In my last blog post, I talked about what happens when the dreaded Unproductive Day happens. We looked at how to get your day back on track when you’re going down the road of sloth and the final point was to take a moment at the end of your day to plan the next. But that’s only the start. By planning to be productive, you can increase your daily personal efficiency. Here are some tips to help you get there:
- Make the ultimate to-do list. Take some time (usually about two hours is enough) and write down everything you need to do in the next month. Everything from calling suppliers to making a dentist appointment should be on the list. After you’re done, sit back and look at your list. Overwhelming, isn’t it? Not sure when you’re going to accomplish is all, huh? I can see you nodding. So let’s keep going.
- Classify the tasks on your list. Which ones are critical? Which ones are unimportant but would be nice? Which ones can you delegate? Which ones look so big you’re not going to finish them in the near future? I personally colour-code my list. Red items are must-dos, yellow items are nice-to-dos, blue are delegate and so on. Choose a system that works for you. It could be sub-lists, colour coding or some variation. Are things looking a bit more manageable now? Great! We’re moving on.
- Take those too-big tasks and break them down into chunks. “Create a website” is so much bigger on paper than, “write two paragraphs about my business for the website” and “choose three possible images for the home page.” Breaking down the big items makes them far more manageable
- Delegate what you can. Ask your friend if she’s willing to car pool your children to soccer. Sit down and chat with your spouse or partner about sharing cooking duty. Assign a project to a junior at work (bonus points if you assign the whole task start to finish so the person gets a chance to lead a project). Any projects you can move off your plate to someone else’s makes your to-do list more manageable
- Just do those critical items. To borrow from Nike, Just Do It! Schedule the critical or difficult items first. They may not be your most pleasant tasks, or the ones that bring you personal satisfaction, but they need to be done. No, now is not the time to do the 35 unimportant items because they’re easier. Do the critical things and get them out of the way
- Continue the process. Take time at the end of each day to review your list. It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes or so to cross of completed tasks, add new tasks for the next day and to evaluate if anything needs to change
Once you make productivity a habit, you’ll find that good things start happening. Your stress level will dissipate (I’m not promising that you’ll never be stressed again, but the stress will lessen), you’ll have more time to focus on the projects that you do enjoy, you’ll create more time to think and perform tasks with more care and, best of all, your system will allow you to be more flexible when you do need to make room for last-minute demands on your time.