by Darrin Schenck

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by Darrin Schenck

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I know from experience that this little trick has a lot of power to it. I wanted to share some of the things I do to ensure I am staying as productive as possible. I am writing this in the midst of the infamous 2020 pandemic, and so things have changed recently for a lot of people. I, like many, am working from home these days, and at times have struggled to stay on task with work and with personal stuff. So, I had to remind myself about some of my basic tactics for success on a day-to-day level. And while I am at it, I might as well share a few things with everyone else too.
My personal preference is to write a To Do list at night for the next day. I have a personal rule that I use, which is I never do any work, answer emails on my phone, etc. in the bedroom. The bedroom is for two things and two things only, one of which is sleep. I put this hand written list o the sink in the bathroom, so I see it as soon as I wake up. This does a couple of things for me:
  1. It clears my head of things, as they are now down on paper. Instead of lying in bed trying to drill into my brain something I want to make sure I remember to do in the morning, I write it down and let go of it. I know I have lost sleep by not doing this, so that alone is a good reason to do it this way.
  2. I wake up with a set agenda to accomplish. This seems to go without saying, but the reality is, I can get distracted just as easily as anyone else. I am susceptible to everything from a random phone call from an East Coast client, looking at my email right as I roll out of bed, or seeing that pile of laundry that just doesn’t seem to ever take care of itself.
I write down everything I want/need to do, just so nothing gets missed. I do my best to limit my To Do list to three major tasks per day, just to be realistic about it. I have no issue with a rolling list of things to do that takes a week to scratch off one by one. I don’t beat myself up for the reality that although I had the best of intentions to do something today, that it gets pushed until tomorrow. But by writing it down, it stays top of mind and I don’t allow myself to lose track of something that needs done.
Another tip I have, and use personally, is to do the toughest thing on your list as the first thing you do during the day. If I have an upset client who needs to discuss something, or I decided that this Saturday was the day I finally am going to change out the faucet in the bathroom, those things need to be done first. If I put them off, I am losing time and focus as the day goes, and I may not have the energy to complete this task. Get the worst/toughest/least desirable item done first. This will not only give you a good feeling of accomplishment, and hopefully momentum for more to be done, but it will also free up your mind to not dwell on that task that you might keep putting off otherwise.
And one last thing to keep in mind for those of us working from home: IT IS STILL WORK>>> You are expected to keep up with your workload and get sh*t done, just like when you were at the office. Don’t let your personal stuff bleed over into the time on the clock you are doing work stuff. Keep that separation in your day, and you will not only keep your job, but find yourself far more productive as well. Think of the below list as a daily “implied” to do list, as the structure keeps me focused.
This is a typical morning routine for me:
Wake about 5AM
5:30AM Work out in the park nearby
6:30AM Write at least one blog post, and also edit the one from the day before.
7:45AM Shower and GET DRESSED. I don’t put on a suit, but I do find it conducive to a productive work
                day to not sit around in my underwear all morning long. By getting dressed as if I was going to
                 the office, I am in WORK MODE.
8:00AM Open my inbox, scan through emails, and start prioritizing. If anything is on fire, I start there. If
                 it is business as usual, I go bottom up from yesterday, and answer the emails in the order they
                  were sent.
10:00AM I do intermittent fasting, so this is my first meal of the day. I take a 15 minute break and go
                  make breakfast. If I have time, I take another 15 minutes to eat; if not, I go back to my desk
                  and eat while I continue to answer emails. I schedule conference calls, client outreach or
                  presentations in the morning, and work my email responses around these.
1:00PM Lunch break -again my intermittent fasting schedule may be slightly different than what most
                do, but it works for me.
4:00PM I am usually done with my day by then. During the day I don’t look at social media, call friends
                or do other distracting things, so I plow through my needed tasks easily within this allotted time
                frame.
I stay focused better by staying in work mode versus wandering in and out of it. I don’t want to burn time out of my evening, or worse yet my weekend, by having to do “catch up” work outside normal office hours because I was inefficient during the day. As a sidebar to that last point…I don’t believe that most people are as overloaded as they say, I think in many cases this is lack of time management and self discipline more than anything.
This also allows me more time to write, work on my own speaking presentations, or make my wife dinner before she comes home from work. She has a tough gig working in a hospital, and I want to give her my full attention when she comes home. It’s better for us as a couple, and I know she appreciates the respect and attention I give her in the few short hours we have together that day.
So to recap...
Write a daily To Do list
put it in the bathroom or by the coffee machine
Get dressed for work, even if you work from home
Tackle the “worst” task first
Stay off social media during the day
Respect yourself and others by drawing a hard line between work hours and the rest of 
    your day
Rinse and repeat!
I wish you luck in your endeavors.

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