There are so many articles on this topic, some of which I got inspiration from to write about it. There are books, apps and forums dedicated to hacking productivity and it’s going to take a while to go through them all. I thought about putting up a summary and the idea for this article came to mind. As always, I’d try to give you some key areas to focus on, then you can build your dexterity from there. Let’s dive in,
If there is a true gospel to productivity, it would be “knowing your priorities and keeping them as your priorities”. There are several approaches to this. If your aim is to be productive at life, your priority would be the 3 most important things to you as a person. If your aim is to be productive at work, your priorities are your 3 most important tasks for the week or for the day. Notice that I used “tasks” not “projects”. This is because, many of us get discouraged when we have to approach a bogus project or assignment. It’s a lot easier when we are able to break down such a project or assignment into simple tasks we can crush, one at a time. It’s like working through a checklist, the more the check marks, the happier you are that there is less to do.
Going back to priorities, it is important that you identify your most crucial tasks or assignment and know which one would have the most effect on your work or personal life. For example, there is more to lose if you don’t submit your working report to your boss compared to if you don’t clear your inbox for the day. Those mails might be important, but there is a more pressing task at hand that should be tackled first.
To do this successfully, it’s important you take out time to have a meeting with yourself at least once a week. What happens at these meetings? For starters, you write a list of all the things that you need to get done for the week. Arrange them in their order of importance and urgency so it’s easy to dedicate a day to them. Then draw a table to help you visualize your 3 most important tasks for Monday till Friday or Saturday if it could help. This way, you go into your week prepared and with enough clarity as to what is important. It’s easier to look back on your achievements when you set a milestone at the beginning.
2. START WORKING
There is no better time to start than now. Honest. To – do lists are pretty to look at, but the only achievement to them is when you are able to cross items off that list. There would never be a perfect time or perfect scenario to start working. This is why you need to break down your projects into tasks you can crush in bite sizes. Your task is already in the simplest form there is, all that is left is for you to simple do it and mark it as done. Point being, there won’t ever be a right time to start working on something, only the moment you decide to start will be the right one. Let that sink in.
Establishing a routine for how you approach your work would also go a long way. What is your busy/average/slow day at work like? How can you plan your tasks around day to help you be productive? When can you get more work done? How often do you have meetings and what part of the day are they usually scheduled? Have these answers and then create a routine for yourself. An example, get to work at 9, coffee run till 9.10, Settle in by 9.15, meeting at 9.30. First task to be completed by 11, take a 10 minutes bathroom break, complete second task by 1, check your email after lunch, and so on. The beauty of this routine is, come rain or snow, you have knocked out 2 out of your 3 most important tasks for the day before lunch and that is pretty impressive. You have the rest of the day to complete the last one, clear your inbox, chat with your colleagues and even grab dinner by yourself or with company.
Another thing about my routine is you work in sprints. You are not in one position the entire time and you don’t work on one thing for a long time. It’s important that when you work for about an hour, you take a break of at least 5 minutes before you continue to work. There’s lots of articles that talks about how working in sprints can help you achieve maximum productivity. And lastly, you get more done in the morning. Many experts agree that the best time to get anything done is to do it in the morning. I find that to be true for me personally. Once lunch time rolls in, I work on auto pilot and I’m sometimes just waiting for the day to be over so I can go home.
This is the most important thing you need to understand about productivity. Focus is at its core. Without it, all you have is a “to – do” list and a fancy routine that keeps growing by the day. Think about it, for those of us who enjoy cooking large meals often, how do you operate? You decide what part of your meal you want to start with, work on it till it’s good enough to cook or bake, before moving on to the next thing. You don’t start to dress your salad while trying to deep fry your chicken – it’s a 95% guaranteed disaster. Why stick with those odds when you can have a guaranteed 100% success on both fronts if you simply work on it one at a time? Same thing applies with our daily tasks or work. When you are able to identify the most important things you need to achieve for the day, then you work on them one after the other. There is a higher chance that you are able to get more done, compared to trying to do so many things at the same time.
Focus is not just about tasks, the distractions of our digital life also comes to play – emails and social media. If you’d recall in my sample routine earlier, I moved emails to sometime after lunch when you have been able to make the most of your day. Our emails can be quite distracting – from promotional emails, subscriptions, office – wide “cc’s”, etc. Getting through each of them can be quite tasking and time consuming, The sad truth is, almost all of this emails come with an additional item for your to – do list. So here is my advice, delay checking your emails till later in the afternoon after your most important tasks are complete. Unsubscribe from items you hardly ever read and promotional materials. Write down the emails you need to reply to or work on. Then spend the rest of your task – free day working on these emails. It’s easier said than done. But discipline is key, as usual. Chat Apps, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter can wait really. Except your job is heavily dependent on social media in which case, you can always adjust your notifications to show you only certain types of events or activity online. Do you really need to check out that story or thread online if it’s still going to be there in another 24 hours? A big part of being able to focus is cutting out distractions in the first place. It takes practice, but if your job or business is as important to you as you say it is, practicing it becomes easier by the day.
As a recap – the key to productivity is being able to prioritize, start working and keeping your focus. When you are able to master these three, it gets easier to get more impactful work done.
If you have read up to this point and you have questions, leave a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to share.