Personal Time-management System 7: Improving Focus and Concentration (3/3)

By Ryan Douglas

3.Exercise

Another cornerstone of brain power and good health. The impact of exercise on focus and concentration may not be as apparent as food. However, the resulting increase in energy levels and stamina are palpable.

Exercise also releases dopamine- which has been proven to increase happiness and confidence. And when you’re confident in yourself, it shows in your efforts.

You’re more apt to produce quality work that you’re proud of. You take chances and become more spontaneous. People who exercise take risks that they might not have otherwise. Which leads to even more confidence, increased abilities, and a stronger belief in what you’re capable of.

Elisi can help here as well.

Utilizing the built-in habit tracking function, it’s easy to log your workouts and move towards your fitness goals. Once configured, the Elisi app automatically calculates your progress. As your active streak trends upward, it becomes a habit that you don’t want to break.

4.Quality Sleep

A severely underrated tactic for improving focus and concentration. Research shows that sleep improves almost every single process in the human body.

Which seems strange considering that modern society views sleep deprivation as a badge of honor. Many think hustling, grinding, or being relentless is the only way to get ahead. Yet, that’s simply not true.

Studies confirm sleep has a pronounced impact on memory and learning and helps us achieve peak performance. Some mistakenly believe caffeine or other stimulants can make up for bad sleep habits, but that’s not the case.

There is no substitute for getting good sleep each night.

So, go ahead. Turn off your electronics, read for a few minutes, and then power down for the night. In the morning, you’ll find yourself more refreshed, alert, and focused on the tasks ahead.

Focusing Training

Aside from the techniques and tactics previously mentioned, it helps to remember that better focus and concentration are skills that anyone can develop. But it does take desire, intention, and consistency to experience results.

1.Mental Exercise

In many ways, training your mind is like training your body. What seems difficult at first tends to get easier with time. Establishing your routine comes first but sticking with it each day is what facilitates progress.

Because as you continue training your mental strength improves. You’re able to focus and concentrate for longer periods of time. Your tasks get done faster. And you produce higher-quality work to show for it.

A good analogy is thinking about the propeller on an airplane. It takes tremendous force to complete the first few revolutions. Yet, once you start generating momentum, each successful revolution requires less effort.

Your focus might be weak right now. But with regular practice, it will get better.

2.Stumbling Blocks

We’re all human and human beings possess a finite amount of willpower. We can focus for only so long before we exhaust ourselves. And, as much as we try and fight it, humans give in to temptation.

The key is to recognize this process for what it is – part of life. Things come up, family members get sick, and well, sometimes, we just don’t want to do the work.

And that’s okay.

Rarely does anyone have a successful outcome on the first (or even the 10th) try of anything. It takes countless iterations to strike the right balance and achieve our goals.

But in the meantime, we have to be like Elsa and “let it go.”

3.Forgive Yourself

The final step in improving mental clarity. If you do lose momentum and veer off course sometimes, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just gently right the ship and bring yourself back on track.

A slip-up doesn’t mean abandoning your goals, losing faith, or punishing yourself forever. Give yourself permission to fail and vow to try again. Learn from your mistakes, figure out what you can do differently next time, and take it from there.

Conclusion

In the end, improving focus and concentration is more of a marathon than a sprint. Each daily practice builds upon itself to create a larger, more meaningful end result.

Techniques like pomodoro sprints, scheduled time blocks, and distraction-free environments can help. However, sustainable improvement also requires a holistic approach.

For instance, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine. Meditating, relaxing, and getting a good night’s sleep. Along with being kind to yourself and practicing forgiveness when you hit those inevitable stumbles.

Tools like Elisi make the entire process easier. Offloading thoughts and organizing ideas in your digital bullet journal frees up mental space, reduces stress, and allows you to be more productive.

And isn’t that what we’re all trying to achieve?

Open your FREE Elisi account today to get started.

Personal Time-management System 6: Improving Focus and Concentration (2/3)

By Ryan Douglas

3.Eliminating Distractions

Yet another technique that goes hand-in-hand with improving productivity and focus. We live in a world of distractions which can take over our lives (if we let them). Yet, with proper planning, we can strike a balance between modern conveniences and improved focus. Consider the following:

Internet blocking apps – that keep you from accessing the web or social media during focused work periods. Many assume a quick check-in on Twitter or visit to Amazon is no big deal. However, the next thing you know you’ve wasted 30 minutes with nothing to show for it.

Blocking the web eliminates a large portion of the distractions we face.

