I meet folks from all professions and walks of life when I speak as The Inefficiency Assassin. I also have wonderful phone coaching clients all over the world.
The number one question I get asked is, “What is the best _____ to use in order to have more time in the day?” You can fill in the blank with such words as calendar, file folder, file cabinet, task app, cord manager—you name it.
I’m always asked about a product. Everyone wants to know the secret quick fix.
How to create the time to be happy and improve your life
Depending on how much time I have at that moment, I try to explain briefly that tools are just tools. They won’t work unless something else, something bigger, like an extreme strategy—is learned. Since you and I have the time right now, let’s talk about what that mind-bending concept is.
What is the key to creating the time to be happy and stop continually searching for purpose?
Here’s a hint: you already possess the most critical tool a person needs in order to be successful with time management.
It’s your brain!
Now, don’t get me wrong; calendars and apps are tools you can use. However, the most essential accessory is your brain. It’s your brain that decides what goes on those calendars and what tasks get added to those apps or lists. Regardless of the one you choose to use to track what you need to do, you have to put effort into filling them up.
Want to figure out how to be happy?
You have a secret weapon…
Your brain is in total control of everything you do. It decides how much time you waste and how much time you use. It decides whether you’ll procrastinate or jump in and get things done.
Your brain determines your reaction and response to every person who communicates with you and every situation in which you’re placed. If you’ve got too much spinning around up there, you can end up with brain constipation.
It’s important to understand that you can’t be on autopilot. You must be conscious, aware, intentional, present, cognizant—whichever term you prefer to use—regarding your decisions about how you use your time.
To carve out the time to be happy and to live a life with purpose, we must Create Clarity and learn to care for and use our secret weapon—our brain. In order to Create Clarity, we must implement the following three concepts:
- Capture our priorities
- Identify our targets
- Reflect with power
Capturing your priorities makes it easier to be happier
Make all decisions in work and life based on your priorities. There are different tactics to capturing your priorities depending on whether they are personal in nature or for work.
Use these tactics to help capture your personal priorities:
2. From this list, write your top three or four personal priorities.
3. View your personal priorities list every day.
4. Make decisions in your personal life based on these priorities.
When trying to capture your work priorities, change up the way you brainstorm slightly! This time, focus on every belief, objective, and concept that’s important to your work. Then simply go through the same remaining steps!
Why understanding your priorities is important
In order to stay focused on what you’re trying to accomplish in your career, you need to understand what your priorities in life are.
We often think we know what they are because we’ve casually thought about them from time to time. However, until we set our priorities down on paper (or on the computer) in a place where we can view them daily, they do not become ingrained in our thoughts.
And when they’re not ingrained, we lose sight of the big picture and wind up lost—off our path, in the opposite direction of our mission.
Big changes happen when we move from having thoughts float around between the conscious and subconscious parts of our brains. Having those thoughts live fully in the conscious part, we become more aware and focused. That’s what happens when we write our goals and view them daily.
They’re no longer random thoughts that pop in and out of our minds. The wiring in our brains that helped us to capture these ideas helps us to turn those random thoughts into focused goals.
The next time your brain tries to drag you away from the present and you have to decide whether to follow that tangent or the next time someone asks you to do something, decide based on the priorities that you’ve just written.
Will doing “xyz” task help you achieve a priority on your list?
If the answer is yes, get it done. If the answer is no, don’t do it.
Now that you have your priorities established, here are a few questions to consider before moving onto the next step:
- When, each day (or evening), will you view these lists?
- Viewing your priorities lists daily has most likely not been a tactic you’ve applied regularly. How will you remind yourself to do this every day?
- Where can you store these lists so that you can readily view them when you need to decide?
Identify your targets if you want to be happier
Make all decisions in work and life based on your targets. Targets are the building blocks or measurable steps to attaining your goals, or staying true to all the priorities you just set.
Here are a few suggestions for identifying your personal and work related targets:
1. Take out the personal priorities list you created in the previous section.
2. Use this list to write your top three personal and work targets. Make sure they are measurable.
3. View your targets list every day.
4. Make decisions in your personal life and in your work life based on these personal targets.
Why identifying your targets is important
According to multiple studies, we are more successful when our goals are challenging yet realistic—and they can be measured. When your goal cannot be measured, it’s easy to bow out. Therefore, you never obtain the success you want. The research says it all. Be specific.
Since most people never sit down to define specifically what it is they want, they feel as if they’re constantly chasing what they can’t reach. However, if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, how do you know that you’re not there already?
How do we know if we’ve hit the bulls-eye if we don’t know what the target is?
So many times, we feel like we need to keep burning the midnight oil because we haven’t made it yet. In actuality, many of us have accomplished far more than the average bear! Yet we haven’t given ourselves credit because we didn’t know what our specific target was in the first place.
