The clock is approaching 6 pm and you look at all the unfinished business on your to-do list. You sigh. It's another day that you've piled so much on your plate that you've failed to do half of what you were meant to complete. How did that happen? More importantly, why does it keep happening again and again? It's not like you're sitting on your lazy bum doing nothing all day - you're barely giving yourself a breather! Yet as the sun sets down and the day wraps up, you find yourself beating yourself up for not being productive enough - again.
Stop yourself right there. Don't let yourself go down into a spiral of negativity as the deeper you go, the harder it will be to get out. Stop yourself before you even start on that downwards path. You know you're working hard and you're getting things done. You just struggle to get them done in the amount of time you'd like to get them done in.
Why? There are two main reasons for this:
1. You're underestimating how long it takes to get things done.
You like to stay busy and you like to get things done. There's nothing wrong with that. Except when you start to put unrealistic timeframes on your tasks. It's great that you're involved in many projects and are excited about the things that you're doing. But the reality is that your motivation for the task isn't going to make more hours appear in your day. Yes, it will help you get started, stay focused and achieve things. But it's not going to change the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day - and that you've got to commit some time to eating, sleeping and exercising too.
Next time you're working through your to-do list, time how long it takes for you to do each task. This will give you a better estimation of how long it takes to get things done, and as a result help you create more realistic timeframes for the tasks on your to-do list.
2. You're failing to consider how much energy each task takes.
Just like you have a finite amount of hours in a day, you also have a finite amount of energy in you for a day. That means that it's not physically or psychologically possible for you to be uber productive every second of your day. That wouldn't be healthy either - that would be the quickest route to burnout! When you plan your day, think about how much energy each task takes.
Creative tasks might be physically draining but spiritually lifting. Admin tasks will be spiritually draining and not affect you physically too much. If you've had a super productive morning, it might be that your energy levels are too low for you to do any more creative tasks in the afternoon. Equally, if you've had a really high energy period at work (could be hours, days or even weeks), eventually you will experience a decrease in your energy and find yourself struggling to focus the way you were focusing before. That's ok. You're just tired from all the things that you have achieved in the previous hours, days or weeks.
It's time you got realistic about who you are and what you're capable of.
You are not a robot. You are human.
You can't be productive 24 days a week 7 days a week. You can't always be upbeat, energetic and ready to give it your all. Sometimes you're going to be tired and more drained, and that's ok. But the better you learn to manage your time and energy, the easier it will be for you to find more balance.
Really consider how long it takes for you to do things, and how much energy you need for different tasks. The more you do this, the easier it will be for you to create to-do lists that set you up for success. You'll create to-do lists which won't burn you out but will push you to the edge of your comfort zone. You'll feel challenged enough so you have the motivation to work through it, but not so challenged that you're overwhelmed before you even start.
Get clear on your time and energy management, and you'll get clear on how to get things done.
Get things done and you'll be finishing every day with a sense of fulfilling achievement.