I don’t mean to alarm you, but did you know that there are only 7 weeks left in 2015?
If you still have goals for the year that you haven’t achieved – or if you simply want to crank up your productivity so you can get more done this fall and set yourself up for greater success in 2016 – I have a challenge for you:
Implement the five simple time management techniques below – and take charge of your schedule so you can accomplish twice as much in half the time while enjoying plenty of free time and maintaining your sanity.
Are you ready? Here’s what I want you to do:
1. Start thinking in terms of Focus Days, Buffer Days, and Free Days
This idea is based on Dan Sullivan’s Entrepreneurial Time System®* It’s a unique planning system that structures time into three very different kinds of days that are prescheduled to assure the highest payoff for your effort efforts while still allowing abundant amounts of free time to pursue your personal interests.
Many of the most successful people I know use this system to create superior results while still maintaining balance between work, family, and recreation in their lives.
Here’s what the three different kinds of days look like:
A Focus Day is one in which you spend at least 80% of your time operating in your core genius or primary area of expertise.
When you focus on your core genius, it tends to give you the highest payoff for the time you invest. For example, my core areas of genius are speaking, training, conducting seminars, coaching, writing, and editing. I do these things easily and well—and when I do them in a focused way, they’re the things I get paid the most money for.
Depending on your profession and core genius, your Focus Day might be spent designing a new line of clothing, making sales calls, negotiating deals, producing a loan package to send to a mortgage lender, painting, performing, or writing a grant proposal for a nonprofit organization – whatever you most enjoy doing that will give you the greatest return on your time.
These are days spent preparing and planning for a Focus or Free Day—either by learning a new skill, locating a new resource, training your support team, delegating tasks to others, and so on.
Buffer Days are important because they ensure that your Focus Days are as productive as possible. The key is to group all your Buffer Day activities into the same day so you are not diluting your Focus Days and Free Days with tasks that distract you from your core genius or prevent you from truly enjoying your time off.
A Buffer Day for you might be spent on monthly planning, organizing your workspace, developing a new sales presentation, writing a brochure, training an assistant, or attending a professional workshop – whatever you need to do to clear your plate of distractions and get the job done better and faster.
A Free Day extends from midnight to midnight and involves no work-related activity of any kind. It’s a day completely free of business meetings, business-related phone calls, cell phone calls, emails, or reading work-related journals and documents.
On a true Free Day, you’re not available to your staff, clients, or students for any kind of contact except for true emergencies—injury, death, flood, or fire. These off days are important because they allow you to relax, enjoy yourself, and spend quality time with your family and friends, so you can come back to your work refreshed and ready to tackle it with renewed vigor, enthusiasm, and creativity.
2. Write down what your ideal Focus, Buffer, and Free Days look like
When you have a clear idea of the kind of day you want to have, you’re more likely to make it a reality.
When envisioning your ideal Focus Day, think back to days when you managed to accomplish an incredible amount of work in a short time. What conditions allowed that to happen? Did you turn off your phone? Unplug from the Internet? Delegate more responsibility to your staff? Have a pre-made lunch in the fridge that required no cooking? Work at a coffee shop instead of at home?
Take note of the factors that helped you be more productive and incorporate them into your vision of an ideal Focus Day, so you can leverage their positive impact on your productivity.
When imagining the perfect Free Day, think of the recreational activities that make you happiest and do the best job of making you feel refreshed and energized. Maybe it’s spending quality time with your kids outdoors, going fishing with your pals, reading a great book, getting a massage, or going for a hike. Whatever your favorite free-time activities are, write them down so you can make sure you spend your free time doing what you love instead of just mindlessly watching TV or surfing the Internet.
When envisioning your ideal Buffer Day, think about the planning and preparation activities that are most likely to significantly accelerate your progress. What tasks will do the best job of freeing up your time and make your focus days more productive? What gaps in your knowledge and experience need to be filled to make you even more effective at what you do?
By visualizing yourself taking these actions and acquiring these skills and knowledge, you’ll be far more likely to make it happen – and this is going to have a HUGE impact on your performance.
3. Set aside two hours to plan your fall schedule in detail
Once you’ve visualized what you want you want your ideal Focus, Buffer, and Free days to look like this fall, it’s time to mark them on your schedule and create a work-plan-rest rhythm that helps you to achieve everything you hope to accomplish this fall.
Depending on how ambitious your goals are, you may choose to schedule three-five Focus Days, one-two Buffer Days, and one-two Free Days a week. The more dedicated Focus Days you have, the more you’ll be able to accomplish.
Once you’ve determined the rhythm that will work best for you, plan the next seven weeks accordingly. Be sure to schedule Buffer Days for doing things such as cleaning your house or office, getting ready for Halloween/Thanksgiving, doing your Christmas shopping, and so on. This way you eliminate unexpected time obligations and ensure that your Focus Days and Free Days are spent doing exactly what you want to do.
4. Use up your holiday time
If you have any vacation days that will expire if they’re not used before the end of the year, make sure you use them. This is important! A Harris Interactive survey found that 57% of Americans had unused vacation time—up to two weeks’ worth—in 2011. Why? Because they weren’t sure if their job would still be there when they returned.
But the fact is, taking time off is essential to your productivity and your effectiveness as an employee. Holidays give you valuable time to rest and reinvigorate yourself so you can come back to work more rested, more productive, and more valuable to your employer.
And if you happen to be transitioning from an office job to working as an entrepreneur or freelancer, your vacation days could give you the time and space you need to develop your business so you can become your own boss that much faster.
5. Review your schedule every week and stick to it
Once you’ve planned your schedule for the fall, put it somewhere you can review it at least once a week to ensure you’re staying on track. This will make it easier for you to plan ahead and guarantee that your Focus Days and Free Days remain sacrosanct.
Yes, you can maintain a healthy work-life balance – and still get a mountain-load of work done.
It just requires a bit of careful planning. When you intentionally structure your time to take full advantage of your talents, you will find it so much easier to maximize your results.
By creating a schedule that allows you to dramatically increase your productivity, you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish in seven short weeks.
As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, Jack Canfield fostered the emergence of inspirational anthologies as a genre—and watched it grow to a billion dollar market. As the driving force behind the development and delivery of over 100 million books sold through the Chicken Soup for the Soul® franchise, Jack Canfield is uniquely qualified to talk about success. Jack is America’s #1 Success Coach and wrote the life-changing book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and speaks around the world on this subject. Follow Jack at www.jackcanfield.com and sign up for his free resources today!
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Image courtesy of Aaron Burden.