We all want to be productive. We all want the out tray filled. Everyone has days where we have no idea how everything is going to get done. But sadly, “it ain’t gonna do itself”. There’s plenty of ways to NOT do work but the only way to do your work, ultimately, is to do it. So how do we make sure we don’t stray from the righteous path and keep your head in the game for productivity? There’s lots of approaches, but there’s a few unorthodox ideas that you might not have considered before!
Proactivity in Your Productivity
Prepare for these tips…
No, seriously. Prepare. A long day ahead should be a long day PLANNED. It doesn’t have to be a rigid schedule, but having a sense of direction means that you can walk through the door knowing what you have to do, and what order to do it in. Here’s a few tips to help you get everything organised:
Identify your MITs
Most Important Tasks are the tasks that are, well, most important for you to complete. Prioritise these above all else (within reason – there are exceptions that we’ll speak about later). Write them down, and place them at the top of any daily list you have. Even if these are the only tasks you get done on the day, you can say that your day has been full of productivity.
Laying Everything Out
This goes hand in hand with your MITs. Preparing your day in the form of a list helps you to consider and prioritise your entire workday. Ticking, crossing, or drawing a line through your list items gives you a great sense of progress and achievement. You can even rank things below your MITs in order of priority, or separate your list into morning/afternoon activities, whatever works for you. Your lists can be as in-depth as you like, from 3 large tasks to 20 small ones!
When planning things out, it shouldn’t take too much of your time. Try to max it out at 5 minutes of thinking and writing time. Instead of doing it at work, why not try writing it on your commute or before you go to bed?
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
It’s very easy to get caught up in phone calls, emails and the like when trying to focus on one task. Before you know it, people are dragging you in one direction, then the other, all the while straying further and further away from what you’ve tried to set your mind and ever-decreasing time to. It’s frustrating and it’s difficult.
However, if we spent our time tending to everything as it happens, we would never get anything fully done. If something can be postponed until you’ve finished your current activity, it might be a good idea to do so. You can even set aside dedicated time during the day (a ‘power hour’ if you will) to spend replying to those emails, making those calls and filing your paperwork. You may even find focusing on these duties is faster than an ad-hoc approach!
Sometimes, it’s as simple as learning to say no. It can be difficult, but your work is (most often) your priority – don’t take on anything extra that will hinder your main duties. There’s always exceptions – emergencies emerge and freak occurrences occur. But just as you understand that everyone has work to do, you deserve the mutuality of people understanding that you’re running to your own schedule too.
No matter how well we lay everything out, schedule our work like masterminds, sometimes it doesn’t matter. Things come up. Maybe someone put something urgent under your nose. Maybe you just let yourself go astray into blogs or videos. Perhaps you find yourself slowing down or feel time speeding up.
Whatever catches your productivity out, there’s a few ways to tackle distraction and stay on target.
The “Two Minute” Rule
Ronnie Coleman (possibly the most motivated person ever) once said “There ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it.”. That quote is universal: it isn’t just limited to bodybuilding and weightlifting. Sometimes, when something is straightforward it’s better to just tackle it rather than um and err over the semantics.
Remember those exceptions we’ve spoke so much about in this blog? Here’s one of them: the ‘two minute rule’. Time management expert David Allen puts it in a slightly less aggressive way than ol’ Ronnie: if a task can be completed in 2 minutes or less, don’t plan or schedule it but just get stuck in and do it. If you spend any time considering how or when you can do a two-minute task, you’ll spend more time planning it than doing. This damages your productivity as small tasks can eat into other bigger ones. There ain’t nothin’ to do it but to do it, so do it!
Yeah, yeah, nice try. I’m not telling you to take 3 lunch breaks a day. The power of a break has on your productivity is underrated. Stepping back from your workflow might seem counter-intuitive, but there’s scientific research behind it.
Every 90 to 120 minutes we go through a ultradian cycle – peaks and troughs of alertness and productivity. Do you quite often find yourself fluctuating between engaged to irritable to focused to hungry to optimistic to disinterested? It’s a rhythm that goes through our sleep pattern as well as our daily routines. So how do we harness it accurately?
While it’s not worth slowing down to a halt every 90 minutes to pick your work back up, but every 90 to 120 minutes, take 10 to regroup – catch up with how everyone else is doing, make that cuppa you’ve been needing, or just take a breather to check how your progress is. It’ll refresh you to get right back in!
This tip is so open ended, it applies to almost everything. Use pen and paper, index cards and post it notes to take down information that might not be able to stay in your head for later.
Remember when Apple used to say, “there’s an app for everything”? They weren’t wrong. There are plenty of apps to take notes, record, make to do lists and much more. While on the subject, there’s a very useful app for phones, PCs and much more called Pocket.
If you get easily distracted by videos, blogs and the like, Pocket allows you to save these all for later viewing with one click. It’s cross platform, so if you see something interesting for later on your PC, pocket it and view it later on your phone at lunchtime, or vice versa. Pocket helps you keep focus while maintaining the security that you won’t lose that interesting blog. As a bonus, you could also get some extra lunchtime reading/viewing material!
So there you have it. Hopefully, you’ll walk away from this blog determined and ready to face your next work day knowing just how to keep the flow up. It may seem difficult at first but the longer you practice the easier it all gets! Productivity comes naturally to some and not so much for others. (I’m part of the latter myself!) Keep practicing and things will become more organised and achievable right before under your nose.