A quiet workspace – it seems obvious, but many fail to recognize the importance of a quiet workspace. A busy coffee shop is great for socializing, but probably not the ideal fit for deep thinking or focused work. Likewise, trying to be creative while partners, roommates, or children are nearby is often difficult.

If you can, retreat to a quiet location to concentrate on your work. If that’s not possible, put on some headphones or (softly) play some music to drown out background noise.

Studies show that classical music works best, but most anything without lyrics will do. As long as whatever you’re listening to doesn’t create more distraction.

Developing a routine – besides being a great way to get in the zone, routines help remove willpower from the equation. Routines signal your brain that it’s time to switch into work mode and get focused.

Routines are unique to each person, but many have common elements. Such as location, time of day, or mindset. Even playing a certain song can signal that it’s time to get going. However, you should limit using these items for your focused work time only.

Otherwise, they lose significance and you end up diluting the process.

Besides focusing techniques, there are also a number of generalized tactics that can be used to improve concentration.

Focusing Tactics

Rather than zeroing in on a specific outcome or goal, focusing tactics are more about general physical and mindset improvements. Each of which you further develop by way of continuous practice.

1.Meditation

An excellent tool to sharpen focus, awareness, and concentration. Those who’ve never meditated often dismiss the idea but scientific research proves that meditation works.

One of the many benefits of meditation is how it trains participants to ignore distractions and focus on what’s happening at the moment.

In fact, the central theme of meditation is completely relaxing your mind. Yet, simultaneously, bringing your thoughts back to a central focus as the brain begins to wander. While this practice can feel incredibly difficult at first, it gets easier as time goes on.

Meditation improves your ability to focus and concentrate throughout daily life.

You’ll notice minor annoyances that used to steal your attention no longer matter. And when you eventually do get pulled off track, it’s easier to regain focus. Meditation also allows you to be calmer and less reactive to the external factors around you.

The value of which (in an increasingly “noisy” world) cannot be overstated.

2.Proper Nutrition

We’ve heard it time and time again, but this advice rings true. What you put into your body directly impacts your mental acuity. Nourishing yourself with high-quality food, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and lots of water significantly increases energy levels.

Meaning you can work longer, faster, and be more efficient in everything that you do.

On the flip side, excessive fat, sugar or processed food has the opposite effect. You feel lethargic, irritable, and often experience brain fog.

A disastrous recipe for harnessing creativity or enhanced mental focus.

(to be continued)

Open your FREE Elisi account today to get started.

Personal Time-management System 5: Improving Focus and Concentration (1/3)

By Ryan Douglas

In our last post, we talked about how to make a weekly plan to accomplish your goals. And while planning is an important part of the process, you won’t accomplish much without execution. This is where many of us get stuck.

When it comes time to do the work, we can’t concentrate or stay focused. We often let our minds wander or allow distractions to interrupt our flow. Instead of feeling good about what we’ve accomplished for the day, the mood is just the opposite. Guilt and anxiety over another squandered opportunity.

It’s naive to think that we can remain productive for hours on end without a break. Just like it’s silly to believe we can eliminate every distraction. However, using strategies to enhance our focus and concentration we can strengthen our mental muscle.

Focusing Techniques

A big part of improving mental focus is having the right systems in place. Ones that make it easy to generate results without relying solely on willpower. Trial and error will identify the ones that work best for you and your environment. However, here are three proven techniques to get you started.

1. Pomodoro Timers

A popular focus method developed in the 1980s. The idea behind this framework is brilliantly simple – working in short, focused bursts to increase productivity without losing focus.

You begin by setting a goal. Whether it be a single task or smaller chunks of a larger one. You then set the timer – normally for about 25 minutes. Once the clock starts, you work on that single task and nothing else.

The key being to avoid interruptions at all costs. You don’t surf the web, make phone calls, or do anything else off-task.

Once time is up, you take a short break – usually around 5 minutes. During the break, you’re free to stretch, meditate, take a walk, or whatever else you might like. So long as it’s unrelated to your project.

Afterward, you repeat the process three more times (for a total of (4) Pomodoro rounds). Following the 4th session, you take a longer break of about 15-30 minutes.

The idea is to let your brain cool off and allow your subconscious to work on other ideas before starting again.

One of the main benefits received is seeing where your focus lies. Each Pomodoro becomes a task in your daily activity log – making it easy to identify where you spend your time and on what activities.

You also learn to ignore interruptions and stay focused on the task at hand.

Not to mention developing better time estimates for similar projects. By tallying related pomodoros, you see the total time required for a specific task’s completion, which serves as a baseline estimate for future projects.

