PLAN YOUR PRO­DUC­TIV­ITY Prac­tices that will al­low you to get more done

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Success - By Jeff Haden |

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.

Stream­line goals

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.”

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