I just looked up at the clock.

Half past four!

Where has the day gone?

Luckily for me, the time is flying because I’m in “the zone”. I’m getting all kinds of productive work done, and the hours just melt away.

I’m sure you know the feeling.

But how many times do you glance up/down at the clock and find yourself stunned that the day has slipped away, and you’ve gotten nothing of value done?

Instead you’ve been responding and reacting, putting out fires, at the beck and call of meetings, other people, EMAIL!

Try the following tips to save time so you can focus on the valuable work.

The Busyness Trap

Too often we get caught in the busyness trap. You get pulled into meetings, have phone calls to pick up, and emails to reply to. Constantly reacting to these urgent, but not necessarily important, things means you never have the time to get into the right ‘zone’ to do good work.

Too often, you’re not in those meetings to add any value, but to give approval to someone else’s plans. If it succeeds, they’ll get the credit. If it fails, the boss agreed to it!

What happens while you’re in an unproductive meeting?

Whilst the meeting is going on, emails flood into your inbox and your phone rings, leaving you with messages to process and spend time replying to. Very few of these messages are actually urgent to you. Rather, someone else is urgently seeking your input or approval, or it’s a complete waste of time – e.g. salesperson chasing you about something you’re not interested in.

Reactive Mode vs. ‘The Zone’

Urgent tasks put you in ‘reactive’ mode, making you run around all day, feeling drained by the end without a sense of accomplishment. Important, non-urgent tasks require a slower pace, more thought, and help you to achieve your long term goals. Crossing off an important task provides a great feeling of accomplishment and a step towards a long term goal.

Try these five tips for a week and see if you get more done in your day

Focus on big rocks

You should know what the most important things you need to get done are, yet most days you don’t work on them. Commit to starting every day by working on one of these ‘big rocks‘. If you begin by working on trivial things, those meaningless tasks fill up your schedule and prevent you from crossing off the priority items on your to-do list and doing your best work.

Important tasks don’t press for our attention, therefore they get put off. Making a commitment to putting the big rocks first every day means the pressing tasks don’t have a chance to get in the way. This is why I wake up early every morning to carry out my fitness regime. If I planned to do this after work instead, I know that I’d miss more workouts because life would throw up obstacles.

Download our free ebook here and learn how to develop an email system that allows you to be productive! Achieve inbox zero several times per day!

Schedule important activities in your calendar

By important, I don’t mean urgent. Important activities are things like business planning, budgeting, or studying for a new qualification. Schedule time for these activities in your calendar and don’t ignore them when the reminder pops up. These are the big rocks, so schedule them earlier in the day.

Eliminate time drainers

Specifically ones that don’t help you to achieve long term goals. This is anything that may seem urgent but actually isn’t, like a ringing phone, incoming emails, or employees walking up to your desk. Ruthlessly eliminate these distractions when you want to focus on important work. Close your email client. Disconnect your phone. Block out your calendar and take yourself away from your desk – to the meeting room if possible.

Break the Important Tasks into Chunks

Important tasks are usually a big collection of smaller tasks, or a project. Rather than thinking about it as one thing, e.g. start doing inbound marketing, which you’ll do “at some point”, break the task into all of its constituent parts.

Once you have smaller tasks, e.g. make contact with agencies, decide on your unique messaging, plan your first blog post etc. you need to give each task an achievable deadline. Make sure you don’t miss this deadline. Before you know it, you’ve made substantial progress on an important, un-urgent task.

Take social media off your phone:

Those little banners that appear on your lock screen, demanding your attention? Not good. The numbered app badges aren’t much better. Each one begs us to investigate, drawing us back into the time drain that is social media.

The worst thing about Facebook, is that even if you have nothing worth being notified about, they still find something to notify you about every day! A friend attending an event near you, someone posted something in a group, it’s someone’s birthday who you don’t care about…

If you can’t bring yourself to delete social media, then purge your accounts. Stop following pages that inundate your feed with meaningless gossip. Unfriend everybody who isn’t actually a friend of yours. Leave groups you don’t participate in. Instead, follow pages and groups that provide you with motivating tips and valuable information.