2. Scheduling Block Time for Focused Work

Many say the hardest part of achieving a high level of focus/concentration is finding the time to do it. That’s why scheduling specific times for focused work is so important.

Otherwise, the goals you want to accomplish get eaten up by your day.

Focused work blocks is a central theme in the popular book Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky. These two productivity experts say it’s important to create “blocks” of time designed for working on your top goals and priorities.

And just like with a doctor’s appointment, workplace meeting, or family gathering you schedule these activities on your calendar. Most importantly, you don’t abandon them when other issues crop up.

Knapp and Zeratsky recommend 90-minute blocks of focused work in their book. They say this is just the right amount of time to get into the “zone”, accomplish something meaningful, and step away before losing focus.

That and 90-minutes is all most of us can set aside before life gets in the way.

The specific time of day for your blocks doesn’t matter. Early morning or late evening are the norms but whatever works for you is fine. The authors say by consistently stringing these mini-sessions together, you will make progress towards your goals.

The Elisi app is a great way to schedule your productivity sessions. Using the built-in calendar, you can easily block out periods of time for your focused work. Combined with our habit tracking tool, you always know how much progress you’ve made toward the finish line.

(to be continued)

Open your FREE Elisi account today to get started.

Without Driving Yourself Crazy, 5 Easy Ways to Be More Productive

By Elisi Studio

Everyone wants to be more productive, but without having to think about or stress over it too much. Fortunately, there are simple ways to accomplish this goal without giving up everything that you enjoy. Because increased productivity often means doing less instead of more. Here are five ideas to get you started.

1. Focus On A Single Task To Improve Productivity

We all have days that feel like a blur – running here and there checking items off our to-do list. Completing errands and whittling away at our tasks should result in satisfaction. Yet, when looking back on the day’s activities, it can be difficult to figure out what we’ve accomplished.

A lot of people think that being busy equates to higher levels of productivity. However, that’s simply not true.Research shows that multitasking decreases the effectiveness of our work.

The human brain can only focus on one thing at a time.

Multiple interests competing for attention can overload our mental circuits and reduce their capacity. Not to mention the time required for our brains to switch gears from one task to the next. 

Simplifying the process is a much better approach to productivity. Because when you focus on one task at a time, you’re able to devote your full attention and mental bandwidth to it. Creativity flourishes and you’re able to work faster, smarter, and produce better results in the long run.

Apps like Elisi can help. Our intuitive interface makes focusing on a single task at a time easy and prevents you from getting overwhelmed. Displaying just the right amount of detail for each entry keeps you motivated and on track.

2. Turn Off Notifications and Remove Social Media Apps

If you’re having heart palpitations after reading this, rest assured you’re not alone.

Addictions to phones and social media is a real issue nowadays. Although mobile devices are meant to make us more productive, they often create the opposite effect.

Yet, it’s nearly impossible to resist their physiological temptation.

Science shows that responding to alerts and notifications on our phones releases dopamine. A powerful brain chemical that controls behavior and “rewards” us for taking beneficial action. Dopamine also strengthens neural pathways and encourages us to repeat these activities in the future.

Checking for updates creates a kind of Pavlovian effect where our brains are conditioned to respond to this stimulus. Even worse, most social media apps provide never-ending sources of content. They create an “infinity pool” of distraction with no clear end or stopping point in sight.

The exact opposite of what you need to be productive.

But no worries – you don’t have to become a recluse or swear off technology to get more done. You just need to be intentional with how you interact with your device and apps in general. For example:

Disabling alerts and notifications – can reduce the temptation to frivolously check email or social media. If you aren’t facing the barrage of dings and vibrations to start with, you’re less likely to think about them.

This also minimizes the lost productivity (mentioned earlier) when switching between tasks.

Removing social apps – frees you from the anxiety of wondering what you’re missing out on. If you don’t have these apps installed, you can’t access them any time of day. Many who’ve taken a break from social media report it can be liberating.

No one is saying you can’t use these apps – just set rules around how you do so.

Like scheduling specific times of day to go online and holding yourself accountable to these limits. Or rewarding yourself with 10 – 15 minutes of interaction for every 45 minutes of productivity.

Also, consider saving your interactions for when you’re near a desktop computer vs your mobile phone. You’ll still know what’s going on, but without having the urge to check again every 5 minutes.

3. Scheduling In Downtime Increases Productivity

For many of us, our natural tendency during breaks is to reach for our phones or devices. We check email or catch up on social media posts from friends. Because we live in an “always-on” society, if we’re not connected it feels like getting left behind.

