Update 6/1/2019: We wrote this blog post with good intentions. We’re goal-setters ourselves and wanted to share the things that help us achieve them. Then we heard Jason Fried talk about goals and began to question if our focus on them aligns with our time management philosophy. Here’s the thing: It’s not about accomplishing as much as you can; it’s about using time intentionally. If goals help you spend your time in ways that are most fulfilling to you, by all means, set ‘em. But if you’re someone for whom goal-setting is a gateway to hustle culture, please—skip over numbers one and two in this post. And read this. You are so much more than what you achieve.
You’ve got things you want to accomplish this year, things that aren’t likely easy or you wouldn’t have set goals for them—you’d have just done them. We’ve got a tidy list of six simple but powerful tools to help you hit your targets and have your best year yet.
1. Measure What Matters
by John Doerr
What it is: Dubbed the “handbook for setting and achieving audacious goals,” this book lives up to its hype. You’ll learn the simple but powerful approach to goals that’s proving to be a game-changer for individuals, teams, and whole organizations.
Why you need it: It isn’t enough to set a goal and give it the old college try. You need a system you can rely on to focus your efforts and sustain your motivation over the long haul. Doerr’s objectives and key results (OKR) method delivers both.
Investment: 8 hours of reading time
2. A goal tracker
What it is: A simple spreadsheet or full-featured software like Lifetick or Perdoo … a goal tracker is a tool for checking in regularly on your goals and tracking progress. Aim for no less than one check-in session per month.
Why you need it: Yearly goals aren’t meant to be achieved immediately. Advancement towards the target is gradual. If you don’t track your progress, you’ll be hard-pressed to see that you’ve made any. And that’s where discouragement sets in. This is why most New Year’s resolutions die an untimely death, not because of lack of discipline.
Investment: 1-4 hours per month
3. A day planner
What it is: Whether you take an analog or digital approach (pictured: Daycast), day planners are like sketch pads for time and tasks. Use one to rough out your day ahead of time (we recommend the night before), including actions that will move you towards your goals.
Why you need it: While plans aren’t meant to be followed to the letter, planning daily is key to keeping your goals on your radar and maintaining steady, incremental forward momentum. Unless you intentionally carve out space in your day for this effort, achieving your goals will remain an aspiration and not reality.
Investment: 30 minutes per day at most
What it is: Once the sole purview of mystics and their students, meditation is a mindfulness practice that’s increasingly common for business leaders who want to lower stress, boost creativity, regulate emotions, and more.
Why you need it: While the benefits of meditation run the gamut of physical, mental, and emotional boons, one stands out as particularly useful in the context of goals—just 20 minutes a day improves cognitive function. In other words, you’ll think more clearly.
Investment: 20 minutes per day
5. Deep Work
by Cal Newport
What it is: Newport’s 2016 bestseller is just as timely here in the first weeks of 2019. Read it and learn why disciplined, focused effort is—more than ever before—indispensable to goal achievement and how to strengthen your ‘focus muscle.’
Why you need it: You live in a world that’s dead-set on distracting you from achieving your goals. Newport will equip you with the know-how and confidence to discern and prioritize the important over the trivial (or at least far less important).
Investment: 8 hours of reading time
6. A consistent sleep/wake schedule
What it is: People who go to bed and get up at the same times every day aren’t just disciplined (and/or lucky). They’re also less jet-lagged—a 2017 study shows that irregular sleep schedules are associated with effects similar “to traveling two to three time zones” away.
Why you need it: It’s hard enough to achieve goals without adding chronic jet lag to the mix. If you’re like most Americans, you’re getting enough sleep, but it’s not good sleep. In that case, more sleep won’t help, but a consistent schedule will.
If you use every tool in this list, you’ll spend just 3-4% of your time this year paving the way to goal completion. You may not reach every one of your targets, but you’ll almost certainly experience better overall performance this year. And that’s more than worth such a small investment.
Top photo by Isaac Smith
Whatever the endeavor, your time is probably better spent taking the next small step than searching for a way to pull off a giant leap. Training for a marathon? Remodeling your house? Bootstrapping a SaaS startup? There isn’t any one thing you can do to ensure success… except to keep going.
We want to build more integrations for Daycast. What would help you most? A Slack integration that lets you create a new Daycast task from a Slack message? Or maybe a Trello integration that automatically imports your board and list items? We’re not short on ideas, but we’d love your input.
If time management were just about getting things done, Daycast wouldn’t exist. There are myriad tools to help you jam-pack your days and check off more and more boxes. But we think time management is about unpacking your days, making mindful choices to spend your limited time on what matters most.
Fed-up dieters the world over have ditched food rules in exchange for what they call intuitive eating. Maybe exhausted would-be time managers should follow suit. Hard-and-fast rules about time management abound, but we advocate a more reflective approach. Bespoke time management, if you will.
A new year is underway, and you’ve got goals to crush. With these six proven tools in your personal productivity arsenal, you’ll enjoy greater focus, sharpened mental clarity, and sustained momentum—all of which you’ll use to stay committed and moving towards your targets. Come December, you’ll thank yourself.
Day planning is not an affectation of those ultra-organized folks who color code their inboxes. In fact, day planning is not about organization at all, but preparation. And it can mean the difference between wasted resources and a humble, somewhat bumpy, but altogether more efficient workday.
