With summer officially ready to start next week, have you finished your spring cleaning? Spring cleaning is not only about pulling out the cleaning products and getting rid of clutter. These practices are great and can clear your workspace and make you more productive. However, productivity also comes from a clear head which allows you to be focused and efficient.
Top 10 Productivity Tips – Try them and see if you ‘spring’ forward:
1. Make the right decision every moment of every day. This is my definition of good time management. It’s a realization that we make many decisions every day of how to spend our time, whether planned or unplanned. The more we can make those decisions consciously, according to clear goals, the more productive we will be. Most people welcome distractions to some extent – as a relief from something stressful, difficult or unpleasant. Act very purposefully in each moment of the day and pinpoint those times you tend to make decisions to do things not in line with your goals, however small.
2. Revisit your goals. Dust them off. Clean them up – do the reality check and adjust the ones that are unrealistic, get excited again about ones that might be a stretch but that you are passionate about, tweak others given your knowledge of the year so far. And if you never did write them down, do it now.
3. Identify what must be done this month, this week and today/tomorrow to achieve your goals. One of the best ways to be productive and make the best use of your time is to be focused and plan. I’m not talking about the strategic five year plan. I’m talking about knowing the 3-5 non-routine things that you want to accomplish this month to ensure you are further ahead and closer to your goals than when you started the month. Then, decide what 2-3 things you need to do this week to make that happen. Then look at your plan for today or tomorrow and decide what 1-3 things you need to do in those 24 hours to move forward on the week’s goals.
4. Know your Best Time of Day. We all have a time of day where we are most productive. Are you a morning person? A night owl? You only really wake up at noon? Observe your productivity and effectiveness. What time of day are you at your best? When you determine when that is, schedule your most important activities at that time. Avoid doing trivial tasks or putting out fires during that time.
5. Schedule your day, week and month. Very few of us have schedules that never get interrupted or rearranged. But, that is not a reason not to plan at all. Plot out your month, schedule your week and map out your day. Leave some “Wing it” time to fit in the little things that pop up. Schedule a block of time to do the emails, phone calls, etc. that fill your day if you are not careful. When at the end of the day you have not done everything you wanted to because of fires and interruptions, immediately reschedule the activities that you didn’t do for tomorrow or later in the week.
6. Get rid of the Things to Do List. They haunt most of us. Instead of putting something on the list, simply schedule it somewhere in your day or week. If you cannot find anywhere to put it, that means it is really not important enough to you to get done, so don’t torture yourself with leaving it to haunt you on a list. You may want to keep a “To Do Someday” List for those things that are great ideas, but are just not a priority right now. Then, put it away and only look at it periodically.
7. Schedule appointments to talk. If you plan to meet with another person and have a conversation, do it purposefully. If you just ‘stop by’ their office or give them a call without a plan, you may end up wasting both of your time. And they may do the same with you. If you need to talk to them, plan a time and day and have an “agenda”. More thoughts on that next week…
8. Do a time log. After you have planned your month, week and day, and taken all the things to do list items and scheduled them somewhere, for just a few days – record what you actually did. Compare your reality to your plan. Maybe you need to adjust how you do what you do, become more effective, learn to say no, or delegate more. Unless you have a good picture of what you are actually doing, it’s hard to have a basis for productive change. And no, you really don’t know what you spend your time doing until you log it. Try it and you’ll see!
9. Stop Procrastinating. Many managers and leaders are procrastinators. I never believed that about myself until I understood the connection between procrastinating and being a perfectionist. For the perfectionist, it is rarely ever the right time or there is not enough time to do it right so, “Why do it?” Not to say that perfectionists are not productive, just that certain things that are new, different or particularly important get put off for the more immediate, urgent and familiar tasks at which they can more easily succeed.
10. Keep track of information. You may mistake being able to do a lot with being organized. It’s amazing how much time we spend looking for something, finding information twice, having a conversation or part of it a second time, or sorting through the volumes of information we use to run our business. Review your systems for collecting, sorting and using information in your business and to develop your team members. Do they effectively support your mission or do they slow you down?