Dawn breaks and a new day begins…
The Alarm clock starts beeping, the baby wakes up, cries and needs attending to, Slack messages start to stream through with a constant array of requests, next Whatsapp starts going off, one message, two messages, six, nine, oh my gosh can this day just behave.
Then Instagram messages and emails beckon, and you notice that little red dot on LinkedIn pop into view r provocatively signalling that someone you don’t know has sent you a direct message quite probably attempting to try and sell you their financial services or offer you their lead generation automation tool but you aren’t sure and can’t resist checking.
If you’re anything like me, living in the 21st century and have a phone, a baby and a high-pressure job with responsibilities, there’s a heck of a lot to get your head around in terms of demands for your attention, time and all of the above.
Working out what is important and what is simply a cry for attention can be quite difficult. In short, it can, at times, become a very overwhelming.
If you’re anything like I used to be, I hear you.
It wasn’t until I came up with a system to deal with overwhelm that I really started to be able to take back control of my day and get the most important tasks done.
By implementing a system, it will allow you to feel more fulfilled, spend more time on the important tasks and be more creative. If you want to become the top performer at work, in your chosen profession or for your own business, you’ve got to get smart about how you organise, value and prioritise your time.
To overcome overwhelm and have a system for operating life, I developed my 4C’s model for living every day in charge and with purpose, this helped me achieve my main goal which was to get the most out of my fullest potential.
You can find out more about my 4C’s model in my new book, Be The Lion: How to Overcome Big Challenges and Make It Happen.
I guarantee you, if you spend your days in reactivity mode just dealing with things as they appear in view, putting out fires, dealing with urgent requests, it will leave you frazzled, overstressed and in a state of panic. It will be difficult for you to hit your stride and get the most out of your fullest potential.
The way to think of it is, if you are always suffering from a lack of time, stretched and busy then you never get the time to spend on the things that will actually move the needle, the things that matter and can actually be a game changer for your business.
It comes down to one thing!
But to be effective, first you need to know what is worth spending your time on.
Introducing the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, in this neat little table it holds the key to becoming a master of effectiveness and decision making. This tool will help you structure your day and get more done than ever before.
To get straight to the point, as this post is about being effective after all, the goal is to spend at least 60% of your time in the Not Urgent but Important quadrant (highlighted in a nice shade of pinky orange).
If you are spending time in this space, doing activities and tasks that are important but not yet urgent you are working on what matters most, building relationships, being creative, planning, business strategy, doing the work of developing a business pipeline, planting the seeds for the future and nurturing what is already there. THIS IS WHERE YOU NEED TO FOCUS YOUR EFFORTS!
If however you are spending your time in the Urgent and Important quadrant (top left) as most overwhelmed folk do, this means you are always up against it, never have enough time, you are busy putting out fires, dealing with deadlines and barely making it through each day with any time to dedicate to your craft.
It is the biggest misconception to think that busy equals effective. We think we are a high performer because our day is full, but in reality, we aren’t able to put in the ground work that will help us produce results, retain business, build sustainable growth and develop the relationships that could transform our lives.
If this is you then believe me I understand, the constant pressure and bombardment of fires to fight is unquestionably difficult in this day and age. But it has to stop. If you are going to become a person who operates at your highest potential and live the life of your dreams, (opening up that online fashion store or selling that multimillion-dollar pad in Tahiti) then you must get serious about how you organise your time so that you can pursue your dreams.
Just to talk quickly about the other two, the Not Important and Urgent quadrant is even worse, this means you are literally wasting your time doing things that not only won’t move the needle, but they will be stressful, annoying and frustrating making you a hot mess in the process.
If there are tasks that you can delegate in your daily business to a colleague like meetings, conference calls, or a place you can go where you won’t be interrupted whilst you are doing your best work then please make it happen.
Likewise, at home, if there are tasks that need to get done but are sucking up your time, like cleaning your apartment, or walking your dog, then DO IT! Your time is valuable.
