One of my objectives this year is to plan more, work less but be more productive. To compound the difficulty, I am not the most naturally organized person in the world 😀 In a recent personal assessment I did lately, out of a score of 10, I scored a 2 for being naturally organized. At the same time, in my role as a leader, getting things done is a critical part of my success. In my natural state, I tend to be distracted by the various “problems” that happen to cross my brain and have the need to want to address them. In order for me to overcome this, I rely on a number of tools and techniques. When I do, I find that I’m significantly more productive.
A good day starts when I spend the time planning for the day. I book off the first hour of every day to do just that. This ensures that I don’t go down a rabbit hole the first thing in the day and destroys any hope for me to having a productive day. In that hour, I go through my emails and do the following:
- Delete them – usually anything that doesn’t require me to respond any further
- Quickly respond to them (under 3 minutes) – quick information that I know at my finger tips
- Move them to a spot on my calendar – for items that I know what I need to do and have a rough idea as to how long it’s going to take
- Move them to a task list – for more open ended tasks that usually end up being a series of tasks and calendar appointments
The problem with emails is that I find that it clutters my mind. Without it being addressed, it feels like something is hanging over me and is a bit of a distraction. Once the emails were taken care of, I also go through my tasks that are overdue and update the due dates and re-prioritize them accordingly. The act of planning gives me mental comfort that I know that I have a place and time to address them.
Splitting up personal from work space
A key thing I’ve learned over time is to reduce as much of my mental clutter as possible. In the past, I used to have a single calendar for work and personal appointments and I had the same structure for my to-do list as well. The structure did not work well for me as I found that I was getting overwhelmed by the number of tasks that I needed to get done. Moreover, seeing all the tasks also became a bit of a distraction at times as I found myself acting on things that didn’t forward my goal for the day. Today I have a personal and work calendar as well as a personal and work to-do list. I use Google calendar on two separate accounts. I use Wunderlist for my work to-do list and Todoist for my personal to-do list.
Setting up time to work and play
I found myself continually working but never finding myself accomplishing the things I set out to do last year. The end result was that I found myself frustrated and discouraged over time. I found that it was pretty critical to have time to execute my plans. While I used to write down my tasks, there was never any time during the day to execute them so I found myself working on things way into the night. Today, I tend to schedule time to do things I need to do such as work on tasks, jump onto social media and to read. All 3 are needed for me to keep on top of my job and stopped me from going insane.
One of the most aggravating things in life is that life happens Along the day, something is bound to interrupt me and tries to throw my day off kilter. The thing that I found most useful is to continually adjust my calendar during the day. The one thing I’ve learned in my years of delivering IT solutions is that the plan itself is not as important as just having one. If something has taken up more time than usual, then I adjust my calendar appropriately so that I can account for the things that need to get done. The reality is that I’ll never get to everything I want to when I want to but the focus is to get the important things done first.
I found myself being much more productive the past couple of weeks once I moved back to doing these things. Another pleasant side-effect is that I find myself less stressed and more focused. Like any change, the thing for me would be to be vigilant and consistent.