Productivity is all about focus. Starting and staying on task is the only way your to-do list is going to get done. Some days, easier to said than done. I get it. I can procrastinate with the best of them. Not the best place to be for an organization and productivity specialist. I found some fixes that work for me and thought I’d let you in on my essential requirements to getting things done.
I make my money when I am working with a client. I can get ‘in the zone’, ‘my zone’ pretty fast and when it clicks with the client it’s magical. The work flows, time flies, things get done! It’s great. But then I move to my office where the admin happens and it seems like the clock stops. Have you ever felt like that?
The 5 Things That Keep Me Productive
1. Finding a quiet place to work. In our portable technology world, you can work anywhere, anytime. But is that always the best way to be productive? Not for me. One thing I know about myself is that I need to tuck myself away from any other activity in order to focus on work. I am lucky to have designated office space in my home. Everyone who works from home should be so lucky. It allows me to block out distractions like family members, laundry, TV, the frig or a sunny day. It’s as simple as closing the door to my office. In my mind, the closed-door means business. Don’t bother me unless you are on fire!
Some people work best in a busy, noisy environment or with lots of people around. Whatever helps you focus. If you are not sure what works for you, do a little experiment. Move to different locations inside and outside your house. Work on something challenging. Where are you most successful? Tweak your work environment until you get the results you want.
2. Finding the best time of day. When are you most productive? I am a morning person through and through. As a kid, I used to wake up hours before the rest of my family. So much so that my mom would set out dry cereal at night, so I could have something to eat while waiting for everyone else to rise. So why not take advantage of that? I still rise early. Do a little lingering at the TV and coffee pot, but then I go into action mode. I can get more done at my desk in three AM hours then I do the rest of the day. I focus on the hard stuff first. You know the ‘Eat That Frog’ idea. Get what I am most dreading done and then the rest of the day is cake! I saved the afternoon for reading, education, email and chores, when my mind is not as sharp.
What’s your best time of day? Maybe you are a night person. More power to you. It doesn’t matter what time you do your book-keeping, pay your bills, or write your paper. Why not do it at your most productive time of day? Figure out your sweet spot on the clock and then focus your efforts on the important tasks of the day then, can raise your productivity with not much effort.
3. Finding the deadline. Some tasks have deadlines and some don’t. One thing that has helped me be my most-productive-self is to set deadlines for everything. I set deadlines for writing blogs posts (like this one) or they’d never get done. I’d push them to the bottom of that to-do list of mine every day. The thing I find the hardest to complete is future development of my company. What’s the next step? Where will I step outside my box next? I use the support of colleague’s to focus my thoughts in this realm. We ‘meet’ over the internet once a month. We call ourselves ‘Rock Stars’. We discuss our new ideas and challenges and encourage each other to move forward. But what makes it work for me is that we give ourselves challenges with the deadline of reporting back at the next meeting. We keep each other accountable. It’s fantastic!
Look at all your regular tasks and set dates and times that you will do them. Make an appointment with yourself. Put it on your calendar. There is something about writing (or typing) it on a calendar that cements it for me. Try it. It may work for you too. You could even try micro-managing your calendar for a bit. Write down what time of day you will check email, make phone calls. Time blocking like this really works. It’s deadline personified!
4. Finding prep time. I love to schedule and plan and I think that is one key to my ability to focus on the tasks of the day. Prepping for the next day is essential (to me) for a good night sleep. I use a modified Tickler File for my business planning. It’s visual. It’s easy. It’s fast. I have a file system on the wall, next to my desk that I use religiously. I mean it, all day, every day. My routine every morning includes pulling out what’s in that day’s file and shuffling the folders/papers into order of importance. Bam! My day is laid out in front of me, right there. See it. Do it. Done.
More prepping is done at the end of my day. I am a member of the clean desk club, (to me) that means that I clean my desk off at the end of each work day. File things back into my wall filing systems anything that did not get finished. The thought “I’ll do it tomorrow” is enough for me to put it out of my mind until the next day.
Do you incorporate prep time for the next day into the end of your day? I know about those days you’d rather run from your desk when the day is done, but wouldn’t you feel more prepared to tackle what’s coming tomorrow if you downloaded/decided all the issues of the day before walking away?
5. Finding a reward. It sounds kind of funny and simple, but I find a to-do list helps me focus. It’s the challenge of seeing what needs to be done and concurring it that helps me move forward. When I feel overwhelmed with how much I have to do, I sit down and make a list. I am very visual, so seeing it on paper helps me focus. I love checking things for my list. Just that little reward of the check mark does it for me. There is nothing like seeing everything checked off at the end of the day and tossing the paper. You see the reward doesn’t have to be big. It just has to work. Feeling accomplished is reward enough for me.
What type of reward do you need? Could it be recognition from colleagues or that glass of wine at the end of a successful day? Figure out how often you need to feel that sense of accomplishment and make sure that your rewards are attainable in that time frame.
So I have given you 5 tips of how I stay on the productivity train. Any sound good to you? Will you be buying a ticket? Personalizing any of these essentials to your situation can help you be more efficient and effective. For more reading on this subject, check out How Do I Management My Time. There are so many ways and companies like Kabbage, who provides small business loans, that help people and businesses increase their productivity. Check them out.