For A Successful 2017, Audit Yourself And Find A Purpose

There is a lot to be said for planning out a year. (If you still need to plan your year: this guide will help.)

At a certain point, though, you can only add so many things into your life before you need to start subtracting to make room for all the new.

One of the best ways to start doing that is to track your time.

Most people think they’re utilizing every single minute of every day, but if you actually track your time you’ll see plenty of holes.

When I spent time tracking what I was doing during every hour of every day, I realized I was wasting a lot of time waiting on responses from people. Once I realized this, I found productive things to do while I wait for edits, responses, or anything else that depends on someone else getting back to me.

So many people claim they don’t have time, yet can tell you every detail of what happened this season on Game of Thrones.

(On a side note: Consuming media isn’t a bad thing, but consuming media at the expense of your goals is where people start to get in trouble.)

Finding A Goal

The first step is to know what goals you want in your life.

If you don’t have goals, you have no idea if you’re using your time well or not and when you have free time, you don’t know what to do.

When you have a vision for your life, or at least an overriding goal for the year, it’s easy to ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now getting me closer or farther from that goal?”

Your time becomes clear.

This is what a lot of “productivity experts” overlook: having something to work toward.

Who cares if you meditate, clean your room, exercise daily, plan your day, or anything else if it’s all meaningless? I’ve seen on a lot of posts on productivity forums along the lines of, “My life is totally in order yet I feel empty inside… why?”

Simple: Because we humans are meant for more than to be tidy.

Being tidy for the sake of looking like you have it together doesn’t make sense. Being tidy because that helps you spend less time on clutter and more time on what matters makes sense.

Having goals, values, a purpose gives meaning to the small tasks.

You might not know what your life’s purpose is, but having literally anything to work toward gives meaning to the day-to-day grind.

Plus, it removes that, “What should I be working on?” feeling when you have downtime.

Track Your Time

There are multiple ways to track your time.

Some prefer digital tools like RescueTime that can track your web activity.

Some prefer paper, and what has worked for me is this planner, where I can track each day 15 minutes at a time. Plus, each day is blank so you can track the days you want without wasting paper when you miss some days. I don’t work at my computer all the time, so I had to find something else I could take offline.

Every 60 minutes I go back and write down what I worked on for the past hour.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to keep writing it down and I actually had to set a 60-minute timer to remember to do it, but it’s eye-opening.

When you complain about not having enough time to work on that creative project, but then write down “Facebook” as what you’ve spent the last hour doing, you understand where your time has gone.

Cut, Cut, Cut

Once you have an accurate look at your week and where your time went, this is when you need to re-prioritize.

There are a million reasons our time goes out the window. Not being organized enough, having too many things on our plate, saying “yes” to too many things, falling into time-wasting activities, and so on.

You can’t audit your life until you have an actual overlook at where your time goes.

This is when you can make plans for the time-sucks that eat away at your life.

For example, here are some things I’ve altered:

  1. I made my Facebook password ridiculously complicated and I sign out after being done. Having a complicated password prevents me from signing in at any moment. I also took Facebook, along with some other social media platforms, off my phone so I stopped burning time on those mindless activities.
  2. I meal prep as often as I can. One huge time suck was cooking every single day, so I’ve been working to change that. I don’t want to eat out every day, because that’s a financial drain, but just having things prepared has made everything so much easier.
  3. Stopped multi-tasking. I thought I was getting so much done when I would multi-task, but after tracking my time I discovered this wasn’t true at all. Doing multiple tasks took longer than me focusing and doing one at a time.
  4. I now only consume media I really enjoy. Sometimes we all get sucked in to keeping up with the “hot” things of our time, but that can be such a waste of time. I stopped watching a lot of TV shows for that reason.

Keep Modifying

It’s normal to fall off the wagon when you’re trying to build new habits or shift your focus, but if you keep tracking and trying to improve, you can make your life better with each passing day.

What have you realized was a complete time-suck, and how did you change it? Leave a comment!

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The Importance of a Morning and Evening Routine

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Getting your day started and wrapped up on your terms is essential to maximum productivity.

We’ve all been there: You plan to have a productive day, and then the first distraction rolls in. Then the next one starts. Then the one after that.

Before you know it, half the day is already gone and you haven’t done a single thing that matters to you.

The same goes for the evening. When I find myself drifting without a routine, all of a sudden it will be 2 a.m. and I’m still awake doing mindless activities.

If you want to live a better life, you have to get the things done on your to-do list that matter the most.

Of course, there will be days where you have to break the routine, but I find that if I stick to a routine most days of the week, I get more done.

The best part about a morning routine is that most interruptions haven’t entered your life yet, so you can focus on what matters. It’s much easier to go through the day knowing you have made progress toward your ultimate dream instead of feeling resentful that someone else took your time from you.

1. Know what matters most

If you don’t know your ultimate goal, here is a great article from Art of Manliness to help you figure out your goals: Create A Life Plan.

You could also spend time meditating and trying out new things to discover what you feel most passionate about. A lot of people aren’t sure what they want to do with their lives, so they put everything off until “later”, only to realize they’re much older and should have started when they were younger. No matter your age, you can start today to discover your life’s calling.

2. Eliminate all distractions

This is especially important in the morning. If you check your e-mail or your phone first thing in the morning, you’re asking for everyone else to derail your day. Everyone else can wait.

This was a hard one for me at first. Waiting to check e-mail took about 3 months of trying for me to break. I finally had to remove e-mail completely from my phone at night so I couldn’t be tempted to hit that button.

3. Keep tweaking as you go

There are plenty of morning and night routines that might work best for you. Try keeping a journal and taking notes of what went right and what you want to change.

You’ll have days where you miss. Stay focus on what matters to you and get right back on the horse when you can. Don’t let one off day completely ruin your progress.

My morning and night routine:

Morning:

– Wake up at 6:30 and brew some coffee
– NO internet or cell phone under any circumstances.
– Take my dog for a small walk so she’s quiet during my work
– Sit down and start writing for about an hour or two
– Stretch for a little bit (to try and combat all the sitting)
– Plan the rest of the day depending on what I need to get done

Evening:

– Exercise (I’ve always been an evening exercise fan)
– Come back upstairs and review the day
– Brain dump everything on my mind. What’s nagging at the back of my mind? What do I need to do soon? What open loops do I need to close? Getting these out and on paper helps me sleep better
– Plan the next day, especially what I plan to get done first thing in the morning so I can sit down and get right to work.
– What can I set up this evening to make tomorrow immediately successful? Sometimes this consists of preparing the coffee, washing my outfit for the next morning, finding a notebook I need for a writing project, etc.
– Tidy up the important areas: my kitchen counter and desk. Clutter never used to bother me until I realized how nice it was to wake up to a completely decluttered surface area.

Do you have a certain routine? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!