PLAN YOUR PRODUCTIVITY Practices that will allow you to get more done
eeling as though you’re making real progress toward your goals, that your efforts have value, that you’re growing and learning and improving at a faster rate make you happier and can lead to success.
Becoming more productive means making a few changes, though: Do the same things, you get the same results.
Here are several changes you can make that can have a major impact on your productivity. Some you can adopt in minutes. Others might take a little longer.
Make temptations hard to reach
When something is not within easy reach or becomes difficult to do, you’ll do less of it.
Put the TV remote in a closet. Keep a reusable bottle of water on your desk. Leave your cellphone in a drawer and move to a conference room to work.
Allow yourself less time for key projects
Time is like a new house. We eventually fill a bigger house with furniture, and we eventually fill a block of time with what seems like work. So take the opposite approach. Limit the amount of time you allow yourself to complete an important task.
You’ll be more focused and motivated, your energy level will be higher and you’ll get more done.
Chunk housekeeping tasks
We want to focus solely on our most important tasks, but we all have other, housekeeping-type stuff we need to do.
Instead of sprinkling those activities throughout the day, or, worse, taking care of them when they pop up, take care of them in a planned block.
Say no a lot more often
You’re polite. You’re courteous. You’re helpful. You want to be a team player. You’re overwhelmed. Say no at least as often as you say yes. You can still be polite while protecting your time.
Turn off alerts
Your phone buzzes. Your email dings. Chat windows pop up. Every alert sucks away your attention. So turn them off. Go alert-free, and once every hour or so, take a few minutes to see what you might have missed.
Chances are, you’ll find out you missed nothing, but in the meantime you will have been much more focused.
Stop working when you’re at a great point
Take it from Ernest Hemingway: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day ... you will never be stuck.”
Eliminate one permission
Everything you do trains the people around you how to treat you. Let employees interrupt your meetings or phone calls because of so-called emergencies, and they’ll feel free to interrupt you anytime. Drop what you’re doing every time someone calls and they’ll always expect immediate attention.
In short, your actions give other people permission to keep you from working your best.
Drop one personal commitment
We all do things simply because we feel we should. Maybe you volunteer because a friend asked you to, but you feel no real connection to the cause you support. Maybe you keep trying to learn French because you don’t want to feel like a quitter.
Think about one thing you do out of habit, or because you think you’re supposed to, or simply because you don’t know how to get out of it, and then get out of it. You may feel tremendous guilt, but it will pass.
Set specific meeting lengths
Whoever invented the one-hour default in calendar software has wasted millions of hours. Most subjects can be handled in 30 minutes. Many can be handled in 15 minutes, especially if everyone who attends knows the meeting is only going to last 15 minutes.
Don't be a slave to calendar tool defaults. Only schedule an hour if you absolutely know you’ll need it.
Deciding what to do is important, but often deciding what not to do is even more important.
Every position, every project, every initiative has a primary goal, and 90 percent of the effort of those involved should go to accomplishing that primary goal. Achievement is certainly based on effort, but achievement is also based on focus.
Strip away the ancillary stuff to get on with what is really important.
Set hard limits
Deadlines and time frames establish parameters, but typically not in a good way. We instinctively adjust our effort so our activities take whatever time we let them take. Tasks should take only as long as they need to take, or as long as you decide they should take.
Pick a task, set a time limit, and stick to that time limit. I promise you’ll figure out how to make it work.
Adopt a successful person’s habit
Successful people are often successful because of the habits they create and maintain.
Take a close look at the people who are successful in your field. What do they do on a regular basis? Then adopt one of their habits and make it your own.
Jeff Haden is a speaker and the author of “The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win.”