Why would you want to increase your productivity?
I’m sure you could come up with a couple different reasons to be more productive, and there isn’t any one right answer because we’re all at different stages in life and focused on different goals.
However, I had two distinctive reasons why I wanted to be more productive. 1. get more done and 2. to feel more accomplished.
I was tired of feeling like I didn’t get anything done, and that I still had a mountain of work to be completed. I was tired of wishing I had more time to do the things I wanted to do instead of the things that “paid the bills”.
So here is what I changed
1. I changed how I view and use email
Notice I didn’t say I quit using email. That would be a dumb idea, for me at least. I have too many clients who depend on email as a primary source of communication, which it turns out was part of the problem.
My email had my complete attention, no matter where I was and no matter what time it was.
Thanks to my “smartphone”, I could get my emails 24/7. Pretty cool right? Well at least until you realize it’s controlling your day and distracting you from you most important priorities.
First thing I did was move the mail app icon from my iPhone home screen to two screens in, which means I have to work to find my apps. Now this only works if you turn off notifications, which was the second thing I did. Yeah thats right, I turned of notifications for all email.
This alone was probably one of the most freeing things I could have done.
Brendon Bruchard says, “Beware of your inbox, it’s nothing but a convenient organizing system for other people’s agendas.”
When you start to control the usage of your email, you start to take back control of your daily activities.
You can increase your daily productivity by 27% when you stop checking your email in the first 60 minutes of your day.
The only way to really do this in our connected lives is to shut off those email notifications on your phone.
The second part of changing my email usage was to follow Brendon’s advice.
I check my email when I get to the office, if there are any “urgent” issues, I’ll address them immediately, as long as they wont take to long. If they will require a dedicated period of time, I will schedule them into my calendar for a latter time.
Once I’ve gone through the email, I shut down, completely, all mail apps on my computer. I don’t leave it open for new messages to distract me.
I don’t open my email again until the last hour of the work day. I check to see if there are any urgent issues that need to be addressed before closing out the day.
Then I shut down the apps again until the next morning.
Ever since doing this, about 2 weeks ago, I have gone a full day without checking my email, and it was great. I was able to focus entirely on my agenda.
I know some of you might be thinking, I could never do that. What if I miss an important email, or what if there is an emergency. If there is an emergency they’ll call, and what is more important then your priorities?
2. I changed how I attack my day
I once read a story about Charles Swabs getting a piece of advice that he was willing to pay $25,000 for after two weeks of implementation, and this was in the early 1900s, when $25,000 was a lot of money.
A man came to his office and spent 20 minutes telling him why he should be more productive, and Swabs response was, “I know all of that. What I need is less knowing and more doing. If you can tell me what I can do to get those results I’ll do it.”
The man took the next 5 minutes to explain one very simple thing he could do each day.
Take a 3×5 card, and write on it your 5 most important tasks for the day, 1 being the most important. Carry that card in your shirt pocket and look at it every 15 minutes or so to make sure you’re focused on your priorities.
He continued to tell him that you do not move on to number 2 until the first task is completed. Only once you have completely finished number 1 do you move onto number 2, even if you spend all day working on number 1.
He then told Mr. Swabs that if this advice got him better results, then he could pay him whatever he felt was fair.
It was like 12 days after Swabs started implementing the advice that he sent the man a check for $25,000. Which was about $1,000 a minute, since the man spent about 25 minutes with Mr. Swabs.
This must have proven to be some great advice, so I decided to give it a try.
Each night, I spend about 30 minutes planning and preparing for the next day. I review the current days calendar, write down any items I may have left uncompleted, review my current list of top 5, think through any projects or client needs, and review my own personal and business goals.
I usually have a pretty good list of things to consider for the next day after reviewing those different items. However, from that list I identify the 5 most important tasks I need to focus on for the next day, writing them on the 3×5 card.
The next day, I focus entirely on each task until it is complete, not allowing anything else to take priority.
TIP: If you’re the type of person that needs to see the check marks next to the item to feel like you’ve accomplished something, break your big task into smaller tasks, and check those off as you accomplish them.
Secret #1 to even better results…
The reason I like to do this each night before going to bed is for a strategic purpose.
I know that once I’ve set my focus for the next day, and feed that information to my subconscious mind, it will