed. Are there things that you’re doing that you don’t want to do anymore—and can you drop them? This type of awareness helps you get clear about the areas that need to be addressed as you look at forming new habits and saving time.
CHOOSE A MAIN TRACKING TOOL
“For most people, everything that they have to do is scattered,” Thomas says. You may use a combination of memory, flagged email messages, notes and scraps of paper, and even a dry erase board—and that means you may spend unnecessary time looking for what you have to do. Pick one tool or one place where you’ll track all of your tasks and commitments. That gives you the data you need to start making changes. If you’re comfortable with technology, Thomas says the benefit of using digital task managers like Todoist, Basecamp, Asana, or Microsoft ToDo is that you can automate reminders for important tasks or appointments.
CREATE A “DAY TEMPLATE”
If you have habits that are impeding productivity, use the power of habit and automation to redirect them. Using a digital calendar allows you to create “templates” for your days—in other words, repeating patterns of appointments—which can guide you to plan focus work, meetings, and other tasks at the best times for you. if others can use your calendar to schedule meetings, block out times when you’re simply not available on your primary calendar. It’s a good idea to batch like tasks together, which can help you get more done than if you’re moving from one task to another very different one. Routines that help you start and end your day. When you build purposeful routines, you’re less likely to blow 30 minutes on social media without realizing it.
STOP MAKING LISTS AND START MAKING PLANS
Lists can be important tools to keep track of all that needs to be done. But if you take your list a step further and turn it into a plan, you can save time later. Forget the to-do list—take a few minutes and plan your day, including the top three things that you need to get done. Instead of making a grocery list, plan your food for the week, then derive your grocery list from that. Once you’ve completed your plan, you’ve saved decision-making time and preparation effort later on.
Let’s say you have a habit of grabbing a coffee and scrolling through social media and email in the first minutes of your day. That can send you into reactive mode, putting out fires for a few hours or causing distraction from what you really need to get done, Abel says. But by using habit-stacking—adopting new behaviors related to existing habits—you can use that same powerful impulse to improve how you get things done. “Mornings already include a lot of habits that are very set, like making coffee,” she says. So, decide in advance what’s going to happen when you put down your last cup of coffee. Commit to closing all of your browser tabs to focus on your new project or doing some other essential task you want to complete that day, Abel says. When you make small modifications anchored to strong existing habits, you can create meaningful behavior change.
Within your template or plan, include recurring tasks and either batch or automate them. For example, if you have a stack of bills due on the 15th of the month, set up autopay with a reminder so you can ensure funds are in place, Thomas suggests. Use automated reminders to help keep you on task. Create rules to help you sort email messages. (And if that doesn’t work, simply create files for “urgent,” “keep for later,” “newsletters,” and other indicators so you can sort them, then address them by their priority level when you have time to do so.)
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