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Four Steps For Salvaging A Wasted Day

Source | FastCompany : By Rich Bellis

Maybe it’s a fire drill, or a plumbing disaster, or a customer service rabbit hole of hold music. In any case, something has seriously distracted you from what you really needed to accomplish today. It’s thrown you off, and you got nothing done. Now it’s 5 p.m., you’re way behind, and you’re already beginning to panic about the horrorscape that tomorrow’s shaping up to be.

Now what?

First, step away from your computer. Better yet, get away from your office altogether. Then do this.

1. Set A Timer

As time management expert Allyson Lewis tells Fast Company, it’s essential to find a quiet spot, away from the place where your workday went down in flames. Bring a pen and paper, and grab that egg timer or your smartphone.

“Then,” Lewis counsels, “set it to seven minutes.”

“People don’t have time to create this master plan,” she explains. The longer you spend trying to resurrect the previous day’s ambitions, the longer you’ll be locked in a state of agitation and regret. And that isn’t productive.

Before you can do anything else, Lewis says, you need to abandon all hope of a grand strategy for getting back on track. It just isn’t going to happen, so you need to set some parameters that force you to think more narrowly.

2. Set Five Short Goals . . .

In those seven minutes, lay out up to five things you can accomplish the following day—within 2 seconds to 20 minutes each. According to Lewis, “that’s the attentional bandwidth” that most of us can devote to a given task continuously.

Chances are you’ll still spend a few of those seven minutes thinking up tasks that don’t quite meet that criteria—and that’s fine. Part of the exercise is boiling those down into these smaller, quickly achievable goals, which Lewis calls “micro-actions.”

“These things have to be very short, [and] they have to be completed by you—where you’re relying on no one else—within that 20-minute window,” she says. In addition, “they have to be high-value enough that you’re moving yourself toward a goal, [and] you have to have all the supplies to accomplish them” right away.

If you have to make phone calls, get approvals, or set up a meeting before you can start on a micro-action, it isn’t a micro-action—it’s a project, and it doesn’t make the cut.

“Getting this article done is a project,” she tells me. “Talking to me is a micro-action.”

3. . . . And Do Them

The next morning, resist the urge to peer into the abyss of your untended inbox. Instead, dive right into your five-item list. The key advantage here, Lewis says, is that you’ve just about guaranteed yourself some form of actual progress on a day when it really matters.

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