I have read a lot of books and articles on how to increase my productivity, which seems to be a very popular subject these days. Here’s what has worked well for me.
First, I found it very helpful to set a list of 3 priorities for the day. Try to do these first thing in the morning when you are fresh. You can cluster less important, less focus-intensive tasks for the afternoon. What do you put on your priority list? Well, what is important in your life? Career, finances, health and fitness, family, relationships? What would you make a priority if you had more time?
Now, think about what actions you can take to improve these areas. If you have specific goals, break them down into small, manageable steps. If you want to grow your business, figure out what you need to do (call 3 clients, e-mail that contact, write that proposal). If you want to write a book, break that down into steps (write an outline, write 500 words a day, research a certain topic). Breaking down bigger projects has made a huge difference in my life. I used to dread large translation jobs because even if I had a month to do them, I would try to finish as quickly as possible in case other things came in. When I realized that all I needed to do was translate so many words per day, it was not as huge a task as I had thought. I could do more if I had time, but as long as I completed a certain number of words each day, I was on track. And it helped me better plan the rest of my time.
Now that you’ve written down the small actions you can take, put three of these on your list of priorities for the day. Things like exercising or keeping in touch with a friend might not seem as important or urgent as your work, but if they improve your life, they are definitely worth the time. The next day, pick up where you left off by adding the next steps.
I’ve found that when I get up earlier and take time to work on my priorities in the morning, before checking my e-mail, I feel great. No matter what craziness the day brings, I know I completed the important things. Remember, once you start checking e-mail, you’re just reacting to other people’s demands. Take time for you, even if it’s just 20 minutes.
Finally, at the end of the week (or even at the end of the day), celebrate what you accomplished. List everything you got done, no matter how small. You’ll be amazed! And best of all, you’ll be well on your way to improving all areas of your life.. Be sure to note any lessons you learned or things you would do differently.