I have my own company and work by myself quite often. I set my own agenda. Sometimes my temptation is to forget all of my work for the day and go and do something fun instead. To counter this temptation, I have several mechanisms I have developed over the years that help me get stuff accomplished. Here are 5 of these mechanisms:
Have a Set Routine: My “get up in the morning” and “go to bed at night” hours are pretty set. Even on the weekend, though I may sleep in an extra hour, I try to go to bed at about the same time. During the week, I wake up, check the markets and the messages, then I usually do some exercise before sitting down for the day. If you have a set routine, you know when you are available for any outside calls or meetings and you can more easily schedule them accordingly so as not to cause major interruption with the rest of your schedule. It also lets you slide into the productive part of your day without having to think about it.
Write Stuff Down: I have a notebook in which I write anything of note, and I carry that notebook everywhere. That way, if I am not at home, I most likely have any notes I need with me. I am more likely to remember to do something if I have written it down. Some people use their Notes function on their computer or smartphone – that can work as well.
Do the Hard Stuff First: If you have the choice to do so, I recommend doing whichever task you have that takes the most energy or brainpower first, or at least early on in the day. I get more tired and addled as the day wears on and so I can think more clearly during the early part of the day. I write most of my blog posts early in the morning, for instance – I don’t know how brilliant they read, but at least I have made the effort to write them. When you finish your most difficult task early in the day, you can take a deep breath because everything else for the rest of the day should be a breeze by comparison. You can give yourself a pre-lunch pat on the back.
Leave A Task Unfinished: Instead of aiming to finish everything you have planned for the day, leave something unfinished. That way you can wake up the next morning and easily slide into the next day by finishing what you started the previous day. You will probably finish that task quickly because your brain will have had all night to sort through how to get it done. When I read a book, I often quit reading right in the middle of a good part because then I will be eager to get back to it as soon as I can.
Make a Plan For Tomorrow Before You End Today: Don’t wake up in the morning without a plan or a goal for the day. Instead, make your plan before you go to sleep the previous evening. Maybe the day’s plan is already set for you – if so, great! No thinking involved. However, if you have to self-motivate yourself (as I do many days), you will be motivated to get out of bed and get stuff done if you have already planned what to do the day before. You will find that your level of productivity and sense of accomplishment will increase if you don’t always have to think about your next step because you have already done so.
IMO: A lot of these pieces of advice fall into the Yoda category: Don’t think, do! Now for those of you who have an outside job and whose schedules are already over-filled, this column may not have as much relevance. However, perhaps you are sick of that over-scheduling and are contemplating retirement or at least wishing you had more free time. If that’s the case and you are one who likes to get stuff done, then consider my pointers here. Also, how does this relate to financial planning and investing? Well, what is the second word in financial “planning”? You have to plan in order to be successful with your financial life. Don’t put it off: Develop your financial plan and then live your life accordingly. Put your plan in action.