Hello Everyone! Angie Flynn here. I wanted to share a concept I’ve discovered recently that has really helped me get my s&*t together. Deb and I joke about it a lot, but I can get a little squirrelly and scatterbrained at times (I know, SHOCKING, right?). I love what I do for a living, and because I love it so much, I tend to overextend myself from time to time. Then, I end up overwhelmed and turning in circles behind my desk, not having any idea where to go or what to do.
I have a number of very high profile, important projects that I’m working on for our company right now – projects with actual HARD deadlines – like, projects where people are really depending on me to get things done ON TIME. One of my favorite things about owning my own business has been the latitude in things like deadlines. As long as I’m not disappointing a client and as long as I get stuff done in the ballpark of the intended deadline, all seems to work pretty well.
But now I actually have some clients of my own and they depend on me to do what I say I’m going to do by when I say I’m going to do it.
I have a very large dry-erase board on the wall behind my desk – it’s like 5′ x 7′ – and it houses all the things I need to do for an 8-week period of time. It has been a God-send so often, but for the past few months it has been an incredible source of stress and overwhelm for me because the things that are on there HAVE to get done and most of them have to get done ON TIME! Worse yet, there are a lot of “project-y” type things up there that aren’t quick wins.
My personality has always been to set an aggressive deadline for a project and then do all the other fun stuff I GET to do until the deadline is so critical that I HAVE to take action. This is how I worked in high school, in college, in grad school, in my personal life, and in my various jobs. It’s not an entirely comfortable way to approach things, but it’s worked out okay for me… kind of.
I realized that I needed a new system to keep myself on track – making consistent progress on these projects, rather than leaving it all until the 11th hour – if I was going to remain sane and not be working 90 hour weeks. One Saturday afternoon a couple of months ago, I was searching the Kindle store for time management books to read that might help me get my act together. I came across a book called “Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness,” by S.J. Scott. The concept sounded interesting so I downloaded it.
I devoured the book in about 2 hours and things haven’t been the same! Deb has even commented on the positive change! 🙂
I know that when my day starts off right that everything else seems to go much more smoothly. I know that I am much more productive when I adhere to a “success routine” and that’s the main idea around Habit Stacking – creating a stack of habits you want to create that are anchored by something you already do every day. Scott has some other rules, but that’s the main idea. Really, I can’t recommend this book more highly!
I created three Habit Stacks for each day – one for first thing in the morning, one for noontime, and one for 4pm.
For example, my morning stack is pretty lengthy. I wake up at 3:15 am and then:
- Meditate (45 min-1 hour ) – this is my anchor because I do this every day anyhow
- Yoga/Strength Training (30 minutes) – right now this is replaced with PT exercises to help me rehab from an injury
- Drink 2 cups of hot water/lemon
- Read non-fiction (20 minutes)
- Write in my Gratitude Journal (2 minutes)
- Imagineer (15 minutes)
- Write – something… ANYTHING (at least 30 minutes)
- Log any Expenditures from the previous day (2 minutes)
- Professional development (30 minutes)
My other stacks are more procedural in nature… Confirming appointments for the next day, logging food, spending some time decluttering my email inbox/computer desktop, etc., connecting with someone new, filling out my commitment sheet for the next day… stuff like that.
I have been doing this for the past 8 weeks and I have been more productive in those 2 months than maybe in all of last year!
I think the key lies in routines that are success oriented – if you start your day in a success-minded way, then you just tend to continue on that track.
The funny thing is that I feel so much calmer – even though I feel like I am moving at warp speed some days.
I’ve coupled the habit stacking with something called the Pomodoro Technique and I feel like I’ve hit productivity nirvana! The Pomodoro technique (so named, I believe, because the guy who invented it used a timer shaped like a tomato) is a way to focus on a particular task or cluster of tasks. The idea is to set a timer for 25 minutes and to work on one thing (or one cluster of things) without distraction. When the time elapses, you take a 5-minute break. Once you have accomplished 4 rounds of the 25-minute focus sets, you take a 15-minute break.
Because many of my projects are quite lengthy in nature, the Pomodoro Technique has really worked beautifully in helping me power through some serious work.
If you have a lot on your plate (and really, who of us doesn’t?) and feel completely overwhelmed, give these two techniques – habit stacking and Pomodoro – a try. They dovetail beautifully with the systems Deb is already teaching and are working brilliantly for me!
I promise to give you an update in a couple of months and let you know if I’m still on track!