How to use these targets to improve your goals
A major snag in the goals lists I’ve seen people create is that they contain intangible or unmeasurable goals. When I ask clients what their goals are, here are typical examples they give:
I want to. . .
- be successful in my career
- make enough money to support my family
- spend time with my family
- be healthy
- be happy
If your health is one of your priorities, you can choose a target related to it. Some examples might include walking for 30 minutes each day or eating more vegetables. If spending time with your spouse is a priority, you can choose a target related to that. Try spending two solid hours with him/her this weekend, or discuss planning weekly date nights.
Creating a specific target from your priorities list will help you focus on creating a life outside of work. Having this target will help your brain to make better decisions about how you use your time.
Here are a few things to ask yourself before moving onto to reflecting on your priorities and targets:
- When, each day (or evening), will you view these lists?
- Viewing your target lists daily has most likely not been a tactic you’ve applied regularly. How will you remind yourself to do this every day?
- Where can you store these lists so that they’re available for you to view when you need to make a decision?
Reflect with power and make a conscious choice to be happy
At the end of each day, celebrate all your wins, no matter how big or small they are! Each day is a chance to be grateful for something. It is important to remember that before trying to improve upon what went wrong or didn’t work. Never start with, “I didn’t get ‘xyz’ done.”
Take a few moments each day (or at least each week) to reflect on what you’ve been doing to work toward your personal priorities and targets and your work priorities and targets.
- What tasks (small, medium, large, and extra-grande) did I finish and need to celebrate?
- Have I stopped and made any decisions based on my priorities and targets? (Celebrate!)
- Did I say no to something that would not benefit me? (Celebrate!)
- What worked? (Celebrate! And keep doing this.)
- Were there lessons I learned from all this good stuff I did?
Reflecting on at least one positive step forward will give you the encouragement you need to stay focused on your personal and work priorities and targets, which will help you make better decisions about how you use your time. This is reflecting with power.
Next, ask yourself:
- What glitches occurred?
- Why did they happen?
- Did I learn from what transpired?
- Can something be done to prevent them from happening again?
- Do I need to make more time for a certain priority or target?
- What do I need to take off my plate to make more time for that?
When most folks reflect, they skip the prior “round one” positive questions and celebrations. They instead start and stop with only the first question in this “round two” section. Then, they stay frustrated.
Raise your hands in the air and let out a big “Yahoo!” for taking the time to reflect with power on all these questions, as doing so will increase your positivity and brainpower, which will improve the decisions you make about how to use your time.
Reflection is a critical component of being happier
Reflection is an important part of any improvement process. But if we focus on chasing unrealistic dreams, and we never acknowledge what we have in front of us, we pretty much just end up frustrated from chasing our tail in circles.
Too many times we try to hunt down something that won’t benefit us or that we might already have in our lives. This causes us to spend time and resources on something we don’t actually need. We will also stay frustrated and beaten down if we keep focusing on everything we haven’t done.
When we don’t take the time to reflect with power, we often just focus on what’s left on our never-ending to-do list. That’s definitely not motivating. We also focus on what went wrong.
This is also not motivating. For example, if you say something like this at the end of each day, it’s going to get depressing:
“All I got done today was. . .”
Egad! Start with what you got done. You might learn that you’ve accomplished more than you ever thought you would. You just haven’t given yourself credit for it yet.
When you start with what you accomplish, you’ll refrain from using negative language like “all I got done” because you’ll realize how inaccurate the “all I got done” phrase is.
Capturing wins is so much more encouraging than focusing on deficits! We are pros at picking ourselves apart. That’s why I’m repeating yet again that we must empower ourselves by reflecting first on our victories, large and small.
Here are few final thoughts to help you reflect:
- Is there a day (or days) of week that work better for you to have your power reflection session?
- Do you have a quiet place in mind to conduct your reflection?
- What reminder will you set for yourself to make sure that it happens?
Control Time and Live Life on Your Terms
You now have the weapons you need to work efficiently and get whatever definition of happiness you seek. Monitor the ebbs and flows of each day and adjust as necessary.
Understanding how to be happy and using these strategies and tactics can bring out the power of your mind. Moving the thoughts that ramble around our heads from deep cover and into our consciousness will go a long way toward creating happiness.
Become an agent of change in your Time Management Revolution. Managing your time better will help you be more productive and free up time to have a life outside of your business or your job.
You will create the time to be happy and live a life with purpose. You will work smarter, not harder.
Productivity. Balance. Happiness. Success. Peace.
Time management is all about mindset and mind management.
It truly is… all in your head.
**Based on the book The Inefficiency Assassin: Time Management Tactics for Working Smarter, Not Longer. Copyright © 2016 by Helene Segura. Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com**