If there’s one thing that I’ve come to know about people is that we’re nothing if not creatures of habit.
I’ve spent between one and three hours a day over the past 7 years now studying English, finance, time management and marketing. Despite these seemingly unconnected topics, I found that one thing connects them all – mindset.
Marketers, like Dan Kennedy, talk about it. Thought leaders, such as Tony Robbins and Brendon Burchard, also stress the importance of mindset. From my years as a teacher, I also have found that mindset is the single most important factor as to whether someone can master English, effort being a close second.
Regardless of what field we’re in, we are still us. As such, we fall prey to the same temptations, make the same mistakes, have the same excuses, and have the same struggles.
One thing that makes us human being are habits which can be broken down into positive and negative. They are both powerful and deceptive. Most of us never give a second thought to the things we do on a daily basis or how much time they take up.
When I sit down with clients and go through their week, I’m often amazed at how ineffective their schedule is. The biggest issue I find is they don’t understand just what an impact their habits are having on their productivity. The thing is, time management is one skill that’s not taught in any school or college that I know of. And yet, it’s the one constant factor in everything.
There is a 5-step formula to transforming your busy schedule into a lean, mean, fighting machine.
Step 1: Understanding your habits
This step is simply taking the time to figure out how you spend an average week. From the minute you wake up to the minute your head hits the pillow, how are you spending your time. Keep a notebook and simply jot down how much time you spend where, and what you are doing at that time.
Here’s a quick sample:
- 6:50-7:10 watched CNN on TV
- 7:20-7:40 had breakfast
- 7:50 left for work
- 8:25 arrived at the office
Step 2: Analyze your habits
Once you have an entire week on a piece of paper, it’s time to analyze which habits are helping you and which are hurting you.
Example: Eating breakfast (+), watching CNN (-)
How do I determine what is + and – you might ask, quite simply, if a habit isn’t helping you achieve your goals then they’re -. Your 9-5 job might not be helping you achieve your dream, but it sure as heck pays the bills. So regardless of whether you like your job or you don’t, it should end up in the + column.
*Even more important is keeping track of how you spend your time at the office.
Step 3: Getting rid of bad habits
Now, this part is tricky, because we all need stress relief. We’re not robots. We all need time to put our feet up and relax for a few minutes. The question is if we are relaxing too much.
For example, a power nap is a good thing. A 3-hour nap isn’t (although there are always exceptions).
Only you can know if you’re spending too much time on a leisure activity. Here’s a good rule of thumb though. If you can still get the same amount of enjoyment of watching a 45-minute TV show as watching a 2-hour movie. Go with the show.
Movies, unless they’re awesome, are often what some people might call a time vamp (vampire). They suck time away from you leaving you drained.
Computer games are probably one of the most destructive time vamps there are. However, if you enjoy it, who am I to argue. But if I was going to offer a suggestion here, put a limit on how long you will play and stick to it. Set the timer for 30mins and turn off the game the minute it rings.
Hard to do? Yes. Good for us? Definitely.
We limit our children from wasting too much time on silly things, shouldn’t we do the same for ourselves?
Step 4: Creating good habits
This is critical. It’s not enough to simply get rid of bad habits. You must replace them with new, positive ones.
If you’ve successfully shortened your TV time down from 3 hours to 1, the question is what do I do with those extra two hours?
As they say, idle hands are the devil’s workshop. We can’t do nothing. By default, we will end up using our newly acquired/found time. The question is what?
If it helps our mind (ie. reading), our body (exercise), our relationships (playing with our children), or our dreams (planning) then it’s time well spent.
Step 5: Stick with it
It’s one thing to fix today, it’s another to fix every day. Too often people fall into traps they create for themselves. After all, it’s easier to be lazy than to be organized. The question we should always ask ourselves is how badly do we want something?
If you don’t care about the path your life is on, good or bad, keep going. It is your life, after all.
However, if you look down the path a while and don’t like where it’s going, you need to make a change and what better way than with something so simple.
You’ll notice I said, “Simple,” not easy as it’s never easy to change habits that we have had for years. It takes time. It takes effort. But I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it.