Although briefly satisfying, constant stimulus hurts long-term productivity. 

Productivity expert and author Chris Bailey says our minds alternate between two main states –hyperfocus and scatterfocus. And depending on which mode they’re in, they function in completely different ways.

In hyperfocus mode, our brains work hard to accomplish the tasks we want to achieve. Think of this period as the time where physical or mental labor is required to complete an assignment.

Scatterfocus is the exact opposite. Here we brainstorm and create a roadmap of how we’ll get from point A to point B. Scatterfocus is about seeing the big picture and analyzing where we can make the greatest impact.

Not surprisingly, the two form a mutually beneficial relationship. You can’t figure out what needs to be done without contemplating the possibilities. And you’ll never get there without doing the work.

Our subconscious does some of its best work when we are idle. Including solving complex problems, pondering lingering issues, and coming up with new ideas.

If you’re stuck in hyperfocus mode, you don’t have time to concentrate on long-term growth.

Instead of checking email or Facebook at lunch, let your mind wander or try and relax. Take a quick walk outside, get some sun, and enjoy nature. Spend a few minutes relaxing or meditating. Or sit quietly and think (allowing yourself to daydream).

Giving your mind some space may be the most productive thing you’ll ever do.  

If you feel guilty about taking breaks, it’s probably because you don’t think you can. Next time try giving yourself permission beforehand. When you schedule downtime alongside your productive efforts, it becomes easier to relax and enjoy the moment.

Otherwise, you’ll worry the entire time and defeat the whole point of the process.

4. Keep a “Distraction” Book With You

When you’re concentrating, one of the easiest ways to lose focus is by latching on to whatever thought pops into your brain. Yet, in a highly-connected world, it’s incredibly easy to do.

Open a new browser tab – and next thing you know – you’ve wasted an hour surfing the web with nothing to show for it.

This issue stems from the fact that we believe we’ll forget or miss something if we don’t act immediately. We abandon whatever we’re doing to investigate our fleeting impulses before they pass us by. And go completely off-track in the process.

A much better (and easier) approach is to keep a “distraction” notebook with you.

If you’re working on a task – and notice your mind wandering – stop immediately and write your thoughts down in the notepad. Then continue on with your mission. Once you reach a legitimate stopping point in your work, or the time comes for a break, use the opportunity to revisit the items in your notebook.

Working this way offers several advantages:

Frees mental space in your brain – leaving a task unfinished creates clutter in our minds and makes it harder to relax. Mental distraction creates a nagging sensation that’s hard to get rid of. Writing down your ideas gives your brain permission to release these thoughts.

Removes guilt – associated with relaxing when you think you should be working. Your brain feels satisfied in knowing you’ll address the task later which allows you to close the thought loop.

Increases productivity – offloading your thoughts (without killing your momentum) keeps you on track and moving forward. A distraction book prevents you from veering off course and wasting precious time.

Although you can use an app to capture your ideas, stick with traditional paper and pen if possible. Simply because anytime you go “electronic” you run the risk of temptation from other programs that may slow you down.

5. Stop Beating Yourself Up Over Productivity

It sounds cliché, but improving productivity is more of a journey than a destination. Anyone who says they have it all figured out is either lying or delusional. There’s no one perfect formula that works every time for everybody.

No matter how hard you try, eventually you’re going to slip up.

When it happens, don’t beat yourself up. Because the more you do the less likely you’ll be able to recover from it. Acknowledging that we’re human (and people make mistakes) is a fundamental element of improving productivity. 

Take a breath, regroup, and start over again.

Evaluate and learn from your mistake – rather than dwelling on it. If you stumble early in your journey, set smaller, more achievable goals to help build your confidence. As your productivity muscles grow, you’ll feel more comfortable taking on larger tasks.

You’ll also expand your mindset and uncover what you’re truly capable of.

Conclusion

In the end, productivity isn’t about being perfect. It’s about using the time and resources you have wisely toaccomplish goals and increase your happiness.

One of the keys to achieving more is to do less. Focus on a single task at a time, remove all possible distractions, and schedule in essential downtime. You’ll not only get more accomplished faster, but likely have better results to show for your efforts.

And isn’t that what being productive is all about?

Looking for a more human way to accomplish your goals?

Sign up for your FREE Elisi account and get started today.

Hard or Easy: Which Task Should You Tackle First?

