“Either you run the day, or the day runs you” —Jim Rohn
What a perfect quote to summarize the challenges that face a productive day. Sometimes getting off on the wrong foot can lead you down the wrong path and you end up in a losing battle with time. Here are some tips to stay on task and make sure you’re the one running the show and having a happy, productive day.
1. Get organized. Start your day by gathering your thoughts and getting a plan of attack together. Everyone has their own way of doing this—jotting down a list, writing up the day’s story line or journaling out anxious feelings. Here’s a little something many of us at LiquidPlanner use: a daily to-do list, with items listed in checklists. We often just open a To Do or Today task and keep it going.
2. Limit distractions. Don’t attend unnecessary meetings. Close web pages you aren’t using, limit email use—these are all tempting distractions to productivity. The great thing about using a collaborative—and socially interactive—planning tool like LP is we communicate in one place: by dropping comments into tasks. Our homepage conversation threads serve as a bird’s eye view of everything teams are doing, talking about and solving.
3. Take initiative. Don’t sit on tasks that are easy to complete but have stayed open for almost infinity. Get them done and out of the way so you can focus on the bigger fish. A good rule of thumb is this: If a small but seemingly unimportant (and annoying) task gets to where it’s draining your attention and keeping you from attacking the work that really, really matters—it’s now become a roadblock. Make it a priority to get it off your plate ASAP, so you can move forward already!
4. Prioritize your work. Don’t fall for the myth that looking busy and being active equals being productive and getting important work done. Make time to think about what you’re doing. This means: plan, prioritize and then take action on the work that will make the most difference to your team, your customers or clients and your organization. At LP, we’re slaves to our drag-n-drop priority-based scheduling—which lets us quickly rearrange projects, folders and tasks as requirements change. This way we always feel on top of things . This way we always feel on top of things—excellent!
5. Talk face-to-face vs. emailing. Most of the time, just yelling for or walking over to your coworker will answer your questions and solve problems faster than relying on the email black hole. It’s easy to get lost in our multiple electronic communication outlets, but actually talking to someone can not only solve a problem more quickly, it might even shine light on new ideas and create good will. We are social creatures, after all.
6. Take breaks. People get fatigued if they focus for too long or work too hard without a break. One theory says that the brain needs to restore itself after 90 minutes worth of concentrated work (checking Facebook and personal email not included). Give your brain—and your energy level—a breather throughout the day. You might even see a problem in a whole new light, or have a creative breakthrough!
7. Create a daily schedule. Routine, sweet routine. Do things at certain times of the day, every day. For example, catch up on news for an hour, work on a project for the next hour, respond to emails the next, and so on. One theory says to complete the most important work first thing in the day. Some of us need a little warmup first (news, chat, Facebook). According to another study read in a popular book (The Power of Habit maybe?) the more habitual a series of activities becomes, the more effortlessly you can do that work and leave energy for more juicy, challenging problems!
What are your tips for a productive day?