6 Tips for a Highly Productive Day
There is little to no question, the most successful among us make the most of their time.
This is still the case today, as it has been throughout history. And we highly doubt this will ever change.
After all, time is your single most precious commodity so, how you use it, or lose it, will almost certainly determine what it turns into in the future.
Common sense, at least to us, seems to dictate, what you do today will have a very direct impact on what you do, and can do, tomorrow…and every day thereafter.
But guess what, you don’t have to take our word for it. Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and one of the most appreciated writers in recent times says, “The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
And studies continue to show that Mr. Covey is spot on. It appears as though 40% or more of time “at work” is spent unproductively.
But truth be told, we also recognize that is an issue somewhat created by the typical work environment, not just the employees themselves.
We are quite sure, if paid by the job/responsibility/task, instead of by the hour, individuals would be far more productive…and much happier too.
However, while we likely can’t fix this employee/employer issue in this article, we are hopeful to at the very least, give you some good ideas to make the absolutely most of your day, with or without changes in your work environment.
The sooner you figure out how to put these six tips to use and get the most out of your day, the better off your future will look. We promise. Now enjoy!
Be prepared before you begin
Knowing, before your day begins, exactly what is on your agenda and needs to be done, could very well be the most important of these tips for better productivity.
It goes without saying, without knowing exactly where you are going, there is little chance you will actually end up where you want to be.
Preparation, and routines, matter. A lot!
The simple act of planning the day ahead, the night before, has a drastic impact on not only what you will get done, but maybe as importantly, on how you will feel about the day ahead as well.
Starting the day off with no plan creates a reactive approach and thus, sets the tone for what the rest of the day will look like. Not good.
The most successful individuals do all they can, as you will see in the following tips, to minimize reactivity and be as proactive as possible. You can, and should, as well.
So, start tonight. No matter what day tomorrow is when you read this. No matter how busy you intend to be. No matter what it is you want to get done.
Simply take a few minutes this evening (literally no more than five needed), and review tomorrow’s calls, events, meetings, tasks, etc.
When you do this, make note of the most important 2-3 things to be done! This is key to your preparation for the day ahead.
Covey says, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”
We don’t want to be most people, so we must know, in advance, what is important in the morning when we wake.
Focus on what is most important
Let’s be honest, it is common to get caught spending time on the easiest things, leaving little time for the most important things.
Unfortunately, this almost always means we have done the exact opposite of what we needed, or wanted to do, in order to be productive.
For example, email is easy. No matter how many there are sitting in your inbox when you start the day, the act of processing email is easy. It is also very rarely in the top three most important things you can do.
Scouring social media is easy. It is very rarely in the top three most important things you can do.
The point here is simple. While we recognize the number of possible differences in responsibilities and work environments among us, we are confident that every single one of us is capable of determining the most important 2-3 things to be accomplished on any given day.
Of course, we also realize that “stuff happens” and there will be days the best laid plans will get thrown out due to “emergencies” and unforeseen interruptions.
This will happen to the best of us. It cannot however be allowed to become the rule as opposed to the exception.
Our suggestion, keep your 2-3 most important “things” for the day, front and center.
No matter how you choose to do so, a sticky on your computer, in your car, on your mirror, an app on your phone, a written note in your journal or planner, etc, the simple act of keeping them in front of you increases your chances of getting them done.
You know your environment better than anyone else. Figure out where this list needs to be so it remains in sight, then get to work.
If the unexpected occurs at least the list will be in view after you’ve dealt with whatever interrupted you.
First things first, please
In The 4-Hour Workweek, author Tim Ferriss wrote, “Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.”
Boy is this true. It seems like most of us will do whatever we can to avoid doing those things we dread doing.
And context doesn’t really matter here. It could be tasks at work, things to be done at home, conversations you don’t want to have, etc.
But, if you want to see increased productivity, better days, and greater success, this has to change.
And the quickest way to make this change stick? Start doing the very thing you want to do least…first!
You most likely don’t like the sound of this and you could almost certainly attempt to make the argument that checking off those other things first will give you momentum, but nope. That’s hogwash, an excuse. Nothing less, nothing more.
You see, when you get in the habit of doing the dreaded deed first, everything else not only becomes easier, but your mental approach changes almost immediately too.
You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel without the “dreaded” hanging over your head, in the back of your mind, as something you know still needs to be done.
Momentum goes through the roof when your mind is clear of that concern.
Try it, just once. Watch what happens.
Schedule everything accordingly
What gets scheduled, gets done. Plain and simple.
