You can make your day more productive using simple techniques.
They relate to effective prioritization, self-motivation and the ability to focus.
These are transferable skills that are simple to learn but difficult to master. In a workplace filled with distractions, they’ve never been more important. In this post, I’ll provide you with the daily “drills” you need to master them. If applied, you’ll get an almost immediate boost in productivity. The good news is the following techniques will help sustain it too.
1. Follow the 80/20 rule
The 80/20 rule means that most of your results will come from a relatively small part of your efforts. This rule is wide reaching and applicable in many situations. For example, most of a company’s profits often come from a few of its biggest deals.
How is this principle applicable in your life? Reflect on your accomplishments and notice the key drivers behind them. Then double down on these drivers. The best part? You can now use the 80/20 rule again and further drill down to find the best ways to spend your time.
2. Capture notes
Richard Branson carries a notebook everywhere he goes. Why? So he can write down ideas and insights when and where they come. The human brain is great at making complex connections but terrible at remembering. It’s easy to miss a great opportunity when you rely on memory alone. This is why the habit of capturing notes is so important.
Nowadays smartphones can do everything a notebook can (and then some) so it’s easy to take notes on the go with tools like Sendtask. The key is actually coming back to your notes and planning your next steps accordingly. This way you never have to regret forgetting an important idea or task you needed to complete.
3. Start the night before for a productive day
The most productive people start their day the night before. In a few minutes, you can write down a simple to-do list or lay out the next day in a calendar. This has two main benefits:
1) You know what to do immediately after you wake up. This means you don’t have to waste time or mental energy in the morning.
2) It reduces stress and helps you fall asleep. Export random things that need to get done out of your mind so you can relax in the evening and have a good rest.
4. Manage your energy right
High achievement requires a strong base – your mix of exercise, nutrition, and rest. Productive people understand that good food is the best fuel you can get. They exercise to feel good and perform on a higher mental and physical level. They take effective breaks to recharge and achieve even more.
5. Establish a morning routine
A morning routine can make or break your day. For example, many of the world’s top performers meditate first thing after they wake up. Other good ways to spend your morning include reading, writing and exercising.
Of course, your routine may include a strong cup of coffee or a conversation with a close friend. You can experiment with different ways to begin your day and find the ones that energize you the most. The important thing is to get a series of early wins that give you the momentum to make your day a success.
6. Deal with things only once
Have you ever read an email and decided to deal with it later, even though it’s something you can solve in 2 minutes? Little things we avoid over and over again can become huge productivity killers. They stay on the back of our minds and create stress which affects all areas of our lives.
Taking care of little things immediately after they come up is easy to do with David Allen’s 2-minute rule. It states that if something takes less than 2 minutes to complete, you should do it there and then. The little wins add up and push you to achieve more in bigger areas as well. Try using the rule for a day and see how it makes you feel.
7. Focus on one thing
Multitasking doesn’t exist. You actually move your attention from one thing to another in a short timeframe. This has a negative impact on your capacity to stay focused and prevents you from doing great work.
On the other hand, focusing on one thing at a time for a longer period leads to more speed. In turn, speed leads to more done in less time. This applies to both daily tasks and long-term commitments like starting a business.
But how do you get more focused? The easiest way is by removing distractions. This could mean turning off your phone or even moving to another city when you look at the bigger picture. While this may seem like it’s too much, the price you pay when you don’t focus could be to never realize your dreams.
8. Use the Pomodoro technique
If you struggle with getting focused, you can try the Pomodoro Technique. Developed in the 80s, it’s one of the most effective and popular productivity methods. Its name comes from the original tomato-shaped timer used by creator Francesco Cirillo.
The Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to break down your work into intervals or “pomodoros”. Separated by short 3-5 minute breaks, the intervals are usually 25 minutes long but this can vary. If you prefer working for 40 minutes at a time, that’s fine too. Every time you complete four “pomodoros”, you should take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. It’s a simple technique that can make a big impact on your work.
9. Use “email blocks”
Checking email lots of times a day is something many people can relate to. There will often be a new task lying in your inbox which harms your capacity to do deep, meaningful work. Also, it’s not uncommon to use these little tasks as a way to procrastinate on what really needs to get done.
One solution is to deal with email in specific blocks. This way, it won’t impact the rest of your work. It’s good to have at least 2-3 hours of time between blocks but you can adjust this based on your work situation. To help implement this solution, you may consider using email automation software so you can afford more time away from your inbox. This is especially helpful if you work in a field where email is heavily used, such as marketing or sales.
The techniques above don’t need a big time commitment and you can put them in place today. See what works for you and what doesn’t. If focusing is your problem, try methods like the Pomodoro technique. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself, manage your energy better. And if you don’t have enough hours in a day, narrow down and work on the right things.