By Ryan Douglas

We’ve been told the same productivity advice for years – work on the hardest tasks first to achieve your goals. While this approach is fine for some people, others need a small warm-up before tackling their biggest challenges. Today’s article looks at the unexpected benefits of starting small and being productive.  

Smaller Commitments Improve Your Odds

Let’s face it – taking on a big task sometimes feels overwhelming. Not just physically, but mentally as well. Thinking about the entirety of a big decision can make your heart race and mind begin drifting into the unknown.

“Where do I start?”

“How do I know if I’m doing it right?”

“What if I screw up?!”

These types of thoughts are debilitating and serve no purpose in reaching your goal. Just the opposite. Feelings of self-doubt are often enough to make you want to quit before you’ve even begun.

A perfect illustration of how the biggest challenge in getting started – is getting started.

Yet, once you begin, finishing a task is like most any other goal in life. Once in motion, the finish line gets clearer. Momentum becomes the sustaining force that keeps you moving forward. And the only way to get it is by taking action.

So how do we overcome the anxiety of walking that first step? Simple – start small.

Choose an item that you can knock out quickly (with little effort) to gain some traction. An easy win to make progress and help you get “in the groove.” If you were exercising, this would be your warm-up. Getting your muscles loose and prepared for the heavy lifting that’s yet to come.

Keeping in mind that if you hurt yourself working out, your gains come to a halt. Bruising your confidence means the same thing in regard to productivity.

Traditional advice says to “go big” and take on the largest challenge of the day first.  Yet, most of us have limited willpower and tend to get overwhelmed quickly. Which means we stop whatever we’re doing and feel worse afterward (because nothing was accomplished).

Starting small lowers the threshold for taking action and requires less effort to get moving. Which makes whatever you’re trying to accomplish more likely to happen.

And the trend of small wins is continuing to gain acceptance. Even productivity expert and best-selling author Michael Hyatt says easier tasks should come first. Citing many of the same reasons discussed in this article.

That’s what makes apps like Elisi so valuable. Our weekly based to-do list helps you achieve higher productivity while still maintaining balance. The intuitive interface allows you to track important practices (like meditation, exercise, and water intake), along with project information and personal notes.

Best of all, tasks are displayed in a way that encourages you to take action (rather than punishing you for not). Small steps add up – and Elisi helps you take more of them.

However, if you want to go big sometimes that’s okay too. There’s no rule saying you have to choose one or the other. Both strategies are useful depending on your confidence, energy level, and current state of mind.

Worst case scenario, if you go big and things don’t work out, you can always scale back and try again. Just don’t butt your head into the wall every time or you’ll run out of motivation.

Easier Tasks Produce Emotional Wins

Starting small isn’t just good for productivity, it nourishes your body and mind as well. Completing a handful of minor tasks gives you the emotional “lift” necessary to take on bigger challenges. A compounding effect which continues to feed itself over time.

And let’s not forget the incredible benefits to your brain also.

Research has shown that accomplishing a goal releases dopamine. A powerful neurotransmitter that controls feelings of pleasure, reward, and emotional satisfaction. All of which are key elements of productivity.  

Increased dopamine improves focus, memory power, and elevates your mood.  By improving focus, you’re able to concentrate longer and harder on the task at hand. Strengthening memory power helps you retain what you’ve learned and recall information faster when you need it. Elevating your mood provides the motivation to get started and the drive needed to keep going.

Working on tough projects first can produce the opposite – generating stress while leaving you physically and mentally drained. Causing you to lose motivation and have nothing left for other tasks.

Studies have shown that chronic stress suppresses dopamine production and causes an array of harmful side effects. Including anxiety, depression, and lack of energy.

With dopamine, feeling better about completing tasks isn’t just in your head – it’s an actual physical response. A compelling argument for why small wins can lead to big victories.

Increased Confidence Equals Higher Productivity

One of the best parts of knocking smaller to-do items off your list first is how it increases overall confidence. With each task completed, you prove to yourself (and others) that making progress and achieving your goals is possible.

Which, in turn, leads to taking on bigger challenges that may have previously seemed impossible. Confidence becomes the lubrication that keeps the wheels of productivity moving. Helping you to become bolder and more efficient in everything that you do.

Projects that were once scary don’t seem so intimidating afterward.

With larger projects, the opposite is often true. Stalling or failing to make progress erodes confidence and makes you shy away from future challenges. You doubt your ability to produce results and pull back because of it.

And if you’ve come up short too many times in a row, you might give up entirely.

Conclusion

When it comes to productivity, there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. As long as you are continually moving toward your goals. While some choose to tackle the entire mountain first, others feel more comfortable starting out with a short hike.

