time management strategies

Where Did My Day Go?

A handful of tips for enhanced productivity.

Thursday, January 24, 2019, 7:30 AM:  I walk into my office and stare at hundreds of e-mails, three meetings on the calendar, and a messy office.  My wife, Lauren, and I had just returned from a great ski trip.  I should be completely reset and looking forward to crushing my day, right?  Wrong.  By the end of the day, I was wondering if it was even worth it to go on vacation!  I spent that night and the better part of the next morning coming up with these tips that I now use daily to maintain productivity.

  • Self-awareness – Back to basics; in 2013 or 2014 I came to a realization that I was sad (seasonal affective disorder). I noticed that every year between December and February I was more lethargic and much less productive.  While I still struggle with this, I have a simple fix for myself – exercise.  And if it is sunny outside I make a point to take a walk at lunch to soak up some Vitamin D.  Listen to your body and adjust for enhanced productivity.

Pro-tip: Consider doing a personality test.  DISC is popular and can give you some great insights about you, how you interact with others, and how others interpret the world.  Many times, changing how you interact with others can save time and effort that might otherwise be wasted.  For instance, I am a high D/I, so others interact with me best if they are short and to the point.  Send me e-mails with bullets and set due dates; otherwise, I’ll be off to something else!  You cannot change others, but you can change your approach and how you react.

Bonus tip- Phone addiction: The simple trick of changing your screen setting from colorful to grayscale makes it easier for you to put the distracting device aside.

  • To-do list(s): Admittedly I still struggle with the mighty to-do list. But my struggle is more about the organization and upkeep (i.e., I use OneNote now instead of paper).  The tide changed for me on getting things done through advance preparation. That sounds obvious, but most people are so focused on heading home they miss a great opportunity.  Try taking 15 minutes at 4:00 pm to prep for tomorrow.  Even better, try using Friday afternoon to plan your goals for the next week!

Pro-tip: Write down the three most important things you need to will accomplish that day.  If you concentrate on these three items: Number one, you will finish them. Number two, you will feel like you’ve scaled a mountain by clearing an entire list off your plate!

Bonus tip – Organize your items from the hardest to the easiest.  As your body starts to wane in the afternoon, you’ll be able to accomplish the easier feats without a problem.

  • 30-60-90 – I certainly stole this from a book or blog, but cannot track down which one. The premise is simple, yet the outcome is fantastic.  Once you have selected your three items for the day, block off 30, 60, or 90 minutes to complete each task, and put it in your calendar.  When it is time to start the task, turn off your phone and e-mail until the allotted time is up.

Pro-tip:  If you use Microsoft Outlook, check into Boomerang. Among other things, this tool lets you pause your inbox and replies to senders with a simple message saying that you are currently paused, plus instructions on engaging you in urgent situations.

  • Military time – You’ve probably heard that in the military you have to make your bed (or bunk/rack/other). In a commencement speech, Naval Adm. William McRaven gave my favorite reason why: “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.  By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

As I’m writing this I feel compelled to let you know that I don’t make my bed every day, but I’m going to start that tomorrow morning.  Feel free to keep me honest.  What is important here is to gain momentum and keep momentum.  There are at minimum seven different ways one of my co-workers or clients can contact me at any moment – if I didn’t use 30-60-90 I would only get work done before 8 am and after 6 pm.  If I didn’t write down my three things each day I would spend time on non-essential functions.

  • Final tip: The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Life is not linear. Things will not always fall exactly into place. Therefore, my biggest tip of all: Forgive yourself and set your next plan in motion.  It sounds simple, but don’t let yourself settle into self-pity because you didn’t get something done. Forgive yourself, then place it squarely at the top of your three things for tomorrow.

If you have any words of wisdom, please share!  I am always striving to be better and do better. What is your tip?  What technology should I try?

Technology I use: (Note that we are all-in with Microsoft.): OneNote, Teams, Grammarly, FindTime (Meeting Poll), Surface Pro 6 w/pen, and iPhone.


Nick Hendricks Benefits Consultant

Nick Hendricks

  • Self-funding
  • Pharmacy Benefit Management Optimization
  • Employee Benefit Captives
  • Population Health Data Analytics
  • Disability Contracts
  • Government Contractors

Phone: 678.904.9336
E-Mail: nhendricks@benefitcompany.com

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