“There doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to get everything done.”

I used to believe that until I started (about a month ago) doing a few simple things each and every day:

  1. At the end the day I wrote down what I accomplished
  2. At the start the day I wrote down what I wanted to get accomplished for that day
  3. I wrote down the biggest frustrations I had during that day

This did wonders for the perceived lack of time and the challenge I was feeling with productivity. When I started to compare the start of the day with the end of the day a few things became pretty apparent.

I learned that I set unrealistic goals on tasks I’ve assigned myself. It’s not that things necessarily came up (they always do) it’s that I simply underestimated the amount of time certain things take.

The end of the day check gave me insight because I didn’t limit what I had accomplished to just the tasks I assigned myself, I included all things I thought were important.

One huge gotcha came when I noticed early on is the amount of time I spent consuming content. While important to what I do (or at least I thought it was) I wondered whether if I completely cut it out or reduced the time would I be able to get more important things done? Short answer is yes, I know not much of a surprise there…

The Biggest Surprise

My biggest surprise came from the additional question I added– my biggest frustration (I should also mention that I promised myself I wouldn’t cheat). Sometimes the answer to this question centered on the lack of time or that I hadn’t been able to get something done.

Oftentimes it was something such as having to drop everything and work on a document that a few weeks ago I kept putting off and suddenly as I looked at the calendar realized it was due. Poor planning– but I also tracked down why I kept putting these things off.

But that’s not all, I also noticed some of the frustrations went beyond just “work”, it also crossed into family and friends. Those I found most important and found ways I could deal with those right away. I’m not sure I would have done that if I didn’t commit myself to these daily steps.

Here’s What I’ve Learned and Why I Thought You Would Care

When you commit to planning and recapping your day (in writing) a few things happen. First, in plain black and white you can see your expectations and the results of those expectations. Second, it creates a feedback loop for yourself, opening up the possibility for you to constantly improve and increase your productivity.

But I found something that I think is a little different… I have read tons of GTD articles on starting your day, your week, month, year, etc with what you want to accomplish, I’ve also read a ton on journaling (what I consider the act of recapping the day).

The additional step I added of writing the biggest frustration I had throughout the day was the one that gave me the most insight.

It gave me insight because it forced me to look at what I considered to be challenges and prompted me to discover the sources of these challenges. It also allowed me to see the trends of things that come up time and time again (or similar issues). Like I said I went beyond just what I consider work and looked at any frustration.

Not that I encounter tons of frustrating things (beyond not getting enough things done) but it did help me focus on fixing things that allow me to have a  happier and more satisfying day. It also spurred me to start looking at priorities of things I should be doing and things I should be assigning to other parties.

I don’t think without me being religious about following those 3 steps I would have had the insights and productivity gains I’ve realized the last month. Case in point, I finally got the time to get this post done in record time and on schedule!

Image courtesy of Sean MacEntee at image location.