Do you start each day with the best of intentions? You arrive at work, coffee in hand and you say to yourself, “This will be the day that I get things done”? Yet as the day comes to a close, you find yourself looking at the stacks of paper on your desk wondering what happened. Well, you’re not alone.
As you kick off 2016, here are few tips to incorporate into your day to increase productivity:
1. Wake up earlier. This one isn’t fun but research shows that your morning routine can make or break your day. Why not get to work a little early to get a jump on things? Even 15 minutes earlier is a good start, you can build on that. Trust me, there’s nothing like having quiet time with no distractions to get organized and ready to tackle the day.
2. Allow yourself to concentrate. In today’s technology based world it seems impossible to focus on one thing at a time. Take control of your schedule and set times for getting things done. For example, schedule times to check emails and then shut it down. That’s right, you don’t have to respond to every email within minutes. It can wait. Set times that work for you to check emails – maybe it’s when you get to work, before lunch and an hour before you leave for the day. We have a 24-hour rule in our office for responding to clients so this one used to generate a lot of stress but the truth is, when I started this method I found that clients understood. I was actually more focused and had better (perhaps even more pleasant) responses. The basic idea here is to control what you do and when you do it, don’t let it control you. There are even apps that can help you track your concentration time. If you’re struggling with concentrating, download an app. What you measure, you can manage.
3. Write it down. If your mind is full of thoughts, you can’t focus. The next time you think of something you need to do, a project you need to start planning, or even what you’re having for dinner it takes away from the project at hand. Get the random thoughts out of your mind by writing them down (perhaps on your to-do list) and put them to rest. One of the best principles I ever learned was “mind like water” from David Allen’s best seller “Getting Things Done.” This refers to a mental and emotional state in which your head is clear, able to create and respond freely, unencumbered with distractions and split focus. Paying attention to what has your attention is an important tool.
4. Prioritize your list. Once you have everything written down, take time at the beginning and end of each day to prioritize what you need to accomplish. This will not only allow you to stay focused, it will allow you to pick at least one item to accomplish that day. Having a laser focus on your priorities makes all the difference.