Maximize Your Time: 10 Tips for Extreme Productivity

1) Know your work style and use the tools and systems that match. If you’re good with technology, use your computer, phone, and apps for your scheduling and organization. If you’re a visual person, consider using a paper calendar and a written to-do list. If you’re a people person, build a team around you to complement your strengths. If you work alone, find time to focus and stay free from distractions. If you’re a morning person, attack the most important tasks early in the day.

2) Use ONE calendar. Sometimes people will have multiple calendars: one for family, one for work, and one for personal appointments. Keep ONE calendar for everything. Use different colors or font styles to differentiate categories. Personally, I am very visual and remember things better when I write them down, therefore I have a paper calendar for my appointments, but due to the need for dynamic communication, I have a Google calendar to back up my scheduling, which may seem two calendars. However, this calendar is a mirror of the paper one and has it all. Although it is extra work to have both, it is a calendar (paper or digital) with all the information.

3) Make a to-do list at the end of each day. Your mind naturally starts working on the list while you sleep. When you wake up, you are ready to work, you are very productive and organized. Estimate how long each task will take, and only put on your to-do list for the next day what is reasonable to do.

4) “Eat your frog first.” A Brian Tracy concept*: Do the hardest thing you have to do all day before doing anything else. Doing this will give you the feeling of success by having a “burden” off of you and the drive to accomplish the remaining tasks.

5) Have a clear objective; write it down and read it daily. When you have a goal, you know what to focus on and work on. If you don’t keep this in mind, it’s easy to get caught up with the urgent things of the day or caught up reacting to other people’s emails, phone calls, interruptions, and emergencies.

6) Have a “power hour.” Designate a time each day to close the door, turn off email, turn off the phone ringer, and protect yourself from interruptions. Have a shortlisted project that you will work on alone during this time. Make sure you go to the bathroom, have a drink, and do whatever else you need to do to make sure you don’t leave once this hour starts. Give yourself 30 minutes after this time to return calls, emails, and attend to people you need to follow up with that you missed during POWER HOUR.

7) Tap it once. This means email, mail, papers, etc. Touch it and make a decision. File it away, throw it away, or put it in a place for action. Sort bins are useful for this. Sort bins often have labels like: read, file, to do this week, urgent, invoices, etc. Also, if the subject lines of the emails are accurate, both you and the recipient will easily find the email. Paper, electronic copy (computer) and email folders must have matching labels.

8) Have daily clothes. After you develop a routine of things that are simple but important, your body will do them naturally. This is important because we can get distracted by our regular routines and use them as vices to interrupt, postpone and prolong important things that really need to be done. If you start your day off right, you’ll be ready to tackle those urgent and important tasks, increasing your daily productivity.

9) Previous preparation. Have you ever been surprised on cooking shows how they make a complicated dish in 10 minutes? Well, some of it is edited TV time, but they also have everything set up for a quick edit. why not do the same? Prepare your information packs and new client folders, convert common documents into a template, set up email groups/distribution lists for teams, etc.

10) Maximize car systems. Listen to an audio book to maximize your windshield time and learn. Have a container to put the important things, instead of having them all over the car. Have a garbage bag to collect the liter. Always carry a bottle of water with you in the car; dehydration causes fatigue, memory loss and poor concentration. Make sure your contacts are portable (for example, phone, calendar, business card file book) so you can have people and numbers at your fingertips (so you can call if you’re running late, stuck in the traffic, etc). Enjoy relaxing, breathing, and taking in the day while driving (instead of cleaning, talking on the phone, etc.)

When you implement a few simple productivity strategies and develop them into time-saving habits, you’ll quickly enjoy the benefit of more time and energy, and greater overall productivity.

*Tracy, Brian. Eat that frog! 21 ways to stop procrastinating and get more done in less time. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2001

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