So today I am sitting at my kitchen table hoping to write a few blog posts before my son wakes up from his morning nap. I have my laptop open, blog up and running, notebook and pen by my side and a cup of tea that has already started to go cold. I am ready to start working. However, in the last ten minutes I’ve checked Facebook, checked my son is breathing, thought about some flights I have to book later this evening, sung the theme tune to Peppa Pig in my head at least twice and eaten three (okay four) biscuits. Productive I am not!

This is a pretty typical state of affairs for me at the moment, I blame baby brain, but I must say I was a little, shall we say, inclined to procrastinate even when I had a full eight hours sleep every night. On my good days I could power through tons of work, but on my worst days I would spend a lot of time doing non urgent stuff and then wonder why I had a huge to do list building up with really important stuff on it.

I identified this weakness pretty early into my self-employed days and read a lot of books to help me get a little more productive. So, if you are anything like me and actually waste a lot of time at work, here are a few of my favourite insights from some of the experts in time management.

Getting Things Done by David Allen 

  • The first time you pick something up from your in-basket, decide what to do about it and where it goes. Never put it back in “in.”
  • When people with whom you interact notice that without fail you receive, process, and organize in an airtight manner the exchanges and agreements they have with you, they begin to trust you in a unique way… It noticeably enhances your mental well-being and improves the quality of your communications and relationships, both personally and professionally.
  • When you start to make things happen, you really begin to believe that you can make things happen. And that makes things happen.
  • Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.
  • Most people feel best about their work the week before their vacation, but it’s not because of the vacation itself. What do you do the last week before you leave on a big trip? You clean up, close up, clarify, and renegotiate all your agreements with yourself and others. I just suggest that you do this weekly instead of yearly.

Do The Work by Steven Pressfield

  • At least twice a week, I pause in the rush of work and have a meeting with myself. (If I were part of a team, I’d call a team meeting.) I ask myself, again, of the project: “What is this damn thing about?” Keep refining your understanding of the theme; keep narrowing it down.
  • Don’t think. Act. We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.
  • You may think that you’ve lost your passion, or that you can’t identify it, or that you have so much of it, it threatens to overwhelm you. None of these is true. Fear saps passion. When we conquer our fears, we discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion.

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

  • When you find things you genuinely enjoy, don’t let anyone else make you feel bad about it. Don’t feel guilty about the pleasure you take in the things you enjoy. Celebrate them.
  • To be “interest-ing” is to be curious and attentive, and to practice “the continual projection of interest.” To put it more simply: If you want to be interesting, you have to be interested.

The One Thing by Gary Keller

  • You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.
  • It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world.
  • When people look back on their lives, it is the things they have not done that generate the greatest regret… People’s actions may be troublesome initially; it is their inactions that plague them most with long-term feelings of regret.
  • If everyone has the same number of hours in the day, why do some people seem to get so much more done than others? How do they do more, achieve more, earn more, have more? If time is the currency of achievement, then why are some able to cash in their allotment for more chips than others? The answer is they make getting to the heart of things the heart of their approach. They go small. Going small is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most. It’s a tighter way to connect what you do with what you want. It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

  • Done is better than perfect.
  • Fortune does favour the bold and you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try.
  • Motivation comes from working on things we care about. It also comes from working with people we care about.

Eat that Frog! By Brian Tracy 

  • One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not to be done at all.
  • The hardest part of any important task is getting started on it in the first place. Once you actually begin work on a valuable task, you seem to be naturally motivated to continue.
  • Everyone procrastinates. The difference between high performers and low performers is largely determined by what they choose to procrastinate on.
  • What are your three most important business or career goals right now? What are your three most important family or relationship goals right now? What are your three most important financial goals right now? What are your three most important health goals right now? What are your three most important personal and professional development goals right now? What are your three most important social and community goals right now? What are your three biggest problems or concerns in life right now?

And last but not least… Here is a great infographic from the Time Doctor on 44 ways to be more productive. 

Are you wasting time?

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