You know that feeling of having so much to do but accomplishing very little or nothing? Or when you have so much to do, your thought is just to immediately tackle the items on your task list so you can get the ball rolling and start a good workflow.
You’re hopeful that you’ll tick all the boxes by the end of the day.
The problem is you end up neglecting some important tasks, causing inconvenience or unnecessary stress later on down the road. You find that your busyness isn’t reflecting in your productivity. How do you prevent this from happening? You wonder how high performers do it.
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Productivity Starts With You
First things first, take some time to think about your personality, the kind of person you are, the times of the day you’re most productive and the times you’re more active than passive.
This will help you create a feasible list when the time comes so you can schedule your daily tasks at optimal times of the day. For example, schedule intensive tasks when your energy is the highest and you’re the most attentive.
A great way to figure this out is to note the tasks and activities you engage in regularly and how you feel while doing them. Write down the time of the day or moments when you consciously or otherwise give in to multitasking or other unproductive habits.
Are you most productive in the early hours of the day or are you a night owl? Do you feel the need to multitask in a bid to accomplish more in less time? Are you always carrying over tasks to the next day, week, month and year?
Write your answers down. You’ll need it when creating a smart to-do list.
Your to-do list is sure to come from various sources. You receive a multitude of emails from team members or clients. You have action items from meeting minutes. Your team members send you a request via instant message.
In order to efficiently prioritize your day, you need a master list that contains all of those tasks. Choose a single location to organize your master list. It could be a notepad, a notebook, sticky notes, an app or email inbox.
The most important thing is that your master list contains all of your tasks so you can determine how to prioritize them.
Analyze your task list
We’re all familiar with this phrase but the execution in practice is another issue. How often do you take a break from your busy schedule to intentionally think through the tasks you have to accomplish? Or the implications on the goal you’re working towards?
Once you have your master list, you can review each task to assign priority levels. Here, you can use the 4-D rule to fit each task into one of the four categories:
- Do: Complete the task now
- Defer: Complete the task later
- Delegate: Assign the task to someone else
- Delete: Remove the task from your list
The next step is to quickly finish important tasks that can be completed within five minutes. Afterward, you can delegate certain tasks to others and take them off your list. This includes tasks for which you’re waiting on others.
You can set a reminder to add it to a shared project file or on your calendar so you can follow up on it later. You will be free from the burden of seeing it on your list all day.
Then, remove tasks you don’t really have to do or tasks that have been on your list forever. These might items that have little or no value compared to the effort required.
This leaves you with the tasks you deferred. These are tasks that would be nice to complete, but if you didn’t, then the day could still be a success.
If a new task comes up, the proper thing to do is create a place for it on your list and follow that order.
As you tick each task, you will feel more effective and in control of your time. That’s a step closer to becoming a high performer.
When to create your task list
If you choose to create your task list the night before, set it aside after you finish, away from your bed and out of your mind. Realize that you’ll take care of everything the next day.
Don’t worry about it as you try to fall asleep so you can receive an adequate amount of rest. That way you’ll have the energy to accomplish those tasks.
Or you can create your task list first thing in the morning before you start anything so that you know exactly what needs to be done during the day. This will save you from wasting any time.
Schedule Your Priorities
Once you know who you are and the best times of the day to get certain tasks, it’s important to organize and schedule your tasks according to their priority levels.
Are there tasks that prevent other things from further progressing? For example, do you need to research a topic or analyze data before you can send material for another team member to put together a deliverable?
Scheduling your priorities will help you step out of the shadow of being busy so that you can actually deliver value for the resources you put into a task and become a high performer.
Know When to Move On
You may not always tick every box but over time you will be able to create a productivity system that works. One that allows you to work on the most important things every day.
If you make mistakes at any point or something doesn’t go as planned, don’t use it as an excuse to give up. Let it end with the day. Don’t carry over the mistakes or failures of the previous day into a new day.
Make a conscious effort to learn from your experiences and then move on productively. What you need to do is follow the plan for the new day. If something important did not work yesterday, find a way to make it work today.
Apply this to your short-term and long-term goals. Live out your goals by taking baby steps in the right direction daily.
Be flexible and remember, when you start feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to deliver, pause and breathe. Look at your master task list where everything is laid out and prioritized for you. Follow that list as your plan of attack.
Eventually, you’ll realize that your time will shift from mere busyness to productivity. You won’t be consumed with the burden of everything on your plate on a given day, but you’ll possess the focus to tick the boxes that matter.
In the midst of all of this, be sure to stay true to your values and goals, and don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it.
Create an Action Plan for Your Goals
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