Sticking to it!

We all have access to the same 1440 minutes per day to make our magic, yet why do some achieve so much more than others? Are they really that clever, gifted or just lucky?

What significant difference can you as a mere mortal make to your productivity? Just imagine if you could become a multi-tasking genius! Well the bad news is that multi-tasking just leads to poorer performance - there are many studies on this to prove the result.

In fact, research says that we average about 4000 thoughts per day - one thought per 14 seconds! When we believe we are multi-tasking, what we are in fact doing is task switching, just like a computer does, but unlike a computer we are not great at switching. The more complex the task the longer it takes to get back into the "zone" when switching tasks. Again, research has shown that we lose between 25 to 100% of our time due to switching between tasks.

So how can we organise our tasks and ideas in a simple and sustainable way? I am not a big fan of "to-do" lists. Personally, I find I can do them for a while and then it becomes tedious and I start thinking I am too busy to do them. Even though I am 100% aware of this, I still allow it to happen. This is not unique to me and many people I talk to admit they do the same.

So, we all know we have to plan our activities, but what is the simplest method that works long-term without becoming a chore? What I outline here is what works for me and I am almost 100% convinced will work for you. It is a strategy to gain focus, to reduce multi-tasking and to achieve more, every day. This is not one of those limited offers, book now, see my ads with me leaning smugly against my Ferrari. This is a free offering of knowledge based on a system that works for me and is now making a difference to some of the clients that I coach.

Step 1: In the evening take at least 10 minutes of quiet time out - yes, you do have to make an effort here 😊. Based on the 80/20 rule and Eisenhowers's productivity table, think about the 2 to 3 primary OUTCOMES that you need to accomplish the next day. These are the outcomes that will make a key difference in your results for moving forward. NOW write down on sticky note (no bigger than 50mm square), these OUTCOMES and what are the 3 to 6 primary ACTIVITIES that you need to do to achieve these outcomes. Reflect on your list and take this as your first win (you did it, you made a start).

Step 2: Have a good night’s rest! Sleep is the best form of meditation, and it is why you MUST start your list the night before the day. Your subconscious will work on your list. You cannot stop thinking, so better that you focus your thoughts on something constructive.

Step 3: In the morning and BEFORE you switch on the TV, check your email and phone, take another 5 minutes of quiet time out and reflect on the list you made the night before. You will be amazed at how often you amend it in the morning. But the trick is to really focus just on those activities that will create the biggest impact and those outcomes that if you achieve will move you forward. Once you gain confidence with this technique you will make these outcomes progressively more ambitious.

Step 4: Take your sticky note and place somewhere, where you can regularly reflect on it during the day, say on the inside cover of your diary or in your wallet or phone case. The trick here is that the note must be a REGULAR REMINDER to you, throughout the day.

PS. You can even boast to your colleagues about your stick note planning system – it will build commitment to the process and better your chances of benefiting from the system.

Step 5: That night during your 10 minute quiet period, reflect on the sticky note and CROSS OUT all completed tasks. These are wins for you and you must acknowledge them as wins, the kid in you will thank you for this confidence boosting acknowledgement.

Step 6: Rinse and Repeat. Develop a BEHAVIOUR.

Why does this ridiculous simple method work? That's exactly why it works, because it is simple! You will use little energy in memorising the five steps and the science behind it is proven and practical.

  • Meditation through sleep will help you focus on what matters and will start to develop the expectation of achievement of these outcomes and necessary activities.
  • In the morning you don't have to pressurise yourself to start thinking about priorities for the day. The heavy lifting has already been done the night before, now it is just a quick, easy to form habit that will help you to start the day with a clear, focused mind.
  • You don't have to scroll through your diary or having annoying apps reminding you what you have not achieved, just refer to the few items on your sticky note that you will be viewing at least every hour in the day.
  • The 50mm sticky note size is important. It is not only easy to move around but difficult to over task yourself. Just focus on a few key outcomes for the day.
  • The self-rewarding and reflection time is then what makes it all stick at the end of the day. You really do need to take time out to reflect on your wins and to re strategies.

Oh, and there is one more step.

Step 7: Once a week reflect on your notes. For me I find a Sunday evening best. Congratulate yourself on all your wins (again, yes important!), and then examine if there are any outcomes not achieved. Are these still important outcomes? If they are then include them in the next day's/week's sticky note.

So what is the outcome of this routine? You will get better and better at it, you WILL free up time, you WILL become more productive and you WILL become more satisfied with your focus and performance. I could almost call it magic.

So why is it not magic? Well I expect only a few of the readers will get to this point, after all we all have two things in common, all of us. 1. None of us have enough time (so this article is too long for some), and 2. We are all exposed to too much information, and for some, this is just more information.

If you want to get a payback for devoting some of your life (minutes in a day 😊) to having read this far then take note of this. Research done in 2009 by the University College of London showed that it takes on average 66 days for a new habit to break through the Power Curve (simple terms: highly probable of sticking!) The data showed a variance between 18 and 244 days, with the more complex the behaviour, the longer the time/repeat needed.

So, my request to you, is practise what I have written here and if you care for someone else then share this article with them. It will have a powerful effect on them and their performance but only if they are open to improvement.

I do have a graphic representation of this 7 step process, if you would like it then just message me and I would be happy to share.

I do hope you will adopt this methodology as it really does work, in return I would appreciate your feedback. But please don't go and monetise this method as yours with another $39 or $390 internet course ☹

Sean Foster