Sometime last week, I am sure you asked, “Where did the time go?”
You’ve done the math, right? Every day you have 1,440 minutes…and sometimes they go by pretty quickly. When you ask yourself how you used them, managed them, or what you could have done differently, you’re looking the wrong way.
Asking where the time went won’t make you more productive tomorrow. If you want to get more done, change the question you ask.
You can’t change what you did, but you can choose what to do next.
Would you like to consider a thought experiment? Here goes: After you finish reading this self-coaching article, your focus will go somewhere. As your coach, I wonder two things:
(1) how do you decide what to do next, and
(2) how long do you stay focused on it?
If you’d like to test the power of these two questions, go ahead and reflect on your day so far today. Go back to when you first woke up, and think about each thing you started…and how long you spent doing it.
In my work with clients over the past two decades, I have found that time and time again, people miss the importance of staying focused during their “next.” How many “nexts” do you have in a day? That is, how many things do you start, and how long do you spend before you start the next one? One of the critical productivity hacks that I teach people is to stay longer in the next thing. Many times, focusing for just a bit more time has a significant impact.
“How much longer do I have to stay in my next?”
That is an excellent – and wise – question. My first response will be, “it depends.” But, I will follow it with some of the best advice I give those I serve: Stay in it for another 3 minutes. That’s it. After you think you’re doing something and are about to go on, set a timer for 3 minutes and review, rethink, reflect on it. If you do this two or three times a day, you just might find you fix something, make something better, or decide to do something differently.
Here are specific things you can do to test this tactic:
After you type an email, set a timer for three minutes. Reread, edit, rewrite or add something to that email to make it even easier for the recipient to know what you need them to do, what you need them to know.
After you end a meeting, spend three minutes (close your eyes?) and review what you said, what you thought, what you feel. Then, capture a follow-on action into your to-do list system before going on to the next thing.
Right before you walk into your house tonight (or, leave your home office and walk into the living room if you’re working from home!), spend three minutes focusing on what you want to have happen when you see those people you live with and love with.
Change your focus today, and be more productive tomorrow.