Sometimes getting started can be the toughest part of the day, especially on Mondays! What's worse, a bad start can make for a bad day and even a bad week. Here are ten ways to ensure that you get moving quickly and effectively on Monday or any other day!
1. Take time to get organized.
How's your work space? Is it crowded, sloppy, piled high with yesterday's business, surrounded by memorabilia from family outings and favorite leisure activities? Remember: every item within range or your eyes or ears impacts upon you--if only subconsciously--and splits your focus. Get rid of everything that is extraneous in your work place or office and have an assigned place for EVERYTHING. It takes time to get organized but, once accomplished, it pays off in less wasted moments.
2. Begin the night before.
Don't wait until Monday morning to decide what you're going to do for the day or week. Set aside time on Sunday to: (a) decide what you want to do and accomplish for the week, and (b) schedule your next day (Monday). And here's a tip: select a time when you are relaxed, not rushed, and give yourself a chance to muse about what you want to achieve during the week.
3. Prioritize your plan.
If your plan is actually a TO DO list, you probably have far more items on it than you can hope to accomplish in any reasonable time. That's where prioritizing comes in. I don't have any problems with TO DO lists as long as they're prioritized. In fact, putting items on the list that need to be done, but are of low priority has the effect of removing them from my mind--I can check back now and then, but I don't worry about them. And, guess what: when I DO check back, I often find that the need to get them done has simply evaporated. But, back to prioritizing. A simple system is: A equals Very important, B equals Important, C equals Not very important. If you have a D in your system, drop it and all the items under it!
4. Honor your personal work styles.
When you are most creative? When is the best time to: do routine chores? exercise? study? nap? (yes, nap! - see below) communicate? Each person has an ideal work style that operates as a function of being a certain body and personality type. Understand and honor that style and you will be more effective; ignore it, and you will work at less than optimum capacity. My style is to do creative work (writing, speculative thinking, planning) in the morning (sometimes very early at 0400 or so, even while in bed). Everyone is different and you have to determine what is right for you.
5. Cat nap.
If you're a Type A, you may have trouble with this one! The fact is, nearly everyone encounters a low point in energy, usually about 1:00 PM every day depending, of course, on what time they've gotten up and how much sleep they've had the night before. You can train yourself, using a simple 1 to 10 count-down method, to sleep for 5, 10, or 15 minutes. With practice, you'll wake up within a few seconds of the time you've chosen, AND you'll be more refreshed by this kind of meditative sleep which is more beneficial than normal sleep by a ratio of roughly 4:1. No, your nap won't keep you from getting to sleep at night. If anything, you will drift off more easily and gain greater benefits, because your nap sleeps help alleviate deep set and subtly building stress. I've trained myself to nap almost anywhere for period from five to thirty minutes. Even with minimum time, I wake up refreshed and ready to go.
6. Schedule time by blocks rather than tasks.
Have you ever allotted an hour to complete a task and then found that it took two hours thereby screwing up the rest of your day and schedule? It's a common occurrence and, when it happens, the result is greatly increased stress. The most common examples are tasks such as expense-keeping, writing or research projects, and phone calls. One way to alleviate the stress of these objective-oriented tasks is to simply allot a given amount of time to them, say an hour, and then move on to the next task. This practice ensures that you will make measurable progress on each task without getting bogged down.
7. Make the first touch the deciding one.
You've heard the standard advice: handle everything only once. Unfortunately, that's not always possible or prudent, and here's where the organization achieved through step one above comes in. Your first task with respect to new materials coming in to you (letters, assignments, calls, etc.) is to DECIDE what to do about them. In each case, your organization should support your decision. For example, in opening your mail (and e-mail), there will be some letters that you will want to answer immediately (probably very few), others you will want to answer within a specified period of time, others you will want to put on hold until you get more information, and still others that will be immediately destined for the circular file. The important thing here is to have identified the possible categories before hand and then be ruthless about adhering to them. In the case of correspondence, you may want to have a separate file for each category AND a procedure for periodically reviewing each file to ensure that you act on it. This same principle works with tasks you are assigned or jobs that pop up. Your first action is to determine the category in which they fall: do, delegate, defer, or drop.
8. Follow the WIFO principle, selectively.
WIFO stands for worst in, first out. Have you ever kept postponing a project because you just didn't want to do it? Chances are, if you look back at the experience, you'll find that you spend nearly as much time worry and rescheduling it as you did actually DOING it! There's a way around this one. Simply, DO IT-- either on a task or time basis. I've found this to be a powerful tool, because invariably those tasks that I've put off are easier and less time consuming than I expected, WHEN I simply get on with them.
9. Schedule a clean-up day or half-day at least weekly.
No matter how good you are at scheduling, there will always be times when your desk is piled high, your files over-stuffed, and your plan/schedule crowded with extra added tasks. You may find it helpful to pick a time each week (maybe Saturday morning) as a clean-up period, a time when you dispose of all those little things that have built up during the week and when you mentally review your priorities.
10. Become fully present-focused.
One of the virtues of scheduling activities by time blocks rather than by objective benchmarks is that it allows you to become totally absorbed for a set period of time in what you're doing. Believe it or not, total absorption is relaxing. It's splitting your attention--between what you're currently doing and what you have to do next--that is exhausting. When you become totally focused on what you are doing at the moment, a free-flowing momentum and pace occur, and you get the job done faster, easier, and time flies. The steps leading to total absorption in the task are: (a) Organize and task and set aside the time, (b) Remove all that is extraneous from your work space, (c) Rehearse the task mentally.
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