This is how you reclaim your time so that you can spend 60%+ of your day in the Not Urgent but Important quadrant. Not all tasks are created equal so spending a little extra cash to automate, outsource and delegate some of the not important tasks to free up your day has remarkable value.
Creating new products, developing new businesses, takes time, it doesn’t just happen.
Now that you’ve delegated the not important tasks (e.g. cooking, cleaning, meetings that you don’t need to attend, con calls that are not relevant) it is vital you also get rid and free yourself from distraction – otherwise known as the Not Important and Not Urgent quadrant.
If you spend time here then this is where you are literally watching your dreams die, don’t have that mansion yet? Just track how long you are spending on social media procrastinating per day.
Now, I know many of you will say I need to do Instagram for my business, and I get that, I agree, but it should not be at the detriment of creating your product to sell, or writing that book or doing your podcast.
Take a deeper look and get accountable at what you are doing when you are on social media, if you are indulging mindless scrolling then you need to eliminate this. This is another MUST! Eliminate the distractions from you life and crate more time to do productive needle moving things like calling that hard to reach client another time or making a promo video for your new company.
A trick I learned for maximising time and moving away from distraction was something I called Dead Time.
In dead time, we normally divert our attention to social media for a distraction, to kill the time and also get that hit of dopamine when we see something funny, or that someone has liked our photo, or our favourite person has released a new clothing line.
This is the hook, don’t get sucked in, social media is there to propel your business and grow your audience if used correctly.
However if for example you are waiting for a taxi, meeting, boat, car, plane and you scroll Instagram reading motivational quotes thinking you are getting inspired there is a big difference to being inspired and taking the inspired action to grow your business.
What you must do with dead time is use it to call up that client, send that email to the magazine to write a guest post, request to be a speaker on that awesome podcast show.
Dead time = action time.
You get one life, don’t leave anything on the table. Go for it with all you’ve got. Eliminate the activities that are holding you back. Social media scrolling is like eating cake while jogging hoping to get fit, the cake tastes amazing but it’s not helping you achieve your overall goal.
Another trick I have learned is to do the same task all at once. Like prospecting for new business. To get reduce the chances of overwhelm you must get focused and bulk tasks together.
What does this mean? It means every day you figure out a plan for how you are going spend your time and what you will be doing for each half hour block of your time. So for instance, I am going to follow up on all my meetings for the day I might section off half an hour at 4pm to respond to all my follow ups. Or if I have identified cold calling as a strategy I want to investigate, I will section of half and hour at 9.30am to do all my cold calling. The point is by bulking tasks together you will be more effective, learn from trends easier (because you will spot them) and actually get more done with the time.
I’ll say it again, learn to value your time.
When you say you are going to do something you follow through and do it. If it’s writing a blog post, you do this, you don’t start to write whilst listening to a podcast and getting interrupted by pings on your phone. Shut off the phone, cut off all the distractions and get focused on the single objective at hand.
Get into your creative flow and get the work done. You will find that it is a habit and the good thing about habits it the more you do it the better and deeper ingrained it will become. Like building muscle, learning to be focused on the task at hand will see you achieve more and because using the decision matrix framework above you will have identified that the task is actually valuable it will be worth your time and it becomes a virtuous circle. You actually have to do less but achieve more, because the quality of what you are focusing on improves and the quality of your output also increases.
Bulking of the same nature together improves effectiveness. For example, I know that when I am prospecting for new business 8.30am is the absolute best time for me to send out emails that will get a response. By doing this I maximise my likelihood of a response because the people I am trying to reach are commuting to work, they have more time to read the email and more of the day to action it. But for me, I also bulk this exercise so that I spend 8.00am -8.30am drafting up 10 emails to send out to my business prospects. Doing this all at once helps me stay focused on the task, move quicker and know that this one job that could move the dial on my business development by landing me a meeting with a new client is out the way and working it’s magic for me all day long. This in turn helps you to feel great, that you have ticked off this Important but Not Urgent task and sets you up for success.
I promise you if you implement the steps highlighted above and reorganise your daily schedule so that are spending more time on the things that matter you will not only reduce overwhelm you’ll become a top performer in the process.