Happy New Year!
Did you miss me?
(Did you even notice I was gone? Don’t answer that!)
Yesterday was my first day back in the office in two weeks and woo wee! It was a rough re-entry.
I had all these grandiose plans.
I was going to build my January content calendar, read all of the articles I have saved in Pocket, get my planner set up with goals, outline our next agency owner program, pull together new internal training, and just generally be ready to crush it by yesterday.
Instead, I read five books, rode 300 miles on my bike, remodeled our powder room, added shelving to our laundry room—which now gives me a pantry!—bought a new washer and dryer and had it installed, started refinishing our 120-year-old hardwood floors in spots…and played with my kid.
Played and played and played.
Our friends have dubbed me the adult kid because I wear her and her friends out.
So yeah…here we are, eight days into the year, and I’ve accomplished nothing so far.
But my butt looks great in my jeans! ?
Be Your Most Productive Self in 2019
Which leads me to a larger question…how has your year begun? Have you already started to crush it? Or are you in the same boat as me? (And does your butt look great in jeans?)
If you’re the former, show us your ways, Yoda! ESPECIALLY if you’ve already begun to crush it and your kids didn’t go back to school until yesterday.
THAT I want to hear more about. The comments are yours for the taking.
If, however, you’re in the latter group, let’s talk about how to make up for four work days of lost time—and be your most productive self so you can be crushing it by this time next week.
There are five things you can do right now (and every day) to be more productive and get the very most out of your days:
- Manage your mood
- Manage your mornings
- Eliminate distractions
- Set expectations
- Plan your day the night before
Manage Your Mood
I’ll admit I was a little grouchy yesterday morning.
I didn’t sleep well. I woke up at 12:20 and couldn’t go back to sleep so I watched two episodes of Law & Order SVU (the Harry Connick, Jr. season—so good!).
I finally fell back asleep and then I heard, “Mommy! Mommy! My back itches.” My small one climbed in bed (on top of me, really) and asked me to scratch her back.
And then she rolled over (still on top of me) and asked me to tickle her tummy.
It felt like I had just gotten her back to sleep when my alarm went off—and Jack Bauer started pacing to be fed and walked.
So. Yeah. Grouchy.
And I found it affected my day. Though I had back-to-back meetings from 8:30-4:00, I didn’t take advantage of the five or 10 minutes in between each one, like I normally do.
Nope. Instead, I trolled through my email and sent Laura endless Voxer messages so she could entertain me.
Clearly, that is not how you should handle your day.
And, believe it or not, research shows that you procrastinate when you’re in a bad mood.
Exhibit A: me. Yesterday.
So knock it off!
Do what you have to do to put yourself in a good mood as soon as you wake up.
One of the best ways to do that?
Manage your mornings.
Which leads me to the second thing you can do to be your most productive self.
Manage Your Mornings
What is the first thing you do every morning?
(Besides the obvious…)
Some people check email. Others exercise. Some meditate and some write.
I have a friend who gets up at 5 a.m.so he can write in his journal, meditate, and get in a run before his girls get up for school.
I spend the first two hours of my morning writing and then I snuggle with my small one while I wake her up and get her ready for her day.
Notice what is not in there?
Checking email. Spending time on social media. Responding to overnight emergencies.
When you do those things, you’re giving your best (and most productive) time to someone else’s goals—not your own.
No one says you have to respond to emails at 5 or 6 or 7 or even 8 or 9 a.m.
But those are the things to surely put you in a bad mood (see above).
In fact, research shows that email stresses you out and turns you into a jerk.
So stop doing that very first thing!
I’m not saying you have to get up at 5 a.m. and spend two hours on yourself.
But if you do spend your first waking hour on yourself, it sets the tone and your mood for the day.
Which leads me to…
See how this all begins to flow into one another?
You are in control of your day.
Not your boss. Not your client(s). Not your colleagues. Not your family.
So if you know you’re most productive and do your best work in the morning hours, don’t give into distractions during that time.
Same for afternoon and/or evening.
When you are most productive, be productive—and eliminate the distractions that prevent you from doing your best work during that time.
I know there is some controversy over Cal Newport, but one of the best books I’ve ever read is Deep Work.
It’s sole purpose is to help you eliminate distractions during your best time so you can get the most done.
This doesn’t mean you won’t spend time in meetings or responding to email or working with boss or client requests.
You absolutely will. But not during your productive thinking time.
Which is why you also need to set expectations.
The Agency Leadership podcast episode that will air next week is about this very topic.
In our agency owner community channel, we had this conversation during the holidays.
A client wants to meet with you, but you’re still on holiday break.
What do you do?
You set expectations.
There is nothing wrong with telling the client you’re out of town or have a conflict and suggesting a different day/time.
But we all have a limited amount of willpower and, for some reason, we feel guilty when we tell a client or a boss no.
(Trust me, I do, too…more often than I care to admit.)
If you work in an office, but can’t get anything done once you arrive there, negotiate a deal where you work from home for the first 90 minutes of two hours of each day.
And spend that time focused on the work that only you can do—and that will get you the best results.
Then you can go to the office and work within the distractions.
There are lots of ways to finagle your own process to set expectations. You’re not being a jerk. You’re just working toward getting the most effective work done.
When you do that, everyone succeeds.
Plan Your Day the Night Before
When I started working after college, the last thing I did every night before I left was clean my desk.
It didn’t matter if it was at 5 p.m. or 2 a.m. (there were lots of late nights like that), I always cleaned my desk.
It’s a habit I still have today, but even more important because my office is in my home—and I’m a little OCD about no clutter.
But it turns out, it’s a great habit to have because it helps you start your day on the right foot—and in the right mood.
Dan Pink, bestselling author of some of my favorite books, has this to say about it:
Know when to stop working. Try to end each work day the same way, too. Straighten up your desk. Back up your computer. Make a list of what you need to do tomorrow.
BC (before children) I would work all hours of every day.
Today, I have to be much more efficient. Our sitter has to leave by 5:30 to get to class, which means I have to stop working by then.
At 5:15, I begin my end-of-day ritual.
I straighten my desk, I write down the top three priorities for the next day, I review my calendar, I update my planner, and I pull the various post-it notes I’ve used throughout the day into my to-do list.
It never takes any longer than 15 minutes and it sets me up for a more productive day.
What Are Your Tricks?
I’m sure there are plenty of other things you can do to be your most productive self.
But if you have a system and you manage your mood, those are the most important things.
Now I’d love to hear what works for you.
How do you manage your mood? How do you plan for your day? What makes you the most productive, day in and day out?
The comments are yours…
Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash