It seems like “productivity hacks” are popping up everywhere. However, when it comes to productivity, real success is found in setting up simple, repeatable systems and processes that work, not finding short term hacks.
Staying productive in today’s world is harder than it used to be. The number of distractions and instant accessibility makes it hard to stay on task and maintain focus. However, with a little discipline and the right systems, you can absolutely skyrocket your productivity.
Here are 4 simple yet effective tips you can implement today:
#1: Create a Weekly Plan, not Daily Plan
If you wait to create a plan for the day until after you arrive at work, you are setting yourself up for “reaction” mode instead of “proactive” mode. When you start your day asking, “What am I doing today?” you will end up responding to what is currently in your line of sight. Think of “the squeaky wheel” syndrome. However, if you start your day knowing what you are working on, you are in a state of proactive behavior, not reactive behavior.
At the end of each week, take 15 – 20 minutes to create a rough plan for the next week. Do this before you leave for the weekend. Review your priorities and any upcoming deadlines. Get a clear view of your Monday meetings. My weekly plan includes all fixed meetings, any items that are due the next week, and a rough plan on when I am working on those tasks. Then, if needed, go ahead and block off the time on your calendar as unavailable to others to ensure that you have the time you need to complete your assigned tasks.
#2: Turn Off Notifications on Devices
This is the easiest and quickest win possible. Right now, as you are reading this, pause. Go to the settings on all of your devices (mobile, tablet, computer, etc.) and turn off all incoming notifications. Yes, even the silent, visual ones. Every time your device makes a noise or flashes on the screen, your focus is broken. My devices never “talk” to me. Then, at set times throughout the day, you can pull up the apps and tools you need to respond to messages. I check email 4 times a day and 4 times only. Between those times, my computer is set so it will not “alert” me when a new email is received. The same goes for texts, phone calls, etc.
#3: Avoid Scheduling Morning Meetings
Teams often like to start their team meetings in the mornings. However, employees are often at their most productive state of mind first thing in the morning. If you shift meetings to start later in the day instead of the first thing, you allow everyone (including yourself) to capitalize on the early part of the workday, when energy and brainpower is high, to stay in task completion mode. Save meetings and less focus intensive work for later in the day.
#4: Prioritize Your Priorities
When you are creating your weekly plan (see #1), take the time to clearly define and understand your priorities for the upcoming week. Write them down. Then, block off and reserve the time on your calendar to complete those tasks first. If you have a report due Wednesday that takes 3 hours to complete, make sure you have the time blocked on Monday or Tuesday to get that done. This tip is one that sounds so obvious, but most people never take the time to ensure they have their priorities blocked off. Then, when the workweek starts, they get pulled into other projects, meetings, distractions, etc., and find themselves working at night to get their priorities completed.