While serving as the Director of Mental Training for the St. Louis Cardinals, Dr. Jason Selk helped the team win their first World Series in over 20 years, and in 2011 he assisted the Cardinals in the historic feat of winning their second World Championship in a six year period. Considered to be one of the nation’s premier performance coaches, Dr. Selk helps numerous well-known professional and Olympic athletes as well as Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 executives and organizations develop the mental toughness necessary for high-level success. Below, Dr. Selk writes about the importance of prioritizing what is most important to you in order to enjoy life to its fullest:
One of the most common questions I get from my clients is how to actually leave thoughts of work at work. After a grueling day of at the office, a lot of people have a difficult time transitioning into their life at home, or some even feel guilty for putting work aside when they are home. When asked what the number one most important thing in one’s life is, most people will answer “my family,” “my faith,” “my marriage” or something other than “my career.” If this is the case, why do we continue to pollute our after-work time with a preoccupied mind? Having half your mind on your work once you’ve left the office for the day not only does nothing to enhance your career or ease your workload, but it only leaves half your mind for what you are doing at the moment, which is likely more important to you than your career. You may be thinking, “Well there is simply not enough time in the day to get everything done at work.” My response to that is quite bluntly, “Well, then you’d better figure it out.” Not enough time in the day is simply not a good enough excuse. The extremely successful have the same amount of time in their day as you, and they don’t sacrifice the most important aspects of their life to create more. It simply doesn’t work, and it is not sustainable for a happy and satisfied life. So here’s how we “figure it out:”
I encourage all my clients to get in to the office early and get focused immediately. Most people spend the first few minutes (or even hours!) at the office “easing into the day”– checking emails, browsing the internet, chatting with co-workers or other less important tasks that distract us from the most important tasks of the day. It is normal to put off getting focused because, frankly, focus takes work! When we put off getting truly focused, we carry that feeling around like a weight on our mind. You may be surprised how much time you are wasting in the morning. Even five or 10 minutes per day adds up to a huge waste in time. Getting focused immediately will allow you to accomplish more earlier and give you a boost in confidence and productivity for the rest of the day. This may seem like a no-brainer, but this is something that requires effort to put into practice.
Get After It
We all have the same, finite number of hours in the day, which limits our ability to get everything done. Instead of trying to create more time, which will be a losing battle, focus on prioritizing what is truly important. The extremely successful do not get everything done in a day, but they do get the most important things done each day. If you look at the amount of time you are spending on different tasks throughout your work day, most people will find that they are spending the majority of their time on items low on the totem pole. The reason for this is that these items tend to be easier, less stressful and require less focus than the items that really matter. It is natural for us to gravitate to them first. To maximize your time during the day, get after the most important items first, and get to the less important items only if you have time. When you are home for the evening, I guarantee that your mind will feel incredibly stressed and cluttered if you didn’t finish preparing for your big presentation the next day; but, I doubt you will give a second thought to having a few emails left to sort from the day.
Let me repeat. Get out. When you are done for the day, give yourself permission to be actually done for the day. This does not mean that there will never be days that you have to put in extra hours or go in on a weekend, but make it a habit to take your after-work day as seriously as you take your work day. If you are tempted to respond to work phone calls, emails or texts after hours, put your phone and/or laptop in a place where you won’t have easy access to it for the evening. If you have a difficult time shutting off your “work mind” once you are home, try spending the first five minutes at home doing something to distract yourself like taking a walk, listening to music or reading a book. It is also a good idea to change clothes immediately upon arriving home, get out of your work uniform and into your play outfit.
Try these three exercise to help you Get In, Get After It and Get Out:
- At the end of each day, write down the three most important/one must tasks for you to get done the next day. Commit to writing only three. Remember, this is not everything you need to get done, these are the most important things and of the three, which one is your absolute glow-in-the dark priority that must be completed?
- Spend the first hour of the day working on only those three tasks and start with your “One Must.” Do not allow yourself to do anything else before or during that hour. Block this time in your calendar, and instruct others (if possible) not to interrupt you.
- Mark in your calendar the time you arrive home through bedtime as “Family time” or “Down time,” or anything else you’d like to call it. Putting this in your calendar will prioritize this time to be as important as a meeting at work.
A few simple changes in utilizing your time at work can have an enormous impact on your ability to enjoy your life outside of work. Remember, this is not your practice life, so committing to prioritizing what is most important to you is not only smart, it’s necessary for enjoying life to its fullest.