Every day you wake up, planning to fix it all, attend that weekly meeting, answer the important mails, finish the project report you have been avoiding for weeks, attend your daughter’s first recital, pay your utility bills and on and on….but at the end of the day, you realize only a few items on your list have been crossed and you have added another three.
Work just never seems to get done. And life keeps throwing you a curve ball every now and then, keeping you up to your neck in endless activity with little desired output.
Here are four productivity tips to help you make a dent in your universe, one little knock at a time.
1. Start the Day with the Most Important things – If you want important stuff done, schedule it. If you want it done most efficiently, schedule it for first thing in the morning. Instead of prioritizing what is on your “to-do” list, prepare a list of your priorities using your goals as a starting point. It’s all too common to use “I don’t have time” as an excuse for avoiding the important things. The first hour of the day sets the tone for the rest of the day. It’s the time when your energy levels are at their highest, so use it to do your highest-priority work. Let the first hour of your day be your hour of power. Get that exhilarating feeling that rewards work well done. You’ll find that the rest of the day will be much more productive and upbeat.
2. Don’t Shuffle Papers; Make Quick Decisions – Some people waste a lot of time deciding what to do with the paper that flows across their desks. When you look at a paper for the first time, make a decision to act on it right away. If you are unsure about something in a communication, remember that the time to decide is now, based on the present time and situation. When you start reading through things, you have the momentum to decide right away what you want to do with it. Be ruthless with clutter, and don’t file away papers that can either be dealt with or thrown away.
3. Avoid Interruptions – Every interruption is a big-time drainer. Some interruptions are valuable. For example, when your child wants to bond with you or your parent needs medical attention. But many interruptions are nothing more than time wasters and can exhaust your energy while achieving nothing. Don’t get ruffled every time you’re interrupted. Just stick to your plan, based on key priorities. Use e-mails to communicate instantly with clients or business connections, but don’t allow your email to become an alternative mailing address. The notion that you must be “connected” at all times is completely invalid.
4. Delegate Effectively – Good leaders delegate effectively. The key to delegation is to communicate clearly to avoid any misunderstanding. Meeting with others to plan your work creates buy-in and a better understanding of the people you are delegating to. Encouraging people to be result-oriented as opposed to problem-oriented improves productivity. If you are delegating to your team and you notice signs of non-commitment, confront the problem immediately. If you want to be effective in delegating, involve people and get their buy-in and commitment first.
At the end of the day, it is not how much you finish; it is what you finish!