Productivity Tips: The Most Important is Strategy
Parts one and two of this series highlight the most important tip: clarify your personal and professional mission in order to clarify your priorities. But I can’t write a series on productivity without including some general productivity tips for managing your time. This post includes those productivity tips I encountered time and time again while researching this topic.
Productivity Tips: 10 Tips You Can Practice Right Now
- Focus : Although you may feel like you get a lot done when you multitask, a Stanford University Study has shown that this feeling is an illusion. Instead, focus on one thing, and group like tasks together. For instance, you will be more productive if you do all your editing in one go, group meetings together, and do your reading in one session. Perhaps the most valuable of all productivity tips: check your information inputs only at certain times. Checking email, Facebook, Twitter, and other informational inputs isn’t a time filler or diversion. Checking your inputs is a purposeful activity that must be limited or it can take over your day. Interruptions derail your focus. having an “open door policy” is only a good thing if it’s figurative. Sometimes we need to be alone to get something done. Unplug, retreat, close the door, go off the grid if you have to.
- Get ready for tomorrow the night before: What can you do today to make tomorrow really productive? Do that. Create a system for preparing for your day. Make your to do list the night before. Know what you will have for breakfast and lunch. Plan your outfit the night before. Think about what you need to have with you and pack your bag. Plan what you will do during your commute time. Have podcasts ready to listen to or reading material ready. Know which short tasks you can complete during down time. Look at your calendar and be prepared for what you will do. In addition to organizing your thoughts this has the effect of helping you to visualize success, much as a pro athlete mentally goes over his or her game before it starts.
- Partner with productive people: Bad habits can be very tempting. Surround yourself with people who use their time well. If you have a big deadline or are working on improving your productivity, an accountability partner can help you to stay on task. Don’t forget delegation. Partnering with productive people means knowing whom you can trust and trusting them! And think about delegation broadly. Outsourcing non-work tasks is also a type of delegation.
- Advocate productive meetings: When you run a meeting, have an agenda. Stick to the time allotted and the objects you set. If you find yourself frequently called in to inefficient meetings, do something about it! Here is a 7 minute Ted Talk from David Grady about taking back your time, one of the most entertaining and contagious productivity tips there is!
- Say no: Keep your mission in mind and work on those tasks that are aligned with it. Lots of us are uncomfortable saying no. How about, “I can’t give this the attention it deserves right now, ” or “This is a worthy idea but doesn’t really fit in with my strategic priorities right now.” If those sentences also give you discomfort, at least say, “Let me think about it,” to buy you some time to evaluate if the proposal fits with your strategic priorities.
- Stand while you work: Spending part of your day at a standing workstation makes you less tempted to be distracted from your tasks. You don’t need anything fancy. Lots of people prop a box on their desk. I sometimes use my laptop on my kitchen counter. Ikea makes some nice wall mounted tables, that if installed at the correct height would be great standing workstations.
- Know when not to be productive: Probably the most important of all the productivity tips is to know when you have done enough. Know when you just aren’t going to get it done today. Take breaks to feed your soul and prevent burnout. As Stephen Covey says, sharpen the saw.
- Put technology to work: Filters, apps, the right smart-phone, the right software and the right tools can all help you to be more productive.
- Consider alternative approaches: Lots of people report that their productivity is enhanced by vision boarding and the law of attraction. Meditating makes some people (like me) feel like there is more time in the day. The currently popular Marie Kondo tidying plan seems to help some people focus. Think about productivity tips broadly to include some unconventional approaches.
- Consider your productivity style: Carson Tate has an interesting concept, that our productivity is influenced by our cognitive style. You can take an online assessment to determine your style and your profile will include suggested tools and approaches to help you achieve maximum productivity.
Which of these tools have you tried? Which are your favorites? I'd love to hear about it!
This is the third and final part in a three part series on productivity. It is based on material I presented at Spark 2015 on June 16, 2015, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The conference was targeted at women entrepreneurs but the material is really universal.