David Harding: How to change your habits when it comes to controlling your day

David Harding, CEO, HardingPoorman Group

It seems like our attention spans are getting shorter. We are bombarded with so much information today that it’s hard to concentrate.

Brian Tracy, whose books I think are great, such as “The Power of Self Discipline,” said, “To start anything new, you must stop doing something old. Getting in means getting out.”

Need to get more done in less time?

Analyze your time and have the courage to stop doing things that are no longer as important for you:

What do you do every day habitually, that you don’t need to do anymore?

Can you delegate it?

Which activities could you discontinue to free up more time for higher value work?

Compare your daily activities against your annual income. Would you pay someone else your equivalent salary to do the same thing? If not, stop doing those activities and pass them onto others.

You can only gain control of your life to the degree to which you stop doing things that are no longer as valuable or as important to you as other things you could be doing.

Working over capacity

Today’s average person works at 110 percent of capacity, and that’s with multitasking. So how do you fit more in? Change your priorities. The things that were important may no longer be as important as you age, your family evolves and your work changes.

To stay at peak efficiency you have to continually ask yourself, “What can I cut back on, delegate or discontinue to free up more time?” Make this thinking your top priority each quarter.

Think about a mini-project, something that you can do in an hour or less that will either move you forward or help you catch up.

I keep a list of these handy, jotting down new ideas as they occur to me while working on larger projects.

Schedule work on a mini-project at least once a week. I usually jump on a mini-project that appeals to me to fill time that’s suddenly free — for instance when an appointment is canceled at the last moment.

The idea is to keep your list short. When the list gets up to about six projects, start scheduling time to complete a few. You’ll like crossing them off your list, and if you’re at all like me, you’ll relish the time spent on something invigorating, spontaneous and off-the-beaten path.

Drive your day — don’t let it drive you

Don’t you hate it when you have a full schedule planned, and by mid-afternoon you’re basically in the same place you were first thing in the morning? Stuff comes up that needs attention. And it’s never-ending.

Instead of letting your day drive you, drive your day. Don’t rob yourself of control over your most important asset: time.

Divide your days into three sections. Make your contacts (phone calls, e-mails, meetings) in the morning when you are fresh and you are most likely to catch people in. Do your large scale, important work in the afternoon (thinking and problem-solving) when you are likely to have more information at hand and the office is quieter.

Lastly, plan in the evening so you’ll be ready to roll the next morning. This will clear your head and help you sleep better. But, for those times you lie in bed thinking about what you have to do the next day, keep a pad of paper on the nightstand. There are even devices called “Nite Note” which hold 3-by-5-inch cards. When you take the pen out of the device it lights up. Your head is a bucket for holding information. The more information you get out of your head, the more free it is to think creatively.

These are routines that work. See how they change your productivity.

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at [email protected] For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com