Manage Your Day-to-Day – Routines & Focus

This year my team chose a book by Behance – 99U Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind. This book is a collection of essays written by some of my favorite authors (Gretchen Rudin, Seth Godin, and Dan Ariely) and promises to help you tackle your day by better managing your focus and finding more time for creativity.

We’re a little a behind schedule on this book, only a month at this point, scheduling has been a bit of an issue as has a getting the team to complete pre-work. As I mentioned at kick-off, I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about this one and while I have found some great tips in the first two sections, I am struggling with getting the entire team to participate and see the benefits – more on that at the tail end – something we haven’t faced since I placed the book choice in their hands.

The first section covers building a schedule with specifics on balance, enforcing routines, understanding your needs for down time and focused time. It really is a foundational section as many of the concepts are reiterated and expanded upon in the next section. We had a lengthy debate on a Q & A w/Seth Godin where he calls out self-sabotage as reason for people not reaching for their goals, instead choosing to not open themselves up to the potential for criticism and failure. While I agree that the wording was a little harsh, I have to admit that it is not only something I see my coworkers and friends struggle with it is also something I find challenging. Fear of the unknown is one of the more persuasive inner devil’s advocates we have and I think the hardest to overcome – while you may be dissatisfied with your current situation at least you are comfortable navigating it. We also spent a long time on the section Building Renewal into Your Day by Tony Schwartz; understanding what your limitations are and the signs that you need a break or some downtime before tackling the next item on your list are important but also taking a preemptive look at your schedule to build it in.

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” Lena Horne

The second section is Finding Focus in a Distracted World, something I think everyone can connect with. I recently did an inventory on how many ways I can be reached while sitting at my desk at work and was not that surprised to find that at any given moment there are 14 different ways to reach me; there are four ways to instant message me, three email accounts, four social networks, two phone lines and text. That list doesn’t include the networks that I don’t stay logged into or where I have alerts going to another communication line – these are just the direct methods open and available during my work day. And I wonder why it’s so difficult to get through a simple to-do list some days. We talked through the importance of daily focus blocks, eliminating distractions for periods of time to tackle anything that requires undivided attention, but we spent the majority of the session talking about a Q & A w/Dan Ariely where he talks about opportunity costs and the temptation we face with quick resolutions – that sense of accomplishment that you get immediately responding to an email vs the time it takes to complete a task and how you should break up larger tasks into smaller items in order to give you that same feeling but faster. It’s an interesting idea; we tend to break larger projects into daily blocks but breaking that down further to feel that you’ve made progress sounds like a great way to keep you going.

Despite the resistance to doing additional work and getting the reading done, we have had some really in depth discussions on how this applies to our daily life and the pursuit of our work and personal goals.



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