And that’s okay.   

Because getting a series of small wins can be just as powerful as overcoming a major obstacle. As long as you keep your eyes on the prize, you can increase focus, motivation, and confidence as you work toward your goals.

All without the stress of taking on too much at once, or the shame of not finishing it afterward. Now that’s something to get excited about.

Looking for a more human way to accomplish your goals?

Sign up for your FREE Elisi account and get started today.

Elisi Studio

Personal Time-management System 4: How to Make a Plan? (3/3)

(By Elisi Studio)

Why do we recommend a weekly plan?

Let’s use a road trip as an analogy:

  • The annual plan is like determining a destination
  • The monthly plan can be seen as a GPS, helping us to choose the best route
  • The weekly plan is like a steering wheel; only by constantly adjusting it can we avoid going off track
  • And the daily plan is the gas pedal; a good one can speed us to our destination.

Instead of focusing on completing a daily plan, we recommend you look beyond to the weekly plan to see the big picture, which is also within your control.

Let’s start with the weekly plan—not because the monthly plan and the annual plan are not good; it’s just that when our planning ability is still rudimentary, it’s less frustrating to start from the weekly plan and proceed step by step, instead of overstretching.

How to make a weekly plan?

Prepare a sheet of A4 paper or just Excel. Of course, we recommend that you try the Elisi Web version or the Elisi Mac App to plan ahead.

Our weekly planning is divided into three steps:

  1. List all this week’s to-do task
  2. Put these tasks into your planner, according to the rules of Importance and Urgency
  3. Self-motivate, assess, and summarize.

Let’s use the Elisi Web/Elisi Mac App as a template to explain how to make a weekly plan.

1. List all this week’s to-do tasks: use the Notes section on the left.  

First, take a few minutes to recall and write down everything you want or need to do next week. Be sure that you don’t resist these things. When your motivation is low, forcing yourself to persist makes it easy to fail, thus increasing your frustration.

Then, follow the Importance Rule from the Four-Quadrant Working Method (find it in Elisi Inspiration Week 3) to delete irrelevant tasks before you begin.

After deleting, allocate time to the remaining tasks. For example, this week you plan to read a 300-page novel and read 50 pages per day, which usually takes 1-2 hours, or just dozens of minutes if you read fast. At this point, we need to use the self-time record (find it in Elisi Inspiration Week 1) to get a basic understanding of how you are spending your time, and then estimate a time for each task you plan to do.

Check how much time is needed in total to complete all the tasks that remain after the first deletion. If the time required exceeds your available weekly time, you will need to do a second round of deleting. For example, if the planned tasks need 50 hours, but you have only 30 hours per week apart from work, you have to delete 20 hours’ worth of tasks.

2. Put tasks into the planner according to the Rules of Importance and Urgency. 

After two deletions, now let’s list all remaining tasks on different days in the upcoming week according to the Urgency Rule from the Four-Quadrant Working Method (find it in Elisi Inspiration Week 3):

  • Single tasks and urgent tasks can be listed on the first few days in the “Planner”
  • Long-term tasks (such as reading or learning a foreign language) can be added to the “Habit” and an average time assigned to them each day
  • Related tasks can be classified into a “Project” and then scheduled to be completed on a different day.

In this way, your mission this week will be scientifically arranged for every day.

3. Self-motivation, assessment and summarization. 

When you add tasks to Elisi’s daily Planner, you will see a round gray badge on Elisi’s daily Planner Bar; and on Elisi’s bottom tab bar, you will see a Weekly Achievement Trophy. Each day, when you complete 3 tasks (no matter whether it’s a single task or multiple tasks under Project and Habit), you will get that day’s badge, and a segment of the Weekly Achievement Trophy will be lit as well.

Every time you harvest a daily badge, reward yourself by doing something relaxing and entertaining. That means that when you are working on other tasks, you know that there will be fun rewards waiting for you.

In addition, you can select different stickers in front of each task to record the quality of the outcome; that is, whether you are happy enough with your results. If you are not satisfied, write some retrospective comments in the “To-do Details” to help you make progress next time. Of course, when you enjoy completing a task very well, you can also write down insights to help yourself sustain a good trend.

At the beginning, we all miscalculate the time spent on doing things due to lack of expertise: overestimating ourselves or arranging to do too few things are all normal behaviors, and you will improve as long as you don’t blame yourself excessively and dent your enthusiasm.

Now the plan is ready. How can it be carried out? Let’s talk about Concentration Management in our Time Management Series in future Elisi Inspiration.

