5 Sure-fire Ways to be More Productive
I’m going to jump right in…no big pre-amble. If you want to maximize your time, have fewer things ‘fall through the cracks’, reduce (or dare I say) eliminate being late or forgetting, try these tips.
Using just one will make a noticeable difference, but the more you incorporate into your life, the more productive and fulfilling your days will be.
Use a calendar and a brain dump. These are like peanut butter and chocolate. They just plain ol’ go together. Yes, they are equally awesome on their own, but combined, they are unbeatable!
Seriously, these tools used together will make your life so much easier in the long run. I know there are people who find these constraining or cumbersome. Allow me to offer another perspective – they are freeing. The key is to remember these are not hard, set-in-stone, never-to-be-veered from rules. No, these are guidelines.
When your day goes off the rails…for whatever reason, you can come back to this starting point and reset.
If you make the time each day to spend less than 15 minutes plotting out tomorrow (bonus if you plot your week), your future self will thank your current self. Seriously, if this doesn’t work for you, I would love to hear about it. Drop me a line here.
A brain dump is even better than a to-do list. A brain dump is liberating. It captures all those little bits that are rumbling around in your head and will help with your planning. A to-do list is daunting and often makes people feel like there is no end. A brain dump is just what it sounds like - calls, emails, bill paying, meetings, tasks, errands, birthdays, etc. If it comes to mind, you capture it. It’s just a holding place until. You use it to plan your day and prioritize.
Brain dump tips: Keep your page open on your computer, use your phone, keep a notepad, etc. It doesn’t matter how you do it. What matters is you always have access and you capture what comes to mind. There will be a time to address these tasks and now you don’t have to worry about ‘losing’ them.
Identify 2-3 top priorities per day. Yes, I know, everything is important. Sorry to break it to you, but if everything is important then nothing is important. What do you most need to tackle? Having trouble identifying your priorities? There are lots of reasons why this could be true. Reach out here if you want to gain clarity on your priorities.
Use time blocking. There are lots of different methods to schedule your time. My preference is time blocking. In a nutshell, time blocking is allotting time chunks on your calendar to specific types of tasks. Here’s an example.
Here are just a few of the benefits:
1. It acts like a place holder so you know when particular types of tasks will be addressed. Knowing a task isn’t floating around in the ‘maybe some day ethers’ frees up a lot of energy you might be expending unnecessarily.
2. It creates efficiency because you do not have to switch from task to task. It keeps you from being reactive and playing perpetual task whack-a-mole which I, personally, find exhausting.
3. It allows for extreme focus. It’s tough finding big chunks of time for tasks that need focus or thought. You are more likely to successfully complete those tasks to which you have reserved and dedicated time. An added bonus is it will be far less stressful than wondering when you’ll ever find the time.
4. You can see clearly. When you schedule your time on a calendar – whether it be paper or electronic, you create a visual. You can see very clearly where you want to spend your time. You can also see in retrospect, where you actually spent your time. This is absolutely invaluable information if you find you are not getting done what you set out to do. You’ll also see how much time you’re spending on stuff that’s not important to you…ugh…that’s the worst.
Scheduling tip: leave a buffer 5-15 minutes between meetings and even some tasks. If for no other reason than to get up and move around, take a bio break, stretch or not have to be ‘on’ especially in these times of non-stop online meetings.
Strive for done, not perfect. Perfectionism is the enemy of getting stuff done. As a reformed perfectionist, I know of what I speak. If you are continually prolonging a task until it’s perfect, you are creating far more work for yourself than is necessary and I bet you’re not getting much done.
Nobody is going to appreciate all the extra time you’re spending to make it perfect…sorry, but it’s true. Additionally, the time you are spending perfecting is time you are not spending on another task. You can always go back and tweak later. If you’re struggling with this, you might ask yourself what’s important to you about perfection?
Delegate, delegate, delegate! Whether you’re a boss, a spouse, a parent or any combination, delegation is your friend. Unless you have a particular super power that nobody else in your family or your team possess, please delegate. Consider it a gift. A gift to yourself because it gets it off your plate. A gift to someone else as an opportunity to grow and learn. If this is tough for you, what’s important to you about doing everything yourself?
I know it’s a lot. Don’t take it all on at once by trying to change everything at the same time.
I find success is more likely when you take baby steps.
Where to start? I’m partial to the calendar/brain dump and the rest will come more easily once you have those basic tools, but if that’s too much for you, pick what’s easiest. I call this eating dessert first (my preference) To be fair, I’ve had clients who prefer to eat their vegetables first (attacking the toughest habit first). Again, it's entirely up to you.
That’s not the point. The point is to make small, incremental changes that are maintainable.
Want to share your progress or where you get stuck? Reach out to me here.