Whatever your career goals are – whether you are a professional, an entrepreneur, or a rising or seasoned executive – being more productive will help you achieve your goals and be more successful.
Here are six tips to help you master the art of productivity.
- Understand clearly what your goals are
All plans to be more productive are ineffective if you don’t know what it is that you want. If you don’t know where you want to go, there’s no point in planning a trip. So start here. Define what your top life goals are, your top 5-year goals, your top 1-year goals, and your top quarterly and monthly goals.
- Don’t become emotionally attached to your “to-do” list
I use a “to-do” list, which I chunk down and prioritize (more on that to come) and I use a monthly / weekly / daily system. For many people that would be emotionally overwhelming. I am able to use this system because I don’t get emotionally tied to my list. I don’t feel bad about myself if I don’t accomplish my list each day. My emotions are entirely independent from my list. My list is just an “extension of my brain.” It is a place to store ideas – something that I can access later to determine priorities (the things I’ll do today). It is about as emotional to me as a file folder. If you are getting overwhelmed emotionally with your to-do list, stop using one.
- Become a master of “chunking” and engaging “flow”
Chunking is probably the most important productivity tip that I have ever seen. When I understand my goals (point 1) I can determine actions that will move me closer to my most important goals. I give those actions a certain “time allotment” to get them done. I literally schedule the “chunk” in my calendar. Then I block everything else out to get it done. No social media, no phone calls, no email checking- no nothing – until my most important priority chunks are done.
I’m also a real believer in flow psychology. Some people call it “the zone” or “the moment.” Whatever you call it, the experience is the same. It’s when we get so involved in what we are doing that we block everything else out. Time seems to disappear, and we tend to be “super-focused” and “super-productive.” I try to channel this in every assigned chunk that I give myself.
- Understand that a task will always occupy the amount of time allocated to it
Generally speaking, tasks will fill the amount of time allocated to them. I have seen this over and over again. If I give myself a certain amount of time to complete a task, I will get it done in that time. It forces me to focus and work super efficiently. If I give myself all day, I’m not as focused, and I’m not as efficient. So I intentionally try to give myself a set time to accomplish a task and during that assigned “chunk” I really get down to business. In the vast majority of cases I finish what I set out to do in the assigned chunk. If, for some reason, it takes more time, then I adjust (but again no emotions are involved in the process).
- Do not attempt to multi-task (you’ll under perform in everything you do)
Multi-tasking (or attempting to do multiple things at once) is a really bad idea. You aren’t efficient. You don’t concentrate. You don’t channel flow. It takes you longer to do both tasks than if you just focused on one at a time. You make more mistakes and you don’t pay as much attention. If you are a “master of multi-tasking” you should be ashamed of yourself – seriously, stop multi-tasking, it isn’t good for your career or life.
- Get off social media, and turn off your notifications, when you are doing “chunked” work tasks
[tweet bird=yes]Social media can absolutely kill productivity. So chunk time for social media.[/tweet] It is good to have “you time” and if social media is a great relaxation for you that is great. But schedule time for it. DO NOT attempt to accomplish a flow chunk and be on social media at the same time (remember what I said about multi-tasking). Also, and this is very important, turn off your notifications when attempting a flow chunk. Turn off your phone so it doesn’t beep or buzz. Don’t have any notifications anywhere near you. If you do, they will disrupt your flow, and you will have a hard time getting back into your work. Seriously, do we really need to check our email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that much?