Think you are taking care of business? Take 15 minute challenge to find out

Pins on calendarIf you are a busy professional it is easy to spend a whole day working hard and to assume that all of your hard work means that you are taking care of business.  As the days and weeks go by, however, and your to-do list has some frequent visitors the question moves from if you are doing things, to if you are doing the things that help you reach your overall goals.  In what started as a simple exercise in the “12 Habits of Highly Effective People”, I took a week to break down my day until 15 minute intervals to see exactly how I was spending my days that prevented me from knocking out some the most important items of the things I needed to get done.

The challenge seems simple enough, in a spreadsheet or in a notebook write down what you do any given day in 15 minute intervals. In doing so try to be as detailed on the tasks as possible.  It is very tempting to write down “work” if you are at the office, but the truth is that being at work does not mean you are working or shine some light on what you are actually working for.   The exercise needs to details on what is going on before you can work on improving your habits.  I spend a lot of days busy and the natural thought is when you make it home exhausted that you must have slayed a lot of dragons in the day.  The exercise shines some precise light on the possibility that although you left out to slay dragons you spent your whole day swatting flies instead.  This means it is very easy to get caught up in the little things and minor emergencies that pop up throughout the day instead of focusing on some of the larger more important projects.  If you let yourself you can get caught in a void of busy that dumps you in the black hole of true productivity.

Even if you have structured your life to avoid a steady focus on minor emergencies, there is another challenge lurking in the bushes, the great escape.  While it can often look like businesses it is just periods where your brain takes off.  Things that may have normally taken 15 minutes can easy drift to an hour.  Sometimes there are filled with minor distractions like social media or a constant recall of minor things that you feel like you should do immediately.  For me I just honestly get lost in my mind, with the old daydreaming nature of my childhood finding me in full force.  The reality is that these distractions exist but by looking them in the eye once you finish your 15 minute day detail you can see the problem and start to train yourself how to focus on what is most important first, not last.  It is a great self check and if you 2015 goal is to meet some new challenges it is a great way to actually get it job done with simple adjustments to how you see your day and your time.

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