How to Be More Productive When Your Days are Unpredictable

Some of the leading productivity experts discuss having a system to capture your thoughts and tasks, and then scheduling those tasks accordingly in your calendar based on priority. I also include that approach (as well as other tips) in the overall framework and system I present in Optimize Your Productivity.

When this process is utilized, it is an efficient way to get things done, and it does seem to make productivity easier. The problem, however, is that this process depends on two very important conditions, otherwise it won’t work.

These conditions are:

  1. Having a very predictable calendar so that tasks can be scheduled
  2. Having sufficient health and energy to get things done.

While I worked in high-intensity environments in the past, where there could be constant interruptions (especially for crises, manufacturing issues, etc.), I felt that the productivity system described in my book would work for the most part, especially if you can account for and accept that sometimes only the highest priority items can get done.

But what if you do not have a relatively predictable calendar, or you are suffering from health issues that make your days quite uncertain? I personally experienced these issues earlier this year, especially the past seven months while I was not feeling well in my pregnancy.

As many of you know, I’m expecting a baby girl in the New Year! My pregnancy was much more difficult this time — from feeling very sick to having to limit my mobility due to back and leg issues. On top of that, I take care of my son (a toddler) most of the time, so between not feeling well and having a mostly unpredictable calendar, my own productivity systems were challenged!

The good news is, I was able to adapt my systems in the event someone has a similar situation — where days are quite unpredictable in terms of schedule or energy level. I was still able to write and publish another book, after all (my second this year!) and I had a number of clients in my online programs this year.

The following slides highlight some tips you can utilize if you are in a similar position, or you can keep reading this article to see the tips explained.

1. Use a notebook or a “non dated” productivity planner.

While I previously used a blank notebook and then scheduled my tasks, I adjusted my system to use an actual productivity planner (this is the one I bought and personally recommend). Previously, my system required a certain amount of discipline to stay on track. With the planner, I was able to use it as a tool to keep me on track for the next few steps, primarily utilizing it as a means to stay organized and monitor my progress on tasks.

2. Identify and write down the most important tasks for the week.

By prioritizing my tasks and having that identified list readily available, I was able to have tasks ready to “pick from” when the individual days would arrive (step 3). This approach ensured I minimized wasting time once an open window did present itself. Instead of jumping all over the place saying, “What should I do next?” I was ready to tackle the most important items I had identified.

3. Review tasks and identify 1-3 tasks to accomplish the next day.

Once you have your priorities written for the week, it’s a good idea to pick the most important 1-3 items to accomplish the very next day. Again, building on step 2, you will be ready once that open window of energy and time presents itself the next day. Also, starting with a realistic number of tasks will help you focus and will minimize overwhelm.

4. Review your planner in the morning and use it to track your progress.

At this point, you will not have to make any decisions. You simply need to work on the 1-3 tasks you identified the night before. This will help you be more efficient and reduce the need to spend energy on decision-making. Further, the planner is set up to focus not necessarily on calendar days, but individual days, and it presents tools to help you monitor your progress for the day.

5. Evaluate your progress at the end of each day.

At the end of each day, you can use the tools inside the planner to assess if there could have been any improvements in terms of how you managed your day.

Once you have implemented these 5 steps, you can repeat the cycle! You will get better and better about knowing yourself, what you can handle and what you can’t, and your productivity will improve, despite the challenging conditions of time or energy.

In summary, I hope this article and presentation help, especially for those who are dealing with unpredictable calendars, caring for dependents, and/or managing health issues.

If you’d like more productivity tips, claim your free Optimize Your Productivity ebook at this link: http://productivity.lisakardos.com.  

 

How to Change Your Life When You Don’t Know What You Want — in 7 Easy Steps

With 2017 approaching, some people have already started thinking about their upcoming goals for the next year. These individuals are the ones that always seem to know exactly where they are going and always seem to be in control. They know what they want, and they are going for it! And, they even seem to like and enjoy what they are doing in their lives.

In other cases, however, there are individuals who don’t like what they are doing in their lives or careers. They don’t know what to do next, and they don’t know what they want for their future.

If you are in the latter group, you may be wondering, “What’s my next step? How do I change my life for the better, if I don’t even know what I want?”

If you’re in that situation, and would like some answers — and to change your life — there are seven steps you can begin to take (today)! Feel free to check out the highlights in the following presentation, or keep scrolling to read the entire article!

 

Step 1: Let go of the idea that you need an epiphany before you take the next step.

I have worked with some clients who feel trapped and stuck by their decisions. They may have built up their education and expertise in an area that turned out to be unappealing, or they may feel like they have plateaued in their career.

In the vast majority of these cases, I have found that these individuals know they are unhappy, would like things to be different, but don’t know what they want. As a result of not being sure of what they want, they just keep waiting for the “lightning bolt” to strike them. They keep hoping for an epiphany, that moment of clarity which gives them all the answers. In fact, in many cases, they may be seeking answers in the wrong places, or asking lots of people for advice, but getting nowhere because they keep waiting around for that unattainable moment of hearing, “Do this exactly.”

