I am always in search of new and better ways to make use of my time so that I can focus better and open up time for the more important things in life. With that in mind, I wanted to share 10 things that I have changed so far this year to improve my focus:
1. No More Foursquare
I stopped using the popular check in software. It was fun while it lasted. I enjoyed checking in, seeing which of my friends had also been at that location, and playing the game of trying to get the most points. It also helped come tax time to see where I had been for meetings to determine mileage deductions. However, it also had me opening my phone upon arrival everywhere. That can be distracting when I am out on a date with my wife and it takes away from experiencing a place. I still like Foursquare but I have chosen not to use it anymore.
2. Canceled Newspaper Subscription
I was a subscriber to the Wall Street Journal. I enjoy reading the paper. It is one of my favorite pastimes. But it was also taking a large portion of my morning. I canceled my subscription and have freed up a lot of time in my mornings. I also found that I was checking news throughout the work day. All this did was enrage me. To keep up with the news, I have taken the advice of Timothy Ferris and have begun to ask people I respect what is going on in the world. They can usually identify the main news items and succinctly provide the background story. I may be missing out on some news, but I am much more peaceful and I have more time.
3. Check Email Only Twice a Day
I used to keep my email open all day. If I was intently working on a project, an email could easily derail my thought process and stop the project in its tracks. Now, I check email daily at 10am and 4pm. I try to knock out all emails that take 5 minutes or less immediately and move the other items to my to-do list.
4. Project-based To Do List
I read the book Getting Things Done and changed how I approach my to-do list. I have moved all time-based items to reminders (see #5 below) and turned my to-do list into a project-based list. I first list the project and then list the next steps I need to take to move the project along. If those steps include work or answers from someone else, I notate that in a delegation column. This contrasts from my previous to-do list where I would just list a project as a to-do item. The result was that the project often wouldn’t move along because I would view it as a huge elephant instead of small little pieces I could quickly accomplish. This might sound like a small change, but for me, I completely overhauled the to-do list structure that I had used for 12 years.
I moved all time-sensitive to-do items to Apple’s Reminders app. I have this app on my phone, tablet, and computer. Therefore, whenever I think of anything that needs to be done, I can quickly get it out of my brain and onto a to-do list that dings when the task is due. I’ve tried to de-clutter my mind by quickly adding things to the Reminders app and then doing them when they are due.
6. Focused Morning
Now that I canceled my newspaper subscription and only check email at the office, I am able to completely dedicate my morning to coffee and the Bible. That time is very important for me and I know I am getting much more out of the reading time by not worrying about the news and email.
7. Finances Once a Week
In the past, I would often check finances every other day. I now check it once a week at a specified time. That is still probably too much, but it has at least opened up a lot of time during the week.
8. Check Social Platforms Twice a Day
I love posting to Instagram. I love checking engagement with my photos. A lot. I have scaled that down to just checking twice a day. Twitter is a little different in that I have it open throughout the day on my computer, but I also try to limit that as well, especially when I am working on a project that requires focus.
I had an unsubscribe party earlier this year. And the party has not stopped. I consider every email I receive and if it is a newsletter that is sucking my time, I unsubscribe. This has dramatically decreased the amount of email I receive and makes it much easier to get through my email those two times daily.
10. Phone Calls
I stopped answering the phone unless I know who is calling. 9 times out of 10, it is a call meant to disrupt. Answering calls while focusing on a project is a great way to get sidetracked.
What are some things you have changed recently that have had an impact on how you work?