1. Laser Focus On Time And Priority
This may sound obvious, but it’s so important to understand that time is truly limited. Once the hour has passed, it’s gone. If you didn’t write that report as planned, then when will you have time later? Ask yourself, what other activity will have to shift – or be sacrificed – as a result?
Mindfulness is key to making the most of your limited time resources. Your diary may look or feel half-empty. However, once you start eliminating hours and minutes taken by commuting, mealtimes, meetings and unexpected interruptions, you’re left with far fewer hours than you realise. So, calculate how much time you have available on any given day, as it’ll help put in perspective the number of hours you actually have to work with.
“To really boost your productivity, know your peak energy cycles during the day and match your most mentally taxing tasks to when your energy levels are highest.”
That’s one reason most to-do lists don’t work. People are overly ambitious in what they think they can or should be able to accomplish in a day. Thinking they can do it all, people will start in on the lower-level ‘quick win’ jobs. Before they know it, they’re out of time and mental energy before they ever got to the important meaty stuff. It may sound counterintuitive, but limit your focus to no more than three to six tasks per day, to the exclusion of all else.
- Most to-do lists don’t work. Limit yourself to no more than three to six tasks a day. (Pic: Pexels)
To really boost your productivity, know your peak energy cycles during the day and match your most mentally taxing tasks to when your energy levels are highest. Don’t worry about the tasks that end up on the cutting room floor. The sky won’t fall.
Remember, you’ll be far more productive accomplishing one or two important, high-level tasks each day, than churning out twenty-five low-level quick wins with little impact. More importantly, you’ll feel greater satisfaction in what you do achieve.
2. Outsmart Procrastination
If you’re not as productive as you’d like to be, it’s worth taking a closer look at what’s getting in the way. There are bags of reasons why we procrastinate. The trick is in identifying when it’s happening and taking decisive action to get the ball rolling, in a small way.
If you don’t feel ready to start the work now, you’re unlikely to feel any more excited, ready or prepared later. So the best thing is to acknowledge how you’re feeling about the task… then proceed and get started with it anyway. Start. Start again. Keep starting until you’ve finished the task. Usually once you begin, the feelings of dread or anxiety start to dissipate.
Remember, it’s all about getting momentum. Change your posture, blast your favourite music, stand up to perform the task, or go somewhere else to do it. Arrange some small reward to treat yourself on completion. Do whatever it takes to break through the urge to delay.
3. Create External Accountability
Some tasks or projects come with built-in, ready-made deadlines. But what about those tasks that would have a huge positive impact on your business or personal life, yet you’re not getting around to them? Chances are, there’s no ‘governing body’ to report to, other than yourself. No one’s watching, so no one will know whether or not you called five or twenty-five new prospects or wrote another chapter for your book.
Let’s be honest, it’s easy to put things off when left to our own devices. So you need an accountability partner. It could be a friend, a colleague, or a business associate, but you both need to want to be held to account. Ideally, meet once per week. Weekly meetings allow ample time to complete a reasonable task or two, and are frequent enough to drive the momentum of getting those important things done.
Cory Cook works to improve time management for busy people.