When we started using FreshBooks, our whole invoicing process got easier. Now we spend less time billing clients and more time serving them. Here’s our full review, including a breakdown of how we use FreshBooks for client billing and what you can expect if you give it a try.
I thought working remotely would mean being less affected by company culture than when I worked onsite. A year later, I say culture matters more as a remote worker because it lives where I do—in my home. Fortunately, culture is something we can screen for like we might a potential housemate.
One year ago, I left the commute behind for a home office (read: desk tucked into an alcove). The adjustments have been many and all have ultimately nurtured growth—difficult, painful growth sometimes. If I had it to do over, I’d make only one change: Switch to remote work sooner. Here’s why….
Time tracking software should solve problems, not create new ones. Finding the right fit for your team is key. We compiled our notes on time trackers we’ve studied—what’s special about each? what don’t we like?—and compared them with Daycast to save you time as you look for your team’s solution.
Are you using FreshBooks accounting software and want to try Daycast (or vice versa)? Using both and aren’t sure how to get the rest of your team up and running? This post is for you. We’ll have your whole team using Daycast to plan, track, and send time to FreshBooks in just a few quick steps.
With Daycast, our aim is to help you extract maximum value from each day. That’s why we’ve added three new features to help you stay focused while working, recharge when your workday is done, and spend less time on administrative to-dos. It’s all there for you in the latest release—version 1.1.0.
If transparency sounds like just another corporate buzzword, consider what happens on teams that don’t have it: silos grow and solidify, communication narrows, and efficiency slows. But what can you expect from a more transparent culture? And how do you go about building one? We cover both here.
Why is time tracking such a mind-numbingly awful exercise in … awfulness? Here’s what I think: Most time tracking methods are doing it wrong. Timesheets, frustratingly complicated apps—the only value they deliver is in the form of a paycheck. Which sounds like enough, I know. I want more.
Because managers are uniquely positioned to shape team culture through both everyday interactions and long-range choices, any move toward empathy will be more successful with intentional leadership. We’ve identified five things leaders can start doing right now to nurture empathy.
Some things—like frying eggs, like planning your days—seem pretty self-explanatory but in fact yield far better results with the application of real technique. When it comes to day planning, we recommend a method that’s simple, easy to use, and helps you get more satisfaction out of your workday.
Empathetic cultures don’t arise by default; they must be deliberately cultivated. And while leaders that value empathy give their teams a better chance of developing it, everyone plays a role in growing an empathetic culture. Here are five things we all can do to engender empathy in the workplace.
The ways and contexts in which managers review creative work can reap great rewards or cause great harm. I've failed in this area enough that I'm now qualified to write (a little) about it. So here’s a baker's dozen of hard-learned lessons gleaned from 20 years observing and managing creatives.
Confession: a packed schedule doesn’t just leave me feeling rushed; it also makes me feel important. Necessary. And in a world where busyness is the newest status symbol, I’m certainly not the only one. But it’s a trap, diminishing our ability to deliver real value. Fortunately, there’s a way out.
Clever ideas and the skill to bring them to life are abundant resources. But to purposefully innovate, we must identify what means the most to the consumer, not what’s clever. And that requires a much rarer resource: empathy. It starts, counterintuitively, not with feeling but with action.
Sometimes all it takes to achieve my goals is a little planning, a little persistence. Other times it seems the harder I try the further my goal recedes into the distance. Then I found a planning technique that helped me understand why some goals are so elusive and what to do about it.
Distractions can degrade productivity no matter where we work, but I find them harder to resist and recover from when working remotely. Interestingly, accountability tactics don’t solve the problem. Daily productivity requires that I know my limitations and work with them instead of against them.
How do you get your team focused on collective goals and working in harmony to achieve them? It starts simply but powerfully: with empathy. We can accomplish more together than we can alone, and synergy depends less on tools and procedures than it does on this undervalued skill.
When I left my office and nameplate behind, I didn’t realize I’d need to let go of a lot more in order to get the hang of this remote thing. It hasn’t been what I’d call easy. (But few worthwhile endeavors are, eh?) Now, almost four months in, I’m a happy, grateful convert.
What do we mean when we talk about the flexibility of working remotely? Because truth be told, I have zero desire to wander the globe, laptop in hand. But maybe flex isn’t just for the digital nomad set. Maybe homebody routine-freaks like me can make good use of it too.
Culture is critically important, but requires some out-of-the-box thinking to evolve intentionally in distributed workforces. We believe the right kinds of perks can help. And we don't mean free stuff. We mean activities and surprises that unify dispersed workers across miles and time zones.
Here's something I've noticed about working remotely: it blurs the line between work and home and, at least for me, creates cognitive dissonance in the process. My first instinct was to fortify that line. But the harder I tried, the more uncomfortable I got. Then one day the line dissolved altogether. And you know what? Work, home, everything—everything's better without it.
Picture a day-planning tool of some kind. Imagine using it. Do you feel inspired? Or does the very thought dampen your creative fire? If you're like many makers, it might just be the latter. Now, what if we told you that—with the right approach—planning your days can actually aid your creativity? It's true. We'll explain how.
These three books have helped shape how we work here at Open Door Teams. Using the suggestions and insight they offer, we deliver greater value for our time. Maybe you will too.
Distractions: bane of remote workers everywhere. I'm not so sure about that. What I do know is that the things that drag my focus are different now that I work from home.