“Where did the day go?”

It’s happened again.

You started work today with the absolute best of intentions. “I’m going to be really productive today,” you thought. You may even have jotted down a detailed to-do list, and looked forward to knocking each item off with a pen stroke until you conquered them all like some mythical knight.

But reality intruded upon your day. This person called, that person left an email, there’s a meeting later on, etc. You figure, “Well, before I dig into what I really want to do, I’ll just take care of a few of these and get them out of the way.”

Before you know it, the calls have gone long, sometimes drifting into unproductive conversation, and your intended five or ten minutes answering emails has turned into an hour or more. And what is that interesting link to a website someone sent you?  “Hey, might as well check my favorite news sites wile I’m here.” “Maybe I’ll just take a second and see what interesting videos have shown up on YouTube.” “I may as well take a quick peek at Facebook. Then I’ll jump full bore into work.”

Just like magic, POOF! The day is gone. What’s worse, you hate yourself for not getting as much done as you wanted to. It is deceptively easy to find yourself caught in this daily loop. Like wringing out a dishrag, you wish you could somehow squeeze more hours out of your clock.

The common mistake we all make is shoving everything in our day into a big funnel stamped “Work.” In reality, it’s not all truly work – like spending half the day answering emails. That is not a proactive activity; it is a reactive activity. Let’s explain:

Most “work” falls into one of two categories.

Work, much like many other aspects of life, can be approached from either a proactive or reactive standpoint.

Reactive work: It’s not uncommon to feel as though external factors are dictating the course of your day, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and constantly playing catch-up. Reacting to each new task as it arises can leave you feeling like you’re simply treading water. You’re often advancing someone else’s goals or responding to others’ demands. It’s a distraction that is keeping you from your goals. 

Proactive work: This refers to tasks that actively contribute to your personal goals and move them forward. For instance, it might involve creating new software features, designing a product prototype, researching industry trends, or developing a new business strategy. Essentially, any task that involves actively taking steps to advance your goals and move your projects forward can be considered proactive work. By prioritizing these tasks, you can better manage your time and make measurable progress towards achieving your objectives.

The rest, like peeking at Facebook or surfing the net, is time-wasting (but, on some level, you already know this).

So the key here is not letting the reactive work pull you from your proactive work.

The 50-Minute Rule

We know there are many ways to work and everyone has their own style. This is a modified version of the Pomodoro Technique; however, the 50-minute rule tends to work better for more complex tasks. This quick to implement process is an easy way to get yourself out of the reactive rut and back in to being proactive.

Make a list of your proactive work tasks

Make a separate column for your reactive work

Now, implement the “50-Minute Rule.”

Choose only ONE proactive task

For the next 50 minutes, you are going to work as hard as you can on that ONE task. It’s helpful if you have a timer, you can use a desktop app, your phone timer, or I find that using an ordinary cheap kitchen timer is the best (you can get these at any supermarket).

Stay on task until the timer rings.

You’ll be amazed at how much you actually get done in those 50 minutes. The beauty of this system is that doing 50 minutes instead of an hour tricks your brain into refraining from thinking about the time, which is an enormous source of wasted mental energy (ironic, huh?).

Positively reinforce the technique.

Once you’re finished with your 50-minute work session, take 5 minutes to look back at what you were able to do. Feel the sense of accomplishment. Treat yourself to a soda or coffee, take a walk over to the window and look at the sun outside, do any small thing that will create a sense of joy – this will, over time, help you stay on task and look forward to your 50-minute work segments.

Cleanse your mind.

Don’t jump right into another 50-minute chunk. Rather, take the next 10 minutes to do some of the reactive work, like email. But once that 10-minute period is done, it’s DONE. 

Re-establish the 50-minute rule.

Take a look at your list and choose the next proactive task. Implement the 50-minute rule on your next item.

Experts say it takes 21 days of repeating an action to make it a habit. So use the 50-minute rule whenever possible, and then let yourself be amazed and joyful at your new level of productivity.

Your formerly strangled clock will thank you!

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Get TrackVia to Help Streamline Your Work

If you’re looking for an easy way to streamline processes to help free up your time and make some of those productivity tasks easier – check out TrackVia! TrackVia’s customizable, drag and drop platform just might be the solution you need to give you time to work on the bigger projects. It can also help you organize and streamline tasks for your team. If you’re curious, book a demo. 

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