There are many tips, articles and books out there from highly successful people on how to increase your productivity (especially around work), but here are a few I’ve found to be especially useful for me:
Identify and prioritize no more than three key tasks in a given day
Choose the most important, most critical, most impactful and/or most time-sensitive tasks that you want or need to get done in a given day. Set yourself up to be successful at achieving just the most pressing three. You’ll find you can tackle other smaller tasks with more ease and efficiency once you’ve tackled the big stuff.
This allows you to create more self-confidence, minimize how much you wind up carrying over from day-to-day and end the day with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Work in bursts
Focus on one task (with purpose and intention) at a time until it’s completed, and then give your mind a short break (say 5-10 minutes) and shift gears before going on to the next task on your ToDo list. These short but intense bursts of focus are incredibly helpful in moving you through your day…
Manage how often you check e-mails and voicemails
Turn off the ringer on your phone and the ‘ding’ from your in box — and check your messages and e-mails just a few times a day at intervals between your most important priorities. You control the pacing of your flow and responsiveness this way. It’s likely not more than a couple of hours — but if something’s more pressing than that someone will either text or call you (and you likely have your phone screen within sight if that’s the case).
Batch your tasks
When you have a series of like-minded smaller tasks to tackle or when you need to run errands in a given day, aim to ‘batch’ these in a given timefame — and you’ll knock them out quickly and save yourself a lot of time. Further if you work for yourself and have the luxury of managing your own time, if you can get some of your errands done during the work week you create more time for R&R for yourself during your weekend.
Work in your optimal mental zone
We all have a mental zone where we are at our most efficient, where our ability to focus is highest, and where we can accomplish the most in a given time — and with respect to certain tasks at different times of the day.
I know for myself, I need to get my workout done first thing in the morning before work or it won’t happen. I prefer to batch my highest priority tasks in the morning to get them handled and done. Then do calls and meetings ideally throughout the rest of the day. And finish the day with reading, writing and whatever administrative tasks require my attention. This can’t happen every day of course; you do need to be flexible, but when I’m able to manage this pace most days I find that I’m calmer, more productive and I accomplish more.
Make time for unexpected interruptions
Some have suggested actually blocking out at least an hour a day for unanticipated interruptions in your day; that way you create a buffer and you’ve allowed for them whenever they crop up when planning your day. Not a bad idea as things inevitably crop up that require your attention and responsiveness that you didn’t plan for. You’ll be a whole lot less stressed if you’ve created space to manage them and you have more time if you don’t.
To the prior point, you can’t always control interruptions or unexpected incidents that require your attention in a given day. However, there are some things you can control (some of which I’ve listed above) — and things like how often you’re on social media which can be a real time sink ‘rabbit hole’ that you can ill afford to waste. You can also control saying ‘no’ when requests come in that interfere with your priorities or aren’t a fit for you (or which others could handle, or which could be put off for another time). Do your best to stay in control or your day and your priorities as much as possible — as opposed to being at the effect of what’s coming at you.
Create a “Not Doing Now” list
As you think of things/tasks you want to tackle or follow-up on (whether for work or personal), it can be really helpful to keep a “not doing now” list going where you park those ideas somewhere so you don’t lose track of them but they don’t require your immediate attention — and so therefore don’t distract you from priorities. Just make sure you create a process where you get into the habit of checking that list briefly at least weekly.
I hope you’ll find some of these tips useful and will give them a try — they’ve served me and others well.