Personal Time-management System 3: How to Make a Plan (2/3)

By Elisi Studio

Last week we introduced some rational ideas of what a plan can provide us and what we can learn from Google’s OKR system. This week we will continue to discuss more methods we can use in making a plan.

First, the SMART Principle.

This was proposed by the management master Peter Drucker and first appeared in his book “The Practice of Management” in 1954. Since the SMART Principle was proposed, it has been regarded as the classic rule of goal formulation.

What is the SMART Principle?

1.The goal must be Specific. To achieve a goal, your plan needs to be clear. Sometimes an uncompleted plan is not due to weak implementation, but because the goal itself is not clear enough. Only a clear indication of the target you want to achieve can be an appropriate goal. For example, someone who wants to lose weight needs to change “I want to be thin” to the specific “I want to lose 20 pounds.” That clarifies the goal.

2.The goal must be Measurable. Your goal should be observable, objective, and measurable. For example, people who write articles can use reading volume or their fee as a measurement, rather than simply say, “I am very satisfied with this article,” to comfort themselves.

3.The goal must be Attainable. This is quite easy to understand. For example, for a new graduate who has just begun to write, the goal of producing a bestseller within a month is likely not practical. Of course, we must also be alert to the drawback of this principle, as moderate challenges are also necessary.

4.A goal must be Relevant to other goals. In general, a big goal for most of us is to be a better “self.” Learning some general life skills, such as time management and personal finance management, are basically goals common to everyone. Other more professionally relevant or specialized knowledge, like advanced mathematics, though important for some, are not things everyone needs to learn.

5.The goal must be clearly Time-bound. When does the work start? What time should it end? When do you reach the key point in the plan?

The above five characteristics are indispensable in making a SMART plan.

Another method we will introduce is especially useful in dealing with unplanned tasks.

A colleague asks for help to print a document. A supervisor suddenly assigns an urgent task. It seems that whenever we want to stay focused and eager to continue and advance as planned, there are a variety of intrusions on our time. Some of these sudden tasks are really important, but we can say that probably 80% are trivial and irrelevant.

First, we need to gain an understanding of the unplanned tasks: how many are internal disturbances and how many are external disturbances?

For example, after working for 10 minutes, we suddenly need to use the bathroom. Or after less than half an hour, you suddenly feel thirsty and hungry.

These are internal interferences, and we can simply address these needs by setting aside time in our plan to be disturbed, so that we will not feel upset once our schedule is broken up by a small change.

But for external interference, when things involve other people, it is not as simple.

Here we introduce the Four-Quadrant Working Method, a time-management theory proposed by American management scientist Franklin Covey.

Covey divides work into two dimensions—important and urgent—and then further divides these into four quadrants:

First quadrant: both urgent and important, such as essential tasks that carry an expiration date or time.

Second quadrant: important but not urgent, such as establishing a relationship with someone.

Third quadrant: urgent but not important, such as an unexpected visit.

Fourth quadrant: neither urgent nor important, such as surfing the Internet and watching videos.

Don’t rush to complete sudden unexpected tasks. Use the four-quadrant rule to first classify them and put them into your plan or to-do list: If it is urgent, do it; if not urgent, then wait until you finish your planned work. It’s like setting up an early-warning mechanism so that these tasks won’t knock you off course when they come. Instead, you prioritize issues that are really urgent and important.

We are unconsciously caught in the trap of “low-level effort” sometimes, spending a lot of time dealing with chores and being led by them. Use the four-quadrant rule flexibly to get rid of inefficiency. See you in next week’s Elisi Inspiration!

Personal Time-Management System 2: How to Make a Plan (1/3)

By Elisi Studio

After you have a general idea of how your time was spent (refer to last week’s Elisi Inspiration post about recording), you can make a personal plan relevant to your own time-management ability and preference.

Since plans can’t always keep up with changes and it takes time to make the plan itself, some people may ask why we need a plan. Others recognize its importance, but their plans look “perfect” and are difficult to implement. Too many unplanned things just pop up.

Here we describe three misunderstandings and three benefits of making a plan to help you rationally understand the planning process.

Misunderstanding #1: Plans are not adjustable. Many of us think that once the plan is made, it must be strictly followed. A slight violation means that the plan fails. In fact, the plan is like an outline, giving us the goal and direction. In practice, we also need to constantly optimize and adjust our plans.

Misunderstanding #2: Making a plan is a waste of time. We specifically recorded the time spent planning over the past week: an average of less than 30 minutes per day. Compared to the time wasted on unplanned tasks, these 30 minutes are definitely a cost-effective investment.

