7 ways to win your days

tips for optimising in the now…

Do you find yourself too often losing time and focus with procrastifaffery?

Wondering how to tap into clarity, creative flow, and enjoy actually getting things done?

Yes - me too! Email avalanches, competing priorities, kidlet shenanigans, glamorous ideas and agonising comparisons and wow look that sloth video is adorable…

And as a stubbornly macguyvering individual who only looks at the instructions when all else fails, I have long often been too skeptical to consider others’ advice. However with entrepreneurial growth, I’ve learnt much in overcoming overwhelm, welcoming support and embracing my strengths.

Optimising our time, energy, mindset and the support around us is an invaluable process!

This is a long game. I encourage you to experiment to find out what works for you, on days that are brilliant and not so much. With self awareness + your own customised toolkit you can tweak odds in your favour, to help you enjoy the journey as much as success (and useful failures) along the way.

There’s no silver bullet. Indeed there are gazillions of ways you can approach productivity and spark that joy, and hacks and gurus galore. So in the interest of ease and simplicity, I’ve whittled down my list of seven faves:

1. The Onion Method

This is a super simple way to foster positive rituals and mindset development. I thank my wonderful partner for this tool for keeping calm, connected and on the right path, and here you can find more insights about its application.

Designed as a practical way to cut through overwhelm, the whole process should take no more than 15 minutes (not half your day).

When first starting out for the day or gearing up for the next thing, especially if you are feeling unclear or counterproductive, return to the centre of the onion:

2. Timeboxing & batching

Timeboxing is a nifty tool for focusing briefly on one task for a fixed amount of time, then taking a short break before the next task. Enjoy your breaks! This approach improves efficiency and creative flow and helps avoid distractions or burnout.

Yes this is even better timeboxing, thanks to Dr Who.

Yes this is even better timeboxing, thanks to Dr Who.

The Pomodoro Technique involves 25 minute tasks with 5 minute breaks. You can simply use your phone or kitchen timer, or try handy apps like FocusBooster (free trial & paid). I love timeboxing and tracking my flow with Vitamin-R (free trial & paid).

I find timeboxing helps keep me on track and accountable, particularly when getting lost in either deep work or distractionville.

Batching is a simple way to streamline your regular tasks for efficiency and flow. Plot out similar tasks and times to do them together, so you avoid wasting energy and time shifting gears between different things. You can sort this out to suit you - here are some ideas:

  • Get most of your administrative chores done once a week, so that you can focus on the creative or other fun stuff

  • Be disciplined about when you engage with email and online interaction each day, to dedicate substantial time for deep work and fun

  • Plan ahead and get superbly organised with content ideation, creation and distribution. To make it more fun and accountable, connect with an expert like Claire Barton

  • Automate and outsource to make things easier!

3. One Decision to Eliminate Thousands

Avoid analysis paralysis and overthinking everything by making those key decisions that settle your next decisions. Committing to overarching decisions is potent in sharpening our focus and growth on our own terms.

While challenging to begin with, I value how much energy and time I save this way. One big decision I’ve made for this year is to step up in leadership and service. Consequently, this means not signing up for any more courses or programs for now (no matter how fabulous, and yikes I’m a glutton for learning and development); paring back the types of work I do and content I create; and using a simple checklist for choosing work and networking opportunities. Not wondering about or trying to juggle all these neverending possibilities, I am creating invaluable space to be bold, creative and on purpose - at my utmost.

Disciplined decision-making means dealing with trade-offs and disappointing others, but enables you to focus on the things that “add up to your single highest point of contribution.” This is an essentialist approach thanks to Greg McKeown.

4. Boundaries & enjoying missing out

Once you’ve clarified what is most important and efficient for you, honour your boundaries!

Choosing what you want means saying no to what doesn’t quite fit the bill, even the most sparkly and ego-boosting invitations. Again, this can be easier said than done, and warrants practice.

Towards this ideal, I vote embracing JOMO, the Joy Of Missing Out!

It is useful to write down what your boundaries are - to clearly and accurately express your terms and conditions, how and when you choose to work, and what your expectations are. Don’t be afraid to share these upfront with clients, collaborators and whoever reaches out to you.

