Ten simple ways to move from chaos to clarity and unlock 2 hours a day

We are consistently juggling competing demands. We spend so much time working in the business that there is no time to work on the business. We want to move from chaos to clarity and create structure, but we get overwhelmed.  Sound familiar?

Sales is the lifeblood of your company. You know you need to grow sales, but can’t find the time to work on it. How do you squeeze more out of your day to find room to work on growing sales? This post is going to share ideas to help you can gain back valuable time each day and maximize your productivity. Here are our top 10 tips on how you can gain back precious time and go from chaos to clarity:

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Download this template and checklist to help you see where you could save the most time.  We’ll also include a PDF of the article for handy reference.  You’ll receive:

  • Template to analyze key areas where time is spent and uncover hidden time drains.
  • Checklist for optimizing your calendar to go from chaos to clarity.
  • Copy of the article as PDF

Our top ten ways to save two hours a day so you go from chaos to clarity:

Tip #1: Do the worst FIRST.

What is that one really important item that you need to get done today?  If you are like many of us, that one item stays there several days because you need to think about it, but you never quite get to it.  Why is that? It’s decision fatigue and it’s ugly friend procrastination creeping up on you.

Have you ever noticed in the afternoon you feel more sluggish, or that you struggle to decide how to proceed?

If you procrastinate and wait until later in the day when you have “more time” you are more likely to simply keep putting it off, because it is so hard to make decisions.  At that later point in the day, you’ll decide that tomorrow would be better.  So it moves one more day. The one thing will continue taking up mindshare for you until it is addressed.

The only way to really approach getting that one thing done is by actively planning to do it was one of your first items in the day.  When you do that thing you really don’t want to do FIRST- the rest of the day will feel like a breeze.  Now you’ve started to build positive momentum to carry you forward into your day.

How do you make sure that you do that one big thing?  There are many different ways that could be set up depending on your preferences- we’ll show two ways. Either way will let you get things moving so you can go from chaos to clarity.

If you are using Bella Scena, main screen, click Add to do.

Enter your to do and any additional details you wish to save, and Add to Do to your list.

 

Now, drag it on to your calendar to one of your open time slots early in the day. 

 

And voila- it is integrated back to your Google calendar.  You have made room to get that top item that you have been avoiding done so you can move on to other things.

If you are using Google Calendar only, you can also add that top item. From within the calendar view drag a time on the calendar:

 

Enter the information for the item that you want to complete and click Save.

 

 

And voila! It is now on your calendar so the focus time has been allotted.

 

Completed event on calendar

The key to this step is getting that first item out of the way early in the day and free up mindshare to focus on other to-do’s.  Without this, the important item will keep getting bumped for other “higher” priorities.  It’s just one of the ways to help you go from chaos to clarity.

Tip #2: Close your email in order to focus on getting tasks done.

How often do you check your email each day?  If you are like the average person, you are checking your email 15 times a day. 15 TIMES!

We believe and are taught that we should ALWAYS be available.  With all the emails and notifications we receive, it’s easy to get caught in a time trap.

We open up our email first thing in the day, thinking that we will just take care of the most urgent items.  With so many services sending email notifications of every little thing being done on their platform, you can find yourself easily overwhelmed and drowning in email. Before you know it, one or two hours has gone by simply cleaning out your inbox!

When we spend our first few waking hours on email, we are eating up our precious decision making energy. We don’t have an unlimited supply of this energy.  If this supply is wasted checking email, there is no room for the deeper work required to move your projects and initiatives forward. Instead, it is trying to fit your important priorities in around email.  This is backwards.  Email should be fit in around your important work.

Email should be time boxed into a few slots each day, and NOT first thing in the morning.

Tip #3: Plan your top 5 tasks that you want to get done today.

Author Brian Tracy says planning your day is the secret to maximizing productivity. It takes 10 to 12 minutes for you to plan out your day. This small investment of time will save you up to two hours in wasted time and diffused effort throughout the day.

Let’s get proactive and own the time you have available.  Identify your top five tasks that you want to get completed today.  Add them to your to do list. Be intentional here- what is really important that you must do?

Now, put those items on your calendar so that you can work on them with intention and focus. This will dramatically improve your ability to go from chaos to clarity.

 

We know it can be hard to get into the habit of planning every day.  We’ve designed the Bella Daily Nudge to be your encouragement to plan each day. Best of all, it’s free (promise not to spam you).  To start your day off right with a nudge and a smile as you plan you day, sign up here.

Tip #4: Mute notifications on your phone

Instant messaging and notifications used to be great. We wanted to be responsive, so we attended to messages along the way.

Now, they have multiplied and extended to every application we use on our phone. How many notifications are you receiving each day?  The median number of notifications per phone per day is 64.  So many notifications puts us in a constant state of interruption.

Consider that it takes 23 minutes to refocus after you have been interrupted.  If your phone notifications are happening 64 times a day, your day has many more interruptions than focus time.  Turn the notifications off in order to spend periods of time each day focusing.

