Even the most industrious among us have only 24 hours in each day, and only 10 or so hours available to us to do everything we want to get done. If you’re like most people, you start each day with the best intentions and a long, prioritized list of things that you want to get done. Having a list is a noble and a solid first step, but as with most things in life, it isn’t in the planning stage where things go awry—it’s in the execution.
Life’s distractions can easily derail even the most skilled task achiever and leave them feeling drained, frustrated, and with an even longer list tomorrow. Squeezing the most out of every day doesn’t mean burning the midnight oil or burning the candle at both ends. It means figuring out the habits that work best for you and developing a ritual around it.
Creating habits and rituals is exceptionally powerful because it helps our brains create the neurological cravings that lead us to anticipate a reward for engaging in a certain routine or set of behaviors. The habits and rituals that eventually become the plan to make the most of the time you have each day are based on what you’ve learned that make the most sense and work best for your lifestyle and the reward you give yourself for getting things done. This is critical to your being able to follow through on your plan without fail and deliberately—no matter what comes your way to distract you.
Ritualizing some of the routine things you do each day is what helps your brain to go on autopilot so that things that you do habitually become automatic and don’t require your focus, energy, and advanced decision making skills. Reacting automatically to routine tasks can help you really squeeze the most out of your day.
Here’s an example of a simple habit that you can experiment with and perhaps turn into a ritual that works for you.
Multi-Task In Bursts And Only With Certain Tasks
Choose tasks that can be done with little thought and work well together. For example, perhaps experiment with your morning routine and give something like this a try: while you make coffee and your breakfast, scan your emails and prioritize them, leaving only the most important ones, those requiring immediate action when you sit down at your desk, in the inbox. Move others to folders and delete the junk. While driving to work, listen to a book that you’ve been dying to read or even record key notes for a meeting and play them back so that you’re listening to them while you commute. Don’t forget to reward yourself with something for doing this each and every day: perhaps getting in a quick exercise session before you start work at the office, or spending a few minutes chatting with a friend before starting your day.
The key is to figure out what routines, tasks, and rituals work best for you, and then practice them until they become automatic and you can do them with speed and dexterity. Once you have your routines in place, you’ll also want to keep the following strategies in mind so that when your actively thinking about what comes next, you can continue to make wise decisions:
- Focus is key: make sure that you keep it throughout the day and have in your bag of tricks some ways that you can bring it back if you lose it.
- Learn the power of “No” and “I’ll get back to you,” and use them often.
- Only get involved at the solutions level: don’t waste time focused on rehashing the problem.
- Spend part of each day pausing and reflecting on what you’ve accomplished so far, and decide what is most significant remaining on the list to do with the time you have. Remember that what is most significant isn’t always the highest priority item in an objective sense – it is the highest priority item given the time you have remaining to accomplish something in your day.
- Know that nothing that happens is really the end of the world.
- Make sure that whatever you do is worthwhile and will make a positive difference.
Our habits and rituals guide how we live our lives and shape our priorities. If we create powerful habits that act as the underpinnings for what we set out to do each day, over time they will become the starting point for how we shape our lives. What habits and rituals will you put in place to squeeze the most from your day?
Let me know in the comments field below.