Block It Out: How A Simple Time Log Can Restore Maximum Workday Productivity, Part 2

IMG_0083[1]I hope you gained some inspiration while reading Part I of this blog series, where I came clean on the emotional detriments experienced by my former self, and then shared with you some tools and first-hand insight on how I overcame the feeling of being too “busy” and mismanaging my time. The benefits of keeping a time log have revolutionized my life, and could be the solution to your own anxieties and misconceptions about personal productivity.

When we don’t plot our time each day, we can sometimes get lazy and let our reptilian brain take over. Often, we don’t even realize the value of the non-prime time stretches in our workday, and as a result, we can fall victim to misusing them. Think about it:  When you don’t transition directly from task to task or project to project, you’re seguing via wasted time, losing precious ten-or-fifteen-minute intervals of useful time here and there, which add up quickly. When these minutes are applied more wisely, you could substantially move your agenda forward.

In this installment, I will reveal another dimension of the time log, particularly in how it relates to mitigating wasted time trends. Here are my most successful shifts in planning to maximize my day, and some constructive direction on how to strategize your to-do list and optimize these otherwise squandered interludes.

The Time Between Meetings

I now have a folder in my email account called ‘To Read’. It is full of HBR Management tips of the day, along with nuggets of wisdom from Laura Vanderkam (the mother of the time log) and other inspirational and short messages that land in my inbox. I also have a folder titled ‘Reply’, where there are messages stashed that are important but not urgent. Now that the weather is pleasant, I can use time between meetings to hang out in one of the attractive public spaces dotted throughout NYC and dictate drafts of my replies (of course, I’ll wait until I’m at an office computer to proofread them before sending). My time was well-utilized, and my soul was enriched by the hand-chosen environment!

Now that I’ve created relationships with many people at a client site, a great use of excess time is to reach out, offering a quick “Hello” if they’re on site that day. Two or three ‘pop-ins’ serve to catch up on people’s progress and strengthen relationships.

Time On The Commuter Train0222061536

I’ve become diligent about premeditating my Metro North commute to work. I used to get lost in my email on the train, not necessarily responding, but succumbing to the need for that hit of dopamine my inbox provides (scientifically not unlike Oreos or cocaine). I would typically board the train intending to do some work on my touchscreen tablet and invariably get stalled by slow-loading programs, passengers speaking loudly on their phones, and that aforementioned need for dopamine. By assigning myself a project that isn’t distractible by noise, I now ensure that use my commuting time is used wisely. For instance, I find that general editing and reviewing can be managed without full focus, while creating content is near impossible. As a result, reviewing one of DRIVEN’s recorded workshops (think big bulky headphones) or massaging a presentation draft are both deemed great train time tasks. Here’s another nugget of gold I recently discovered: When my brain has been taxed, I must give it time to recover. This is when I use train time to listen to a Tara Brach talk or a business-related podcast. This can often revitalize the brain, letting me arrive at my destination feeling refreshed and re-energized.

Time On The Subway

Time in the tube, as you may know, is more challenging to negotiate when it comes to performing even the most basic of scheduled tasks. For me, it has now become breathing time. I meditate every day, but often not for as long as I’d like to. Since it only takes 5 minutes of meditation to affect the brain in a positive way, a subway ride is the perfect opportunity to add minutes to my practice. To make this a reality, I ride the subway standing up, which allows me to focus on my breathing. When I finally arrive at my destination, I can then walk into my appointment focused and clear-headed.

Read the final installment of Block It Out, where I’ll get a bit headier on the topic, and indicate the paths down which I’m heading in the future of time logging.