Win the dayYou want to make today great… at least better than yesterday. But you know that it will probably full of the same old chaos. You dread driving home with disappointment. You hate the feeling of being out of control of your own life. What if this could change?

What would it look like for this day to be more productive and rewarding than the ones you’ve been living lately?

I have the same desire! I know what is like to feel like you are not in control of your time. You have other people in your office; your kids demand your time; your email is blowing up; your phone seems to be nothing more than a nagging notification device. I too have struggled to stay in the driver’s seat of my life too. It is hard to not just respond to everyone else’s demands.

The problem is this: we work for people or with people that put demands on our life. We feel out of control when we can’t meet our own goals or advance our own projects.

So here are some tips I would advise you to try to regain a sense of control of your days:

1. Only answer email once or twice a day at a scheduled time. Make an appointment with your inbox and text messages and don’t move it. Treat it like a meeting with another person that you would hate to miss or change. Don’t live in your inbox, but rather use your inbox a place to go—only once or twice in the day—to respond to others demands.

If you need to, notify your boss (or ask permission) for this change in your life. My guess is that your boss will understand and maybe even consider following your example.

Also, consider putting a small footer in your email that says, “I read and respond to emails at 8 AM and 4 PM only.” That will help set the expectations for people as to when they may hear from you.

2. Don’t be in more than 4 hours of meetings a day. We all need about half of our day to work on our stuff, including email and other correspondence. This may mean that something has to wait to get on your schedule. Or on the days where you have mandatory meetings, don’t schedule other meetings if it will be more than 50% of your day. This is a hard one for me, but when I keep this boundary, I have my most productive days.

3. Start your day strong. Have a morning routine that starts in quite, contemplation, prayer and Bible reading. The way you start your day impacts how you love your day. I shared some thoughts on my morning routine in a recent post. You may also want to try the SAVERS methodology to your morning to get the most out of your day. They author says even six minutes of focused time in the morning will make the most busy days the most focused days.

So I encourage you to start here: make a list of what you are going to “Stop doing.” List the meetings you need to stop attending or need to push off. Decide when you are going to read emails. Resolve to go to bed a bit earlier tonight so that you can have a great morning routine tomorrow (they key to great mornings is early bedtimes).

If you want to gain control, you will start saying no to the nonessential things and yes to doing only what only you can do. Living a life of responding to others will leave you feeling empty and without purpose. Even if your job is customer service or centered on meeting people’s needs (like mine), you must have boundaries to actually do your work and feel productive.

You got this. Go win the day.

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