With thousands of articles and posts squatting on every nook and corner of internet as to how you should get your lazy a*s moving doing things you are supposed to do, you may be wondering as to why this one extra post. Aren’t there already too many hacks, too many rituals and too many methods already preached by those self proclaimed productivity ninjas!(no offence if you are one, but then you should not be reading any further). Why should you spend you time reading one more article when every time you fail to inculcate those preachings in your daily life? The answer to this my friend, is that I am not going to tell you a truckload of things you ought to do to in order to overcome procrastination and achieve marvels. I am going to tell you to do one simple thing that shall have the most profound impact on your life. It will surely help you overcome procrastination, live a meaningful life and achieve your dreams.
First, let us start with a glance on daily routine of one of the greatest persona of all time- Benjamin Franklin, a man of many titles and unmatched accomplishments. A quick search on Google will astonish you with what he had achieved in his lifespan of 84 years. He was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Apart from that, he was a renowned polymath, a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, civic activist, statesman, diplomat, scientist and inventor accredited with many important inventions and discoveries. Now let us peek into his daily routine (thankfully he had written his autobiography).
As you can see, he had a carefully planned day with blocks of hours dedicated to important tasks which helped him maintain order in his daily life. Also, he would start his day with a very powerful question “What good shall I do this day?”. This helped him maintain his focus on important tasks throughout the day. Thereafter, before retiring to bed, every night he would again ask himself “What good have I done today?”. This question at the end of the day made sure that he analyzed the events of his day and took corrective actions for the things that went the wrong way. Following this same routine day after day, year after year made him rise from an ordinary mortal to the league of extraordinaries.
In his widely acclaimed book Deep Work, the author Cal Newport discusses in length and breadth as to how we can inculcate habits and routine which would help us soar high in our professional career. His advice is simple- instead of losing your time in doing shallow unmindful work, start focusing on producing value in whatever you do. For that you need to weed out distractions and dedicate large chunks of your time daily to work, which in the long run would benefit you professionally. He refers to such work as Deep Work. In one of the chapters, the author describes his methodology as to how he remained focused over prolonged periods:
“ At the beginning of each workday, turn to a new page of lined paper in a notebook you dedicate for this purpose. Down the left-hand side of the page, mark every other line with an hour of the day, covering the full set of hours you typically work. Now comes the important part: Divide the hours of your workday into blocks and assign activities to the block. For e.g., you might block off nine a.m. to eleven a.m. for writing a client’s press release. To do so, actually draw a box that covers the lines corresponding to these hours, then write ‘press release’ inside the box. Not every block need be dedicated to a work task. There might be time blocks for lunch and relaxation breaks.”
In the opinion of the author, by scheduling your workday in advance you make sure that you are utilizing your time optimally. In this process, you are also batching mundane tasks together which you can do later at the end of the day, thus saving you even more time. Further, he advises that you should go through your diary on a weekly basis and analyse what went wrong and how you can improve your efficiency by taking corrective actions in the coming week.
From the above paragraphs, it is crystal clear that to achieve your desired goals in your life, the following components are absolute necessities:
- A daily set of routines and rituals you religiously follow;
- A well defined target setting mechanism wherein you allocate your time judiciously on the basis of your commitments and goals;
- A proper review and analysis mechanism, which help you stay on track throughout your journey.
Having uncovered the quintessential components for extraordinary results, we proceed with devising a proper goal setting and review mechanism. We start with a simple diary with the following format:
Here it is important to note that although you can maintain your time journal in paper or electronic format, I shall recommend that you use a physical diary for the purpose. This is due to the fact that when we actually write down something on paper, the contents get ingrained in our mind and therefore we are more aware of our targets. Also, since we use digital modes for most of our tasks, writing on paper communicates to our brain that it is something different from the routine tasks we usually do and is therefore quite important.
For every new day, start on a new page with date written on the top. Thereafter, write down the three most important goals for the day. Here it is important that you write down only three goals as writing too many goals will overwhelm you and lesser number of goals won’t serve your purpose. The goals should not be vague and should be clearly defined. For e.g. instead of writing ‘Read Chemistry’ you should write ‘ Read Chapter one of Chemistry book’. The definiteness in goals will help you in setting proper target and later on evaluate how much you have actually accomplished during the day.
Thereafter, comes the most important part of our journal. You divide your goals into achievable & measurable targets and at the same time divide your day into time slots of appropriate length wherein those targets can be accommodated. Continuing with the above example, your target should be something like ‘ 8a.m.- 10 a.m.: Read page 1–10 of Chapter one of Chemistry book’. Having predefined targets help in beating procrastination as you are always aware of your time ticking and a feeling of guilt creeps in whenever you are wasting time on unnecessary activities. Here too it is recommended that the slots should not be of less than thirty minutes or more than two hours. This is due to the fact that if you do the same task for more than two hours you lose your efficiency and end up accomplishing much less than what could be actually done in such time. Similarly, a time frame of less than thirty minutes makes your journal look quite messy and you will soon abandon it altogether. Also, make sure that you have inserted breaks at regular intervals and also buffer time between tasks so as to accommodate any variations or sudden task. The mundane tasks which are unavoidable but don’t take much time should be batched together near the end of the day when you are low on mental energy. It is also advisable that you do the planning part the night before so that in the morning you know exactly what you have to do and you dive into it soon after waking up.
During the day keep your journal close to you wherever you go and stick to the planned tasks and try to finish them on time. Once you have met a particular target, cross it with your pen. This help you in visualizing that you are accomplishing your goals which further motivates you to remain focused.
Once the day is over, before you go to bed, review your day and analyze how much you accomplished during the day in comparison to how much you have actually planned and try to reason the deviations. This exercise improves your planning for the next day as you become aware of your limitations as to how much work you can do in a particular time. Also, you are able to chalk out the unimportant activities which need to be avoided as they suck your time without sufficient contribution toward your goals. This review activity is quite important as it is vital for your self awareness and increases your efficiency the next day.
You might be wondering that these are too many tasks to do on a daily basis and would take much time from your already cramped schedule. I agree, that initially it seems a daunting task to maintain a journal and write your goals daily and then also review it daily. But once you start doing it, you will realise that the time spent on this planning and review part is negligible in comparison to the amount of work you will be accomplishing on daily basis as a result of this process. Once it becomes a habit, you will be amazed at your achievements which seemed impossible earlier. You just need to start and keep going. Remember, Motivation is temporary whereas habits are permanent. Good Luck!
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