Therefore, the first step to changing your life, is to actually let go of the idea that you need an epiphany or major moment of clarity to make change in your life. Waiting around for inspiration will lead to simply more waiting around, and typically no answers!

 

Step 2: Shift your mindset: you just need to know the very next step…not the exact destination!

Building on Step 1, once you let go of the idea of needing an epiphany, it’s best to start shifting your mindset to the idea that you don’t need to know all the answers, or even what your eventual path or destination will be.

The key to changing your life is taking action. While it’s important to think before you jump into something (more on the process of deciding the next steps shortly), the most important thing to consider is to take a next step in the first place! The idea is that taking action will actually give you more answers.

For instance, once you take the very next step, and you begin the process of getting data and feedback about what you are trying or attempting, you’ll start getting the answers you have been seeking — such as “I like this” (or don’t like it). Beginning this process will enable you to collect feedback as you go along and eventually you will be able to “course correct” and make adjustments because your goals will become clearer as you collect the data you need to make your decisions.

 

Step 3: Take inventory: Write down all the things you know how to do and all the things you are interested in!

Now that you have let go of the idea of an epiphany, and understand the importance of taking action, it’s time to start the process of figuring out what those next steps will be! To do this, it’s often helpful to “take inventory” of your life. Often we are running on autopilot — we don’t even realize what we know (or don’t know). Therefore, I recommend taking a few minutes to list out your skills and interest areas. This will give you something concrete to work with in the next steps, and it will help you get organized!

 

Step 4: Identify the next step for each skill and interest area from your inventory.

Once you have your concrete list of skills and action areas, you can create an adjacent column, and list out the very next action step for each of those skills or areas. For instance, if you have writing skills, the next action step would be to further those skills or make a product from those skills, such as a book or a blog. You could list out the next action step to read a book on the subject of writing or publishing a book.

Though you may have a “hunch” about an area you should explore, it’s best to attempt to be as objective as possible during this process so that you consider all options and possibilities. Therefore, be sure to list out your next action steps for every area you listed!

 

Step 5: Choose one of the next steps you identified and start it.

Now that you have everything laid out on paper, everything from your interests and skills to the identified next steps for each of those areas, you can visually see all the possibilities available to you. After reviewing all this visually, you can more easily choose an interest or skill that you would like to pursue further.

Naturally it may be difficult to make this choice. Taking some time to examine your feelings about each of the areas, and also what may make sense logically for the ones you feel strongly about, will be helpful for your decision on which area to pursue.

It’s also important to consider that it’s not “the end of the world” if you start to pursue one of these paths and later determine it’s not right for you (more on this in the forthcoming steps). To a certain extent, you need to rule things out so that you can narrow your focus. Sometimes you don’t know what you like until you try it. Again, this is better than sitting around and waiting for inspiration to hit you. You’ll have made the most of your time by beginning the process to get feedback and answers for your life.

Once you have chosen which next step you’d like to take, you’re ready to take the action associated with that step!

 

Step 6: Identify and take the very next steps for the path you started

After taking that first step, it’s important to assess what the next few immediate steps would be for the path you began, and take the corresponding actions identified. This part of the process is a “data collection” period. Often you don’t know if you like something or if it’s right for you based on the very next step; you need to take at least a few action steps, and spend a few weeks or months on it. Of course this is case-by-case and dependent on the specific area you chose.

The important thing is to be observant during this step: notice if you like this path so far and focus on your progress. The first few steps of any process, especially something new or outside of your comfort zone, will be difficult, so be careful not to immediately rule out a path. After you hit a milestone and have completed a number of steps, however, you can get a better assessment of where you are (and where you’d like to be).

 

Step 7: Evaluate and make adjustments based on the feedback and data you collected.

Collecting data, feedback and making observations from Step 6 will enable you to implement Step 7, essentially to “course correct” as needed. As mentioned in Step 2, having additional information will enable you to make informed decisions about your path forward. You can determine if you’re on the right path, or if you need to tweak your path slightly. You may be able to refine your focus and create a goal around that path. There are so many more possibilities that will open up to you once you have taken these steps, especially as opposed to waiting for an epiphany!

In summary, these seven action steps are not hard in and of themselves — in fact they are quite easy to take, once you have accepted the idea of making change through very small, daily changes (which is more realistic than waiting for a bolt of lightning or overhauling your life)!

To learn more about this, and to access special checklists and additional information and resources on this topic, check out my new book, Success Blueprint: Get Out of Survival Mode, Regain Control of Your Life, and Get Ahead at Work and in Life.

Success-Blueprint-Get out of Survival mode, regain control of your life, and get ahead at work and in life

You can access the Amazon version by visiting: http://success.lisakardos.com!