3 Techniques That Can Make a Big Impact on Your Performance
As we wrap up 2023, reflect on the changes you’ve made so far personally and professionally. You may have resolved to take on some big goals, as well as focused on incremental change. And that’s good news!
Small changes can have a profound impact on your performance. Here are three simple techniques to consider adding to your daily routine for improved productivity and well-being.
1.Don’t check email first thing in the morning.
This is one of the most common mistakes the people I consult with make, and it is also one of the hardest to change. When you start your day by opening your email, it immediately sets you into a reactive mode. Research, as well as interviews with high-performers across industries, validates that giving yourself time to “step into your day” and contemplating what you want to accomplish has a substantial impact on your ability to control your focus and, ultimately, your performance.
Here’s what you can do:
Think about your morning routine. Most of us have one, even though we may not intentionally organize it. Start with the moment you wake up and end with when you either leave for your commute or go to your home office. Challenge yourself to stop checking email prior to going “on game.” If you have your email set to automatically notify you every time a new email comes to your inbox, then change your phone settings to download new emails only when you open the email app yourself. This places the control back with you for when new emails arrive.
Start to recognize when you check your email the first time and associate that with the start of your workday. After doing this for several days, resolve what you would like to have as your “thinking time.” I use a personal journal and sticky notes to capture my thoughts and action items that I hope to accomplish over the day or upcoming days. This allows me to clear my mind of what I want to do (or believe I should do) before I receive the issues or needs in my inbox that I have to do.
2. Start scheduling two to three hours of “white space” in your week.
White spaces are blocks of unstructured time during your week that you can use to think, read, or work on non-urgent tasks. You get to decide because you control the white space. I find too many leaders fill their calendars with meetings and the needs of others and fail to focus on their own time for reflection, pondering, and development.
Here’s what you can do:
Determine how you want to organize your white space. For some, they prefer it in a 2-to 3-hour block once a week. For others, it’s establishing two to three 1-hour blocks. If you’re unsure which approach works best for you, experiment for a couple of weeks. Once you resolve your approach, schedule recurring calendar appointments for the next three to six months. Name them what works best for you and your organization. For some, if the appointment is called “white space” or “focus time,” then their bosses or team members may not respect that, so name it something they will respect. Now it’s on you to hold those appointments firm. Don’t give them up.
As you come across articles, development opportunities, or long-term tasks that you would like to address (such as thinking about a team member’s development), add them to a list of things you would like to review in your white space. Use these times for yourself—whatever that means. For me, sometimes it’s just getting through a lot of small to-dos. Other times, it’s for me to think strategically or brainstorm new ideas. It’s whatever you want to make it.
If you need some help with this step, try my Time Blocking PowerPlay™.
3. Go to bed without worry.
How well do you sleep at night? Many leaders I coach, find it extremely hard to let go of everything on their plates, leading to poor sleep. If you find yourself lying in bed running through the remaining open action items in your mind and stressing over upcoming events, decisions, or surprises from the day, try this.
Here’s what you can do:
Put a notepad next to your bed and write down all the issues that are worrying you. You can mentally “release” them because you now have them on paper and can review them the next day. For each “worry” or item that you are thinking about, ask yourself, “Can I deal with it now, or can I delegate it tomorrow?” Resolve your worry by choosing to deal with it or delegate it. After doing this for several nights, seek ways to resolve or delegate issues prior to going to your bedroom. This will start creating an end-of-day routine that separates your anxiety from your bedtime.
The last few years have been incredibly challenging. And 2023 doesn’t look like it’s going to be different. For me, this year will be one of the most pivotal. Your decisions and actions to shape this future “normal” will determine your success for the next several years. Recognizing this and establishing new ways to better control your time and focus will help you drive that success.