Misunderstanding #3: Ignore the importance of execution. The goal of making a plan is to implement systems and complete tasks better, but many people are addicted to the improvement of the plan itself and forget to take action.

The benefits of making a plan can also be easily summarized into the following three points.

Benefit #1: Make the future predictable. Because of the plan, we have certain psychological preparation for what may happen in the future.

Benefit #2: Release anxiety. The more things we have to do and the more fragmented things are, the more likely we are to feel anxious. Write down a to-do list, acknowledge to yourself that you have listed all tasks, and then don’t worry about it. This list means you can review things you need to do and ease your anxiety.

Benefit #3: Your subconscious will supervise you to improve efficiency. Even if the same person does the same task on different days, the time consumed will be different. You can read a newspaper in 10 minutes, or stare at it the whole morning and kill your time. If we have a plan, the deadlines will urge us to complete tasks and thus improve our work efficiency.

Now that we have an idea of what plans can do for us, we can explore how to make a plan.

For most of us, the to-do list is the most basic method of planning: the plan for the next day is recorded the night before, and the next day is scheduled hour by hour.

The problem with to-do lists is that planning short-term tasks is relatively easy, but when it comes to planning tasks that take weeks or months to complete, the to-do list is too vague. So we use other tricks along with to-do lists for more efficient use of our time.

Trick #1: OKR, Google’s goal system

OKR is Google’s internal ranking system for employees’ objectives and results. OKR means Objectives and Key Results.

Simply speaking, every employee of Google sets one objective or a set of objectives for each quarter and then measures the key results. Each person’s OKR must be published on the company’s website and can be viewed by everyone. If anyone does not achieve their objective, it is clear at a glance.

At the end of the quarter, there is a target score for objective completion. The score is between 0 and 1—all completed is 1 and all unfinished is 0.

If you always have a score of 1, don’t rush to celebrate. Your execution may be effective, but it is probably because your objectives are too easy and not challenging. A reasonable score is between 0.7 and 0.8.

There are three essential lessons we can learn from OKR:

  1. Turn the goal attention into process attention.
  2. Create a monitoring mechanism.
  3. Develop a feedback mechanism.

In addition to OKR, are there any other easy ways to get started?

We will introduce SMART and the Four-Quadrant Working Method in Elisi Inspiration 3, and we will address how to deal with unplanned tasks.

Personal Time-Management System 1: Record Yourself

Welcome to Elisi Inspiration!

Here, we will discuss topics on how to effortlessly make you and your life better, week by week.

We hope you will find some inspirational thoughts from Elisi Inspiration and join us to explore more insights and tricks for a cheerful and comfortable life.

Our first several weeks are about how to build your personal time-management system.

How do you record and distribute your day? How do you focus? How do you use your fragmented time? How do you motivate yourself in a long-term task?

Let’s see what we can find for our first week’s inspiration.

Personal Time-management System 1: Record Yourself

Before we manage our time, we need to know where we spend it – that’s why recording is necessary.

Recording mainly helps us in two ways:
1. To form a habit – recording can help us plan future tasks and review past ones.
2. To understand personal ability and limit of time control – people have different levels of time control, time use, emotional condition, and energy. If we overestimate or underestimate ourselves, we can sometimes frustrate ourselves with uncompleted goals.

We’d should not follow someone who continuously works 12 hours per day: and we should not be inspired by their story, copy their schedule directly to our calendar, and imagine an upgraded one for ourselves. That usually does not work.

We need to know ourselves.

So, how?

Former Soviet entomologist Alexander Alexandrovich Lyubishchev created a time-recording method in 1916, when he was 26, which is still used by people today. The main point is to only record your effective time:
• Record pure working hours without including chats and coffee breaks.
• Accurately record working hours. Subjective activities, such as meeting people and thinking about life, should not be counted.
• Choose the recording method that suits you – you do not have to pursue perfection of your form of recording.
• The recording error of a one-hour task does not exceed 15 minutes, as over-reporting only comforts you without accurately recording and truly understanding your time.

A two-week recording is usually enough to know where our time goes to. During these two weeks, take notes the following things everyday:
1. Total attention span
2. Attention span on a single task
3. How many easy tasks have been done
4. How many complicated tasks have been done
5. In these completed tasks, how many are you interested in

After having a rough idea of how you spend your time, now, you can make a plan for your tasks. Let’s talk about how to make an effective plan during our next week at Elisi Inspiration.

By Elisi Studio