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Take the 15 Minute Challenge and Stop Wasting Time

24 hours is more than enough time to do what you really want to do each day.

Allyson Lewis, 01/26/2012

Have you ever wondered where the time in your day goes? You wake up each morning with great intentions. You hop in the shower to get ready for work and literally your mind begins to race with this mental chatter of the phone calls you need to make, the meetings you need to attend, and the "to-do" items you need to address.

Every morning this mental chatter plays in your head like a well-worn cassette tape, and in addition to reminding you of the actual projects and tasks you need to accomplish, your mind also adds editorial comments and opinions.

For example, your mental chatter might sound like:

• Don't forget to wear one of my best suits for the seminar at noon today.
• I really wish I hadn't eaten so much over the holidays.
• Oh no, I didn't shine my shoes.
• Why didn't I get up earlier?
• As soon as I get to the office I need to call Mrs. Smith.
• Why didn't I call her yesterday?
• Oh gosh, I didn't realize it was so late; I need to get Harper to school.

You wake up each morning, and a tape of all of the tasks, projects, and "to-do's" runs through your mind at lightning speed. You drive to your office with great intentions. And as soon as you walk in the door, a fire drill begins, the hours pass by, and at 5 p.m. you hop back in your car, grab hold of the steering wheel, and you realize that you didn't accomplish anything you said you would do today.

And as you drive home, this is the mental chatter you hear:

• I never did like this suit.
• My job never slows down; when will I ever get caught up?
• I can't believe I didn't call Mrs. Smith.
• Once again I am leaving the office later than I planned, and Harper has softball practice.
• I am so tired.
• I really need to exercise.

Mental chatter is very real. As humans, we perceive and judge life by the words we attach to it. Everything is good or bad. Our lives are meaningful or disappointing. Our jobs are successful or unsuccessful.

However, running your life from mental to-do lists requires you to rely on your short-term memory. The reason you replay what you want to do each day over and over in your mind is that your short-term memory is unreliable. It was created to hold a thought or idea in place for 10 to 20 seconds. How many times have you been walking down the hall in your office and remembered the name of someone you needed to call, but by the time you reached your desk, you felt only a vague sense that there was something you were supposed to do?

The 15 Minute Challenge
Each day is made up of 24 hours. That is more than enough time to do what you really want to do each day. Look at the truly successful people in the financial-services industry (or in any industry). They all have the time they need to do what it takes to be successful.

You will have enough time, however, as a Time Strategist. I encourage you to become vitally aware of the minute-by-minute choices you are making every day about how you spend your limited time at work and at home.

The 15 Minute Challenge will require you to be much more intentional about every choice you make.

Go to The7MinuteLife.com and subscribe to the Member Tools section of our website. A password will be sent to you via e-mail. Then, download the 15 Minute Increment Tracking Sheet and print two copies.

Use the first copy to write down exactly what you will make a commitment to accomplish tomorrow.

1. Start by clarifying what must be accomplished tomorrow. There are often so many “important” items on your list that it can be difficult to prioritize which tasks and projects must be done first. You cannot do everything in a single day.

2. Take the time to translate your daily goals from a mental to-do list (which is completely unreliable) to a written daily plan of action (which can be life changing). Writing down what you will do instantly creates a stronger emotional commitment.

3. There are often a few really big projects on your to-do list that you have chosen not to start because they can seem so overwhelming. Use this worksheet to schedule just 15 minutes to begin thinking through what you will need.

4. Physical clutter and disorganization is a chronic problem for many people in business. Schedule 15 minutes at the beginning of each day to clean up your desk and organize your thoughts. Schedule 15 minutes at the end of each day to clean up your desk and organize your thoughts.

5. As you schedule in all of the projects, meetings and phone calls for each day, you will begin to notice small gaps of time. These gaps can become some of your most productive times. Use the few minutes before a staff meeting to write a thank-you note to a client. Or begin to carry a few pages of research with you that you have been meaning to read.

On the second worksheet, you will track how you actually spent the time in your day. Tracking and writing down what you do each day forces you to become aware of the choices you are making. Time cannot be managed; time management is really decision management. The choices you make every day will determine how you spend your time.

Within days of implementing The 15 Minute Increment Tracking Sheet, you will notice that what you plan to accomplish and what you actually accomplish will begin to align with each other. Awareness is one of the first steps of meaningful change.

Time strategy expert and best-selling author Allyson Lewis has spent the last 29 years developing and teaching concrete, actionable business ideas all over the country. In her latest book, The 7 Minute Solution: Creating a Life with Meaning 7 Minutes at a Time, she shares strategies to help you prioritize, organize and simplify your life for greater meaning and productivity. Take advantage of her worksheets, webinars, and more--subscribe to the FREE Member Tools area at www.The7MinuteLife.com and follow her @allyson7minutes.

Allyson Lewis is the author of The Seven Minute Difference. She speaks about improving time-management, increasing productivity, and rediscovering purpose. Find out more about her new online video training program, The 7 Minute Life System, here. She also has a blog and a Twitter account.

The author is not an employee of Morningstar, Inc. The views expressed in this article are the author's. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Morningstar.

The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.
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