In 2016, I left the office work-setting to embark on a completely different career in a new field. I was no longer an employee with supervisors assessing my performance and productivity, but rather working from home as my own boss.
It was great, but I didn’t foresee how much I relied on the rhythm of an office to keep me focused and from being overwhelmed by work. Or how easy it was to slip into essentially working at all waking hours and not giving full attention to my family during down time. I always considered myself an organized person, and by nature a “planner,” so how could my days fall so quickly into overwhelming disarray?
Over the next two years, I struggled with feeling constantly overwhelmed by work and separating it from family time. As someone with a history of diagnosed anxiety disorders, the disarray and lack of a schedule was often debilitating.
Writing down To-Do lists on various notepads with no prioritization of daily versus weekly or farther out tasks didn’t cut it. This jerry-rigged approach meant missing deadlines or saying “just forget it” to things I really wanted to accomplish.
A time for calendaring
It honestly seemed like I needed to accept all of that as my life now or call it quits and go back to working for someone else in an office.
As I was struggling with this, my fiancé, who had seen me over the years go from organized office worker to stressed out and often tearful contractor, showed me a planner he had watched videos about from Michael Hyatt & Co. This looked promising. We looked at some of the videos together and decided to order a second Full Focus Planner for me so we could start and learn to use the planner together.
In the first two quarters I’ve used the planner, work and downtime have become far more manageable and enjoyable. Productivity with my work has trended steadily upward, which in my case means more income. Stress and anxiety levels are far more manageable compared to before I started using the planner, which is better for both my work and my relationships.
I’ve identified three major aspects of focus that have made these changes possible with no pain and nothing more than the will to create a new habit of using the planner.
1. It helps me get organized
Writing things down on pieces of paper or in various, undedicated notebooks was nearly worthless. The journal is for organizing and planning my day, from an overall “Big 3” picture down to hourly or even half-hour blocks of time to get certain tasks done, or to do the opposite and give myself a respite from answering emails or other work.
If I happen to get sidetracked or off-task, something that would usually send me into a spiral of overwhelmed frustration, I simply need to look at what I wrote down in the morning – possibly adjust for time lost and reprioritize one or two things – and I’m back on track with where I want and need to be by the end of the day.
2. It helps with work-life balance and delegation
We are truly blessed and cursed by the electronics we have constantly near-to-hand. While my smartphone makes seeing my fiancé when we’re not in the same state possible, it also makes working at anytime from anywhere possible. The pull for many American workers these days, especially if you’re self-employed, is to be always plugged in and available. This business availability works to the detriment of our personal health and well-being, as well as that of our partners and children.
One of my biggest flaws is that I am delegation averse. Sending tasks to someone else when I can do it from my phone is hard. That means I’m essentially always on the clock, whether I’m sitting in a plane on the tarmac heading on what’s supposed to be a vacation or spending time with my 10-year-old daughter shopping at the mall. That’s simply not healthy or conducive to avoiding burnout.
The planner helps me to get over this. I can look ahead, delegate, and notify my remote colleagues I won’t be available for a while.
3. It helps me reflect on the day
One of the surprising aspects of what the Full Focus journal has done for me and my fiancé is that it’s become a point of discussion at the beginning and end of each day. What was going on with our respective “Big 3” in the morning? What were we successful in completing and what needs to get done the next day? Did we need to be more realistic on timing? Should this be a goal for the week, rather than just one day?
When either of us falls short of where we want to be or gets frustrated over goal follow-through, we’re able to talk about it and encourage each other. Having the planner as something we both use as a couple means we understand how the other is operating and sometimes hand off personal tasks.
We are responsible for our own success, but the reduction of stress that the planner made possible has helped greatly. It makes me wonder what other insights I might glean from Michael Hyatt & Co. I see there are free seminars available online as well as Free to Focus Live happening this November. Hmm.