Make the most of your fall starting today
As summer comes to a close, the longer days, warmer temps, and more time spent outside begin to fade with it. For many of us, the Labor Day holiday signals the start of fall – and the beginning of a busier season. Summer vacations are over, children are back in school, barbeques and swims and lighter schedules are replaced with new projects at work, extracurricular activities for families, social and work calendars filling up. To top it off, the days are getting shorter. It can feel like the next thing you know, the end of year holiday season is in full-swing.
All of this means saying goodbye to summer is not always easy. As much as I welcome the budding of new life in spring and the long days of summer, I look forward to the fall. I love the cooler temperatures and the way the light begins to shift. I also see it as an opportunity to push the reset button. The last few weeks before fall can be an incredible time to take stock after the summer months, set new goals and get organized so that you make the most of your time and enjoy all that the new season has to offer.
If you’d like to find time to enjoy your fall and have the experience of feeling that there is more time in your day – even as we move toward fewer hours of daylight – try these seven productivity secrets.
- Prioritize your Week. It’s not about getting more things done but getting the right things done. The key to this is focusing on your priorities and what’s most important for you to get done. What two or three things contribute the most to your success? What two or three things are key to supporting your priorities at work? What two or three things drive the most revenue in your business? Remember that we tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in a day but underestimate what we can accomplish in a week or a year.
- Plan 3-5 to-dos per day, not more. To-do lists can get overwhelming. I used to make daily to-do lists of 10-15 items or more. Although I’d work hard and efficiently to get a high number of those done, I was too often working long days, rushing through the day and feeling stressed. This meant I was not enjoying the workday, time for other priorities such as exercise and meals was tight and I was often so tired by the end of week that even the idea of an enjoyable Friday evening out with friends and loved ones felt exhausting.
The key here is to focus on those things that really need to be done on a given day. You’ll find over time that you not only accomplish more – and more consistently – but it feels great to reach the end of your day having done those things that are most important.
Start small. If you find that you can easily accomplish more on a daily basis and that this serves you (as well as your business, career and those you care most about) try gradually increasing the number until you find the balance that works best for you. Be honest with yourself and notice if you’re wearing yourself thin.
- Batch your time. Use a calendar to schedule your weeks in blocks of similar tasks. Be sure to protect time for work that requires more mental focus and concentration. In my world, this includes writing this blog post and serving clients via one-on-one coaching or strategy sessions. From there, schedule time for work that is more administrative or housekeeping in nature. If your days include meetings or sales and marketing time or time spent following up with customers, include this as well.
Instead of sprinkling more mundane tasks throughout your day – or allowing yourself to be interrupted by them as they arise – ensure they are taken care of by setting aside time daily or weekly. For many clients, this includes email, texts and even social media. Set times to respond to email daily. You’ll get work done more efficiently by reducing interruptions as much as possible throughout the day. And studies show that frequent task switching can add up to as much as a 40% loss in your productivity.
Be sure to include free time. Even if your daily work feels more like play, we all need time to decompress. Studies show that rest time will help us feel more creative. Better yet, hire an assistant or delegate to a team member any tasks that do not require your time or expertise.
- Schedule breaks. Tune in to yourself. Research shows that your mind and your body will fatigue after 90 minutes to two hours of focus on the same task. There is nothing heroic about pushing beyond this window. While you may be able to do it – and truly need to – every once in awhile, the quality of work, the health of your body and mind and other areas of your life such as your happiness, relationships and fulfillment suffer if it becomes habitual.
Take breaks to stay productive, enjoy your day more and avoid getting burned out. Consider a walk or jog or yoga at lunch. If you have a job that requires you to sit for hours in front of a computer, get up and stretch, breath, look out the window and move your body for a few minutes each hour.
Energy is everything. While you can’t make more time in the day, you can increase your energy which will help your focus, decision making and overall productivity – not to mention your enjoyment throughout the day. Research shows that the most successful people don’t skip meals, cut sleep short or eliminate breaks in the pursuit of productivity. Instead, they view food as fuel, sleep as rest and recovery time, and build pauses into their days.
- Focus. Successful people master the art of being present through focus. One way of doing that is to allow yourself to do one thing at a time. Studies show that your brain is not actually able to focus on two activities at a time. So what feels like multi-tasking is in reality your brain switching from one task to another and back in as streamlined a way as it can manage. Instead of focusing on one task, your brain divides its attention between all the tasks.
This can be a big challenge in our digital age. Studies show that we are adapting and learning to do this switching more quickly because of our lifestyles – but the brain is still switching. And while this can work if you need to move through several mundane tasks that don’t require your full attention, if you’re focusing on important work or deep work, you’ll do your best and be most productive if you stay focused on the task at hand.
Want to be productive and enjoy your days more? Stay present in the moment and focus only on the task at hand.
- Clear Your Mind. Emptying your mind when you have so much to do and to remember may seem counter-intuitive. Does this risk forgetting something important or losing track of your priorities? Not necessarily. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s concerns or worrying about what might happen in the future.
I like to start and end the day with a few minutes of silent meditation to clear my mind. When you start thinking, consider only what you need to do immediately, and then what you need to do today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.
Using a notebook or journal helps: Take it with you everywhere you go. Free your mind by writing everything down so you are not tying up precious mental cycles trying to remember information or action items from your day.
- Learn to Say No. You want to be helpful. You want to be a team player. You want to be polite. But if you are overwhelmed, chances are that you will benefit from learning to say no. Your time is a key asset and no one – your team, your loved ones or your health – will benefit if you consistently stretch yourself too thin.
Getting more of your most important work done is fulfilling at any time of year. And being on top of your productivity game also creates more space for down time. This in turns allows you to rest and reboot and helps you find the stamina and focus to take on work and other challenges. Together, this is a powerful and positive new rhythm to set yourself up to make the most of the season.
If you enjoyed this post and want to look at how you can make more time for your own priorities, contact me directly to see if you qualify for a complimentary strategy session.
You can also learn more about me, read more blog posts, download free tips to create a business and a life you love, or check out the stories of people who have worked with me.