Overwhelmed? Focus on one word a day

From Joe Hoyle, President of CPAreviewforFREE: At times, I'm incredibly busy. I’ve worked on two textbooks while also educating 82 students in Intermediate Accounting and Financial Accounting. There have been many days when I’ve woken up in the morning realizing that I needed to accomplish an awful lot that day. Not just a small amount. Not just a normal amount. There have been many days where I needed to accomplish a whole lot.

People often like to talk about what they are going to do.

People often like to plan what they are going to do.

However, at the end of the day, it is what you actually manage to do that makes the real difference. At the end of the day, saying “I planned well” doesn’t do you much good. Saying “I talked about getting stuff done” isn’t much help. What really works is to be able to say “I can’t believe all that I managed to do today.”

You can have days like that.

In fact, every day can be like that if you work at it.

Often, when I’m really busy, the first thing I do when I wake up is come up with one word that I want to focus on for that day. It is a word that will help me get the work done that I need to get done.

One of the words I used was “squeeze” because I wanted to squeeze out as much work as I could in those random times that happen during the day when you’ve really got nothing to do. I wanted to use those random 3-5 minutes that pop up from time to time. For that entire day, I kept asking myself “am I squeezing out all of the work at this moment that I can?”

---I had to take my daughter to the doctor for a check-up so I took my computer and worked while we waited.

---I had a meeting to attend so I gathered up all of my materials and organized them in advance so we could get in and get the meeting done so that I could go back to work.

---I went to lunch 30 minutes early so I could get in and out before the crowd slowed everything down.

I really tried to squeeze every spare moment out of the day so that I could get as much accomplished as possible. That was my focus on Thursday.

And, at the end of the day, I listed out what I had done that day and I was so pleased. By squeezing the moments, I had managed to do more than I thought possible.

On the next day, the word was “self-discipline.” I tend to be very hyperactive. So, when I work, I am easily distracted. I want to check my email every few minutes. I want to look at Facebook for just a second. I need a candy bar and a cup of coffee. I must ask my secretary something.

I start to work and something immediately comes into my mind that I absolutely have to do right then.

Too often, during most days, I work for a couple of minutes and then get distracted for a couple of minutes. That pattern happens all through the day. At the end of those days, I’m irritated because I only finished half of what I had planned to do. But, for the most part, that is because I was being distracted half the time.

So, I decided to work on the word “self-discipline.” While I was working, I would not let anything else grab my attention.

Unless the building is on fire, most things that distract us are not emergencies. They just happen to jump into our minds. Rather than push them aside and stay focused on our real work, it is more fun to let ourselves get distracted. Yeah, we let ourselves get distracted.

That day I promised myself that I wasn’t going to be lured by every distraction. I was going to maintain my self-discipline and get my work done. Once again, at the end of the day, I was thrilled by what I had been able to do during that day. By having the self-discipline to stay on task, I had actually done a real day’s worth of workin a day. In many ways, that is the ultimate goal: to do a day’s worth of work each day.

You don’t have to accomplish miracles to be successful. Doing a real day’s worth of work each day will probably get you there.

Not sure what my word will before tomorrow but I’ll try to have one that helps me to become more effective and efficient at my work because, ultimately, that is the key to success.

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