 

Tip #5: Focus on single tasking 

Even when it’s painful, complete that one thing- and then relish as you check it off your to do list.  Don’t try to multitask- it really doesn’t work.

You might be saying, “but I’m in a meeting and it’s so BORING” so I would rather do other work.  This is indicative of a different problem.  Consider how to help move the meeting faster, so you can get the meeting completed faster and go back to other work.

Many of us believe we are the one person that truly can multi-task.  Unfortunately, it is really not true for most of us. When your brain is constantly switching back and forth between to-do’s, you aren’t properly focusing. Your IQ drops 15 points when you are multi-tasking.  Constantly switching between items causes mental fatigue as well. Keep your brain fresh and focused by single tasking. This immediately helps you go from chaos to clarity by focusing on one item at a time.

Tip #6: Eliminate unnecessary events with TCOE

Meetup groups, Eventbrite- there are a plethora of sites with any number of external interesting events.  Quickly you can end up with two or three interesting events a week, resulting in a number of hours of commitments.  Events are often over the lunch hour (requiring extra commute time to and from) or after work, eating into precious work recovery time.

It’s hard to say no to so many interesting events. However, if you really need to free up time on the calendar, this generally will free up hours.

The easiest way to start this one is by looking at past events. Ask yourself some tough questions to understand which ones were not an effective use of your time:

  • What was the time cost of the event (TCOE)? Consider the length of the event, and your travel time to and from the event.
  • What were your expectations going into the event?
  • Did the event meet your expectations? Why or why not?
  • Should you go to events like these in the future? Why or why not?

Given all the new information you have about the events you have attended in the past- it’s time to look at the upcoming week. What events should you attend?  For all those that don’t make the cut, decline them to find additional precious time to focus.

Tip #7: Move meetings online to eliminate travel time and frustration

Most commute times are growing, not shrinking.  How much time are you spending traveling to a meeting and finding parking?  It’s not just about the time, it is also about the frustration of construction, traffic and weather.  There are times when it is critical to meet face to face.  There are also many situations where Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts would have been perfectly acceptable.  Now it’s time to look again at your calendar.  Which meetings could have moved online?  Which ones can you move online starting today?

Tip #8: Move all meetings that are after 3 p.m.

Forget meetings after 3 p.m. Gasp! Why would we dare to suggest that?  It’s simple- your productivity goes off a cliff. It the same reason you are reaching for a snack or some coffee to keep pushing through your day.  Energy levels are low at this time of the day. 

For most of us, a structured meeting at this time of day is anything but energizing. This time of day is better suited to checking email, creative or collaborative work, and returning calls.  Find either activities that help you wind down the day, or re-energize you. 

Schedule activities into this part of the day that don’t require the same amount of mental energy.

Tip #9 Create meeting sequences meetings by topic or days of the week

Have you ever had those days where you feel like a ninja?  Where work is effortlessly flowing through you and many things are being accomplished?  How can you create this for yourself more often?

As you take more proactive control of your calendar, you’ll start noticing things.  That one odd meeting in the afternoon that breaks up your whole afternoon.  You’ll probably also see those days with one meeting. Often that one meeting interrupts the flow of our day. We don’t get too deeply into a given topic, because we have that meeting coming up.  

Consider clustering meetings, particularly around similar topics. This will allow you to enter a flow and rhythm for that given topic. In other words, it helps you cue Ninja mode.  Then the remaining time can be used for deeply focused work.

One example we used during the build of Bella Scena- Tuesday was meeting day.  The day would be structured to focus on all meetings related to building the product. In the morning I met with my coach, at lunch I had my team meeting with my development team, and in the afternoon I would meet with the design team on new work.

But what do you do if you didn’t schedule the meeting? Just ask to move it.  What is the worst that can happen- they can say no?  Okay, that helps you so that you start clustering meetings together in the future.  Remember, this is going to be a work in progress and a skill you keep practicing to keep saving time in the future.

Sequence meetings for productivity

Tip #10: Maintain a to do list

Why do we really need a to do list?  Can’t I just remember everything? For most of us, there are so many spinning plates that it is simply impossible to keep track of everything.  Diligently maintaining a to do list allows you to quiet the noise in your head so you can focus on the task at hand to complete it.  The more you dump out of your head, the quieter it is and the easier it is to focus.

At a minimum, the to do list should be used on the bookend of your days. It should be the first thing you look at as you plan your day in the morning, and the last thing you look at as you wrap up your day at the end.

 

We know it’s not easy to focus today with constant interruptions. Use our top ten ways to find an additional two hours a day to create more time and space to work on what’s most important for you. It’s time for you to go from chaos to clarity.

 

Go From Deliberate to Done

Ready to get proactive so you can focus on the work that grows your business?

Download this templates and checklist to help you see where you could save the most time.

  • Template to analyze key areas where you could be losing time
  • Checklist for optimizing your calendar

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