“It’s so easy to stay productive. I just consult my to-do list, start my day fresh at 6 a.m., and plow through until everything is crossed off.”
Said no busy manager – ever.
Truth is, no matter how dedicated we claim to be to “getting stuff done,” it’s a job in itself to develop ingrained habits that keep us productive.
Just like that project inbox we let grow taller and taller, deciding to be more productive and doing something about it doesn’t happen overnight.
The first step is admitting it’s time to be more productive. Whether you’ve just hired fresh faces, taken over a monster project or seen a big surge in business, you probably are facing a mountain of work that needs to get done before it all comes barreling toward you like an avalanche.
So you agree it’s time to get going?
Here are a few sneaky (but very effective) ways to establish a productivity habit and improve your time management. And kick your productivity into max drive. Try them out – until they become second-nature to you.
1) To Clear Out Email/Message Noise: Create Your Own ‘Message Traffic Control’
Tell a selected group of co-workers, friends, etc. whose messages aren’t as critical as others that you’re only available via email from, say, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (OK, so it’s a little white lie.)
Make it an auto-response message. Soon enough, most people will adjust their messages accordingly. You’ll get into the habit of being able to tackle the most important missives first.
2) To Really Get Started Working Earlier: Change The Time
Although my friends think I’m nuts, I swear by it – I’m NEVER late for anything. Why? Because I simply “pretend” it’s 20 minutes ahead of the actual time. Everywhere – in my car, on my watch (I still wear one) and even in my kitchen.
This trick can’t overcome every stumbling block. But when you’ve got a lot to do in one day or within a few tight hours, that could make a big difference in how productive you are.
It’s a way to get you moving faster so you’ll be ready to start your next task with as little delay as possible. (One caveat: computers and smartphones insist on the correct time, so working some actual clocks into your daily routine is what makes this effective).
3) To Psyche Yourself Into Doing An Unpleasant Task: Promise To Reward Yourself Afterward
For example, you always dread the monthly meeting, but it’s your responsibility to set it up. Start bribing yourself with something pleasant you can do after the meeting; say, read something for pleasure, take a short walk, or use a 30-minute lunch break to visit a nearby store.
Do this for several months, and the prospect of calling those meetings will seem less painful when you consider the little break you’ll get afterward.
4) To Get Over A ‘Block’: Start A Few Things At Once
We know, the debate over whether single or multi-tasking is the way to be most productive rages on. But this isn’t about trying to get too many varied tasks done at one time. The trick is to start similar things at one time.
Say you’ve got to turn out performance reviews or budgets for a few departments. If the thought of grinding through one of them before you start another is too painful, start a few at the same time. That way, you’ve started!
Once you get into the habit, you’ll naturally finish some up faster.
5) To Meet Concurrent Deadlines: Make It A Trade-Off
Approach deadlines like a quid pro quo: Arrange it so you have to meet someone else’s request at the same time you get your request met.
If you know you’re counting on something that someone else has to provide to you, it’ll be an automatic motivator to finish what you need to finish for them.
6) To Motivate Yourself For A Long Day (Or Week) Ahead: Take Time To Reflect
The point of this exercise is that it enables you to make better decisions about how you’ll spend your day when your mind is clear, before constant temptations (social media, email, etc.) test your resolve.
David Allen, in his bestselling book “Getting Things Done”, says the most powerful habit effective leaders develop to help them stay focused is the weekly review, which he describes as follows:
“A weekly review refers to the practice of setting aside a specific time each week to pause, reflect and plan for the week ahead. The weekly review is a deliberate weekly practice of taking a step back so you can get some perspective on your tasks, projects, goals and vision. Leaders must establish a regular habit of slowing down, to pause and look around, to reflect on their progress and make adjustments where necessary.”
7) To Shake The Dust Off Of Something You’ve Put Off: Just Work On It For 15 Minutes
This is a trick we can steal from people who dedicate themselves to regular physical exercise. They tell themselves they’re only going to walk/run/bike etc. for 15 minutes – but once they get momentum, they naturally keep going.
Freelance writer Thursday Bram uses a timer to kick-start projects that feel like pulling teeth to get started. “A simple egg timer and the philosophy that I can do anything for 15 minutes has saved me more than once,” Bram says. “I’ll set it for 15 minutes and focus on a particular task… By the time that timer goes off, I’m on enough of a roll to keep going.”
Using even just one of these tricks to start a productivity habit can help you turn your work-heavy days and weeks around for the better.
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Do you have a secret trick you use to be more productive? Share it in our comments section below!
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