If you prepared properly the night before, you will not only know when your calls, events, meetings, doctor’s appointments, gym time, kids soccer, etc is scheduled, but you will also know when you intend to focus, or work, on those 2-3 most important tasks you intend to knock out will be.
If you’re jumping from task to task, it can feel like you’re busy, but the truth is you aren’t getting much done. The way to be the most productive is to take one of your big tasks and schedule out a chunk of your day to focus on it.
If you need to prepare a report, look at your calendar, find the block of time you need to get it done, and schedule that time to work on that one thing.
Do this with each of those 2-3 most important tasks and do your very best to not allow for any interruptions in your plan.
Don’t take phone calls, answer emails, chat with co-workers, allow walk-ins, etc.
Learn to say no! Politely, but learn to say no, or not right now.
When Jack stops by your door or calls, you can simply say, or text, “trying to finish something up, I’ll come see you (or call) as soon as I’m done.”
Remember, you deserve what you tolerate so your failure to set and maintain boundaries leads to your loss in productivity and minimized success.
Use the art of batching
Multitasking is a fallacy! Don’t believe your own lies. You are not capable of it, nor is anyone else.
Attempting to do more than one thing at a time only ensures that neither will be done as quickly, efficiently or as well as they could have been done.
In fact, research at the University of Michigan found that productivity decreased by 40% when people tried to do two or more things at once.
The simple act of switching, mentally from email, to the phone, to reading, to writing, etc equates to hours and hours of lost time.
As great as our brains are, there is definitely an unwanted, unnecessary cost to switching between tasks.
This is where “batching” comes in!
Batching your tasks, scheduling like things together, will make a world of difference in how your day goes.
If you need to process, send, deal with emails, do it all at once. Set aside time to handle “emails”, but take no phone calls, stay off the web, etc during this time.
If you have multiple phones calls to be made today, set aside the 15, 30, 60 minutes you think you will need to make them all, and do so, back to back, without moving on to anything else until the calls are all done.
When you learn to, and begin to group similar tasks together, in scheduled chunks to time, efficiency increases exponentially.
This is such an easy, yet highly beneficial tip for almost anyone. We know you will love it!
Use breaks wisely
No one can go full speed, all the time! No one can be productive 24/7, seven days a week.
We are, after all, human. So, scheduling, and using, breaks is just as important as planning and executing.
While it is common practice for people to have days “off” from their jobs once or twice per week, those are not the “breaks” we are talking about here.
As important as those weekly breaks are, it might very well be the breaks within the day that prove more beneficial towards our overall productivity.
As Ferris wrote in The 4-Hour Workweek, “Alternating periods of activity and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive. Capacity, interest and mental endurance all wax and wane. Plan accordingly.”
Our suggestion here is really simple. Make time, throughout the day, to step away from the tasks at hand, to relax and unwind.
For some, this may look like taking 5-10 minutes every hour. For others, it might be setting aside a half hour every two hours, etc.
There really isn’t any known best practice here, but there is no question the act of breaks within the day will enhance your ability to focus and get more done.
A “bonus tip” on the idea of breaks…use a timer or clock! If you are diving into a scheduled hour of work, set a timer for 50-55 minutes and stop when it goes off. Force yourself then to step away from the work at that moment for the allotted 5-10 minute break.
Use the bathroom, walk, do jumping jacks, drink water, have a snack. We don’t care how you use the time, so long as it is not on the task, or work you were doing.
Let the break, be a break!
Our final thoughts
If you know our motto, Decisions Determine Destinations, you likely understand our belief that everything we do, we become, is predicated on the decisions we make.
Additionally, you know we believe that a “lack of decision” is also, in and of itself, a decision.
Therefore, we hope you take the time, and make the decision, to implement some, if not all, of the above suggestions.
We know, with absolute certainty, they will increase your overall productivity while minimizing your stress levels.
Let us know what you choose to do, which tips you implement and which you find are the most beneficial. We would truly love the feedback and input.
…we would love to hear your thoughts on this, or any other article we write, so please, drop us your comments, ideas, input, and suggestions in the comments below.
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Now, onward! You only have one life to live, one body to live it in...so take care of it. Progress, not perfection. Good, better, best with your food intake and some form of "movement" daily. Get your nutritional foundation from food, supplement where necessary, and drink plenty of water.
And, don’t forget, always consult your physician before making any changes to your diet or exercise regiment.
Live a 3D Life...Decisions Determine Destinations!