As I recover from the horror of being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer, I find myself slipping back into the frenzy of overly-busy work days. How did this happen? As I reflect on the early days of settling into and treating my disease, I see a calmer and more serene person. It has been a life-changing journey with some very pleasant, unexpected outcomes. Now, I always look for the positive in bad situations. Another upside of this personal crisis was the ability to enjoy a simple day with the gift of time.
As a woman business leader, I don’t often get the opportunity to create, write and just “be.” So, when I came across this advice on how to simplify your life from Leo Babauta, I wanted to share it with you.
Going into work early was one of my favorite tricks — it was quiet, before the phones and chatter and meetings started, and I could get a lot of work done in peace. By the time everyone else was getting started, I’d gotten two or three big tasks checked off.
Limit your hours
Cut back on your hours and set a limit — say 6 or 7 hours a day — and get your most essential work done within that limit. Limits force you to be effective.
Make a short list
Make a long list of all the tasks you need to do … then make a short list of 1-3 things you really want to get done. Choose so that, if you got only these tasks done, you’d be proud of what you did today.
Things like email, reading blogs, Twitter or another social networks. Set a time for these, preferably later in the day: say, from 3-4 p.m. Another approach might be to do them for 10 minutes at the end of each hour — but stick to that 10-minute limit!
Write shorter emails
If email takes up a lot of your day, the simple change of limiting yourself to 3-4 sentences per email will make a big difference.
Some top Google executives just do 5-minute meetings — anyone who attends these meetings had better be prepared, and concise. If you can get out of meetings and just get the notes, it could save you hours per week.
The fewer repetitive and routine tasks you have to do, the more time you’ll free up for creating and important work. So automate wherever possible.
I used to deal with a lot of paperwork, and even then I knew it was a waste of my time. Whenever possible, eliminate paperwork in favor of digital.
Clear your desk
Clear everything off the top of your desk. Everything should be: filed, given to the appropriate person, given a permanent spot in a drawer, or trashed/recycled.
If you can get out of your office, and find a peaceful spot where you can focus on important work. Working from home is a good option here. The more you can do this (it might be once a week, or an hour a day, or half of every workday), the better.
Take breathing breaks
Every 15-20 minutes, get up from your desk, and take a breathing break. When you get back to work, remind yourself what you want to be working on, and clear away all distractions.
Practice a focus ritual
Every hour or two, do a refocus ritual. You might start it taking a walk for a couple of minutes to clear your head and get your blood circulating. Then return to your list of Most Important Tasks and figure out what you need to accomplish next.
Schedule big blocks of creative time
Not everyone can do this, but when possible, put a big block of 3-4 hours in your schedule for creating or doing other important work. Be ruthless about clearing distractions and doing the work you love during these blocks.
I can see that there are areas I need to work on, and I am going to heed Leo’s advice! Oh the joy of a simple day! Please let me know what methods you use to simplify your day.