This might be through your email signature or auto-response (here’s Tim Ferris’ masterful take on managing emails amongst many other time-management gems). You can link these boundaries from your website and spell it out in your agreements, and deploy templates for gracefully saying “No, thank you”.

5. Cycles

Let’s face it, even with Dolly Parton singing along, a traditional 9-5 Monday-Friday career until you retire is a prospect that is fading in its lustre, accessibility and relevance. Flexibility is increasingly important, not only for entrepreneurs but for employees from Gen Z, X to Babyboomers who prioritise values, lifestyle choices and caring responsibilities.

Dolly Parton pours us a cup of ambition, with the 1980 song & film ‘9 to 5’, thank you!

Dolly Parton pours us a cup of ambition, with the 1980 song & film ‘9 to 5’, thank you!

We humans are responsive to cycles, greater and lesser narratives that shape our expectations and the way we live our lives. You don’t have to achieve everything all at once, or indeed anticipate the whole arc of your lifetime achievements. Rather you can focus on the next inspired steps for this cycle, trusting there are opportunities to reflect, refine, renew and absolutely reinvent cycles upcoming.

I am currently experimenting with cyclic planning as part of my strategic toolkit, mapping out 4-6 week priorities that link to reflective, creative and collaborative processes.

For me as a female entrepreneur, this strategic recalibration feels liberating and informative already, especially as I’m tracking intentions and outcomes in correlation with my energy levels and menstrual cycle. For women this resonates with, I recommend the good work of Kate Alexandra and Stasha Washburn.

I’m also weaving this in with family and workflow planning with my partner, so that we can both better focus, share insights and support each other across our many priorities. Expect more insights and handy tools shared here for you soon!

What are the personal as well as professional cycles that are significant to you, and how can you best align your goals and actions?

6. Journalling

Writing and sketching in my journal has been part of my life since I could scribble, always encouraged by my English teacher dad who has decades of journals, poems and slides.

In more recent years, I’ve become far more focused in journalling. Aware that many of the most successful and influential people in history have kept journals, I’ve started to twig the benefits. Journalling is advantageous for our mental health and creative process, tracing our personal and professional development, and in realising our goals.

Though I love digital platforms and I think can now type faster than I can think, handwriting is again my preference for journalling. I invest in handsome bound books to write in, and am currently enjoying highly structured Best Self Journals as well as a collection of notebooks for ideation, projects and sketching.

Morning and/or night, I recommend you commit to the journalling practice that is meaningful for you. Along with writing your thoughts freestyle, you may wish to note things you are grateful for, your goals and targets, lessons and reflections. This is powerful to amplify our progress and learnings moving forward, useful to look back at evidence and emotions written in the moment, and wholesome to simply express in the moment

7. Perspective

Ultimately, how you live your days is how you live your life, to paraphrase the poignant wisdom of Annie Dillard.

Continue to question what success means to you and make choices accordingly. Beyond external measures of achievement, and with respect to our shared experiences between life and death, what remains as important for you and those you love? No need to discard ambitions, but I encourage you to foster daily practices and rituals that affirm your values and wellbeing - I have so much more to share on this in later posts!

Recently I’ve relearned how precious are moments with my family. The time I have to live, be and love - essential.

Living+your+day.jpg

With realisation is choice. I choose to live with intention and integrity, towards inner peace and courage in the arena, as championed by Brené Brown via Theodore Roosevelt. For me meditation is a must, straight after waking up, before I do anything.

My perspective is both widening and more intimate, assured and forever curious. This essential to progress towards goals, and draws on my skilfulness and compassion in each moment. It means ongoing training and inspired action - even and especially when facing uncertainty.

Strategygeek that I am, yes I am tracking numbers and stories to build success and share impact. And I create simple tools like the free Strategy Roadmap to help us keep vision, holistic goals and inspired action all in perspective.

However I will only truly understand achievements in retrospect - calling for huge trust to leap and simple presence to be in each moment.

And be well.


How do you support yourself to grow, build efficacy, and to simply be?

Kathryn Gray