The story of your life will depend on how you use the time that you have been given, day by day.
But do you find that being "too busy" stops you from achieving what you want to achieve each day, each week or even each year?
Managing your time and your productivity yourself is the only way to stop the busyness and start doing what matters.
Unfortunately, the digital age has created an extra obstacle to the challenge of productivity and time management. It's a well-known problem of recent years: with popular usage of smart phones, we are now constantly digitally connected anywhere, anytime (are you digitally connected right now?!). It's great that social media sites, emails and tools pushed directly to our smart phones help us to have our finger on the pulse of what is going on across the world.
It's not necessary to ditch your smartphone: to remove yourself from social media and to go into hiding. Time management is of course self-management- make the change in you, your mind-set and your behaviour so that your digital world empowers you and the achievement of your goals.
Use these three tips to make sure that your smartphone serves you, and you do not serve it- and you keep yourself right on track.
Tip 1: Know Your Own Behaviour
Having an awareness of your behaviour with your digital devices can be the first step to significantly improving your productivity.
In the busyness of life, subconscious habits can form without having the self-awareness to spot them. It can often be the small details in how we behave which can mould our general behaviour and so dictate our productivity and success. Can you spot how often you use your phone or check your emails throughout the day?
Do this now: Test yourself by asking a friend or colleague to remove your phone from you just for an hour: perhaps whilst watching TV or eating, or perhaps during your morning routine. What did you notice? How did it feel and what did you do instead?
Having this awareness can empower you to make the changes you need to increase your productivity and free your time for more important things.
Tip 2: Reclaim Your Mornings
A study undertaken at the Harvard Business School found that 70% of 1,600 professionals check their smartphone within an hour of getting up. Yet, the morning provides a rare window of time when the workday has not begun, and when our minds are clear. Would using this time to determine your goals for the day help you to relieve stress and make better decisions?
As MD of The Coaching Academy, I have seen time and time again how setting goals and intentions can significantly improve productivity, time management, and give you a greater chance at success in the achievement of your goals.
When the day starts by digitally connecting before we have had time to gather our thoughts, we connect with others who may lead you towards their goals, and too far away from yours. Set off on this foot at the beginning of the day, and you may find yourself dancing to some-one else's tune until the evening- and will probably chase your own tail by trying to.
Do this now: Physically plan in at least 15 digital-free minutes for yourself tomorrow morning to write down or remind you what is important today. Trial how having the discipline to take this time daily can help you to maintain focus and relieve stress.
Tip 3: Prioritise and Learn to Say: Not Now!
You've spotted your unhelpful behaviour and you've set your focus for the day, but it is possible that you will still find yourself having to connect with others online regardless. Working with others plays a big part in business and in life, and we need to remain flexible to this working environment; collaboration with others can help for a variety of different tasks. However, this doesn't mean that you respond in a knee jerk reaction every time your phone bleeps.
A useful way to know when to allow distractions and when to maintain focus is to ask yourself: 'On a scale of 0 to 10 how much closer will responding to that call take me towards my primary goal?'
Do this now: Score a task that you have planned for today or tomorrow 0-10. When completing that task, rate any incoming calls, emails or messages on the same scale and compare. If your task scores 8, and the call scores 6, you don't need to answer it right now.
Of course, different types of tasks allow you to be more flexible than others. If you have a task planned which requires an absolute minimum level of distraction (these could be detail-oriented tasks, or a technical writing project, then plan ahead- predict whether there could be any calls that exceed the score rating of that task. If the answer is no, turn off your inbox and switch off your phone. If honestly and realistically the answer is yes, devise your plan of action, and identify which specific emails and calls you will allow to distract you.
Importantly, set aside a time in your day devoted to reconnecting with those you missed throughout the day. You may find that you not only improve your productivity, but that you can get the most out of the time you spend connecting with others, and give them the full attention that they deserve.
Using these prioritisation techniques will stop you from making knee-jerk reactions to your incoming emails and calls, and help you to be the director of your own day.
Keep asking yourself: who is writing the story of your life? Make sure it's you, not your contacts- and certainly not your smartphone.