Once a day:
3 things to do today – and every day – for a more productive work life.
First thing: Research suggests that avoiding distractions and focusing solely on one task can improve intelligence, mental sharpness and productivity, and reduce stress.
So – proactively plan to avoid distractions.
First thing in the morning decide what your one or two most important tasks are for the day or week. Such tasks could be anything from doing your tax return to dreaming up the next big idea.
Then organise your days to make sure you find time to focus on these tasks. Everyone has their own approaches to organising time, so think about when’s best to schedule tasks; straight away, or perhaps late afternoon when you’ve cleared up other matters?
Block out one or two ‘sacred’ time segments – times when you silence your email or escape to a quieter place to work, and simply focus on one thing.
Even 1 or 2 hours spent focusing solely on key tasks could help you feel – and be – more productive.
Midday: Allocating a set time to clear up the clutter could help to rejuvenate your mind and focus on more important matters for the rest of the day.
For instance, take some time each day to tame your email. In our article, Avoid email overload, we explore tips for doing so, such as devising a system for quickly processing incoming emails. Devoting a single period of time to do this – rather than continually reacting to emails throughout the day – could help to avoid distractions so that you can focus better on more important tasks.
Of course, it’s not just about email: you could sort through your in-tray, do your expenses, prepare paperwork for posting, or organise some errands to do while you are out at lunch.
Last thing: Harvard Business Review’s Peter Bregman observes that “we rarely take the time to pause, breathe, and think about what’s working and what’s not. There’s just too much to do and no time to reflect.”
He proposes at the end of every day we “save a few minutes to think about what just happened”, comparing what we wanted to happen with what actually happened; “the meetings you attended, the work you got done, the conversations you had, the people with whom you interacted”.
Ask: “How did the day go? What success did I experience? What challenges did I endure? What did I learn today? About myself? About others? What do I plan to do differently or the same, tomorrow?”
Such an approach might provide satisfaction on a good day, or insights and learnings you can use to create a better tomorrow.
And it links neatly back to our first action of the day suggested above. For example, if you didn’t find time for those important tasks, look at the issues that stopped you and think about ways to solve these problems so that future days are more productive.
In essence – a daily cycle of planning, clearing clutter and continual learning could make future days more focused and productive.