“Productivity is never an accident. It’s always a result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer
I was visiting with a friend recently about how I manage my email, and I was reminded of how much I can geek out about productivity and processes to help me work more effectively. I thought I’d share some things that work for me, and I hope can be helpful for you as well.
- Know Yourself: I have finally come to accept y fact that I’m basically worthless after 8pm. I am definitely a morning person and do my best work between 6am and noon. Once I finally embraced that fact I found that I was using those hours so much better. I started doing the most important and hardest things in the morning when I had the most brain power.
- Know Your Environment: Clutter drives me crazy, and I’m most inspired when I have aesthetically pleasing things around me – things that actually make me enjoy my work space. What can you change about your work environment to help you do your best work?
- Tackle the Scary: I’ve heard this advice several times, do the hardest, most stressful thing on your to-do list first thing in the morning. I just recently started practicing it, and I have to say that it really makes a different. Something about tackling something big motivates you to get the other things done. It helps my day be less stressful as well.
- Control Your Email, Don’t Let it Control You: Here’s the deal…we’re all way too controlled by our emails. Really, our phones in general, but especially email as it relates to work. So here’s what I’ve started doing…
I only check my email 3 times during the work day – First thing in the morning, around lunch time, and late afternoon. For the rest of the day I work with my email “offline” so that I can refer to saved emails if necessary. If I need to send an email, I just write it and let it sit in my outbox until I go back “online”.
- Touch it Once: Okay, seriously. This tip will help so much with the email overwhelm. Only touch an email once. When you open and read it, just answer it then. If it truly does require set aside time, file it away in a special follow-up folder – that will keep your inbox clean. What really makes this possible is sticking to tip number 4. Trust me, this saves so much time in the long run.
- Control Your Calendar, Don’t Let it Control You: This tip is particularly for people who share your calendar with others, especially your co-workers. When you have a big project, or just need time at your desk, actually block that time off on your calendar. It will keep others from scheduling meetings during that time, and it will also help you stay accountable to actually using that time to work on a specific project.
- Close It Out: You know all of those tabs you have open in your browser right now? Just close them out. I know you think you’re going to go back and actually read that article, or maybe you just want Twitter available at any moment, but in reality it’s just distracting you. It’s cluttering up your digital workspace, and it’s reminding you of many possible distractions from the task at hand.
- Turn Them Off: Y’all…I did something radical recently. I turned of ALL notifications on my phone. Everything, even text messages! I found that I was so frustrated and easily distracted by my phone, and I had to find a different way to manage it. Now I can focus on the most important thing in that moment and choose when I let my phone distract me.
- Log Out: I’m assuming you’re like me and various social media accounts are always calling your name. I’ve found that I’m less likely to give into the temptation to check Instagram when I actually have to go through the process of logging in. If you’re feeling extra crazy you can even delete the app when you’re really needing to have concentrated work time.
- Put It Away: Just put the phone away. Somewhere out of reach where it takes actual effort to get to it.
- Know Tomorrow: Take time at the end of each day to plan for tomorrow. This allows you to get right to work in the morning with a clear picture of what’s ahead. This also helps you tackle the hardest thing first.
Trust me, I’m nowhere near perfect at sticking to these things all of the time, but I think so much clearer and do better work when I follow these things. I hope they’re helpful for you too.
Do you have any tips for staying productive? I’d love to hear them.