I believe to achieve peak performance in our work and life, we need to proactively manage three things effectively:
Here are my 6 secrets to managing these three things on a daily basis.
1. Treat your calendar as a sacred place
Only put things you HAVE TO complete for the day in your calendar. Otherwise put them in our to-do list. If you have a meeting or appointment at a certain time, add it as a regular event on your calendar. If you have tasks you have to complete for the day but they don't have to happen at a certain time, you should add them to your "Today's To-Do List" in your calendar. If you use a digital calendar, you can create a recurring all-day event and put the today's to-do list there.
If you use a traditional paper-based calendar, you can put your "Today's To-Do List" in the notes section for the day.
I personally use both a digital calendar on my computer and a paper-based one. I highly recommend the planner from Tools4Widsom. It has daily priorities, weekly goals, monthly goals, and yearly goals. It has really helped me focus on my tasks on a regular basis.
2. Manage your to-do lists the GTD way
If you want to get things done efficiently, I highly recommend the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. Let's call his system GTD.
GTD has two core concepts:
Next Action Lists
Projects are tasks that require more than one action. For example, "plan for my wedding" should not go to a Next Action List. Instead, it should be a project because it definitely requires more than one action. The next action for this project may be "buy a book about wedding planning."
Create a new project in your to-do list app for each project you are working on. Allen also suggests creating your Next Action Lists based on where you would perform these actions. For example, I have the following Next Action Lists:
@Computer. This list consists of all the next actions I will do at my computer.
@Office. These are next actions I can take at my office.
@Home. These are things I can do at home, most likely house chores.
@Call. These are the phone calls I need to make. I can do it while I walk or wait for the bus.
@Errands. These are next actions I have to get out my house and office to do.
Whenever something is on your mind, enter it to the "Inbox" in your to-do list app. And then move them either to a project, or a next action list at a later time when you have more time do decide what the next action is for it.
Another critical tip to manage your to-dos is to review your projects and next action lists daily, weekly, and then monthly. I personally review my to-dos at 10 pm every night, and it usually takes about 10 minutes. I will check off the tasks I complete for the day, and reschedule the tasks I don't for a later time. Every Sunday evening, I spend about 30 minutes to review my to-dos for the whole week, and then plan for next week.
Discipline is key. We have to hold ourselves accountable when it comes to managing our time and tasks.
My favorite to-do list app is Wunderlist with a "u", not "o." Definitely check it out.
3. Plan like a maniac, and eat that frog
Plan your day the first thing in the morning, and plan your week before the week begins.
Every morning when I get to the office, I figure out the top 3 things I want to accomplish for the day. And then start immediately to work on the most important thing. (Brian Tracy calls this "eat the frog.") Do not get distracted by other tasks that are not your priorities for the day.
4. Schedule your time for less productive activities
Schedule your time on your calendar for emails, social media and other less productive activities.
Do you know what's the one thing we almost never forget?
Check our emails. (For you, it might be checking your Facebook.) There is no doubt that checking emails is important. It's how most of us communicate for work and life. But emails are mostly about other people's agendas, not our own agenda. They demand our time and attention and often distract us from our most productive activities.
I recommend you only check your email at certain times every day. Maybe at 1 pm for 15 to 30 minutes right after lunch, and then at 4:45pm right before you leave work.
If you are spending more than one hour on your email every day, then you may need to examine whether you are spending too much time on emails. There might be a need for you to hire an assistant or customer service representative to handle your emails. You can hire someone for as little as $4 per hour from sites like Upwork.
5. Become an early riser
It is not a coincidence that many extremely successful people start their day early. In his book "The Miracle Morning," Hal Elrod shows how getting up early has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of people. They now have more energy, motivation, and focus.
I was a night owl for the first 35 years of my life. But I wasn't happy about where I was in my life. So I took the early morning challenge, and I immediately saw a difference in my work and life.
So set your alarm at 6 am tonight, and start experiencing the miracle of early mornings.
6. Sleep well, eat well, and take care of our health
A lot of solopreneurs and business owners often neglect this. The truth is health is our important asset. Without health, we can't really do anything, can we?
In China, there is a proverb:
"When we are young, we use health to buy money. When we are old, we use money to buy health."
As research shows, and many successful people have pointed out, when we are healthy and well rested, we are more productive, and make better decisions. You need to be at your peak both physically and mentally to have peak performance, period.
What are your secrets to managing your time, tasks, and health? How do you manage to achieve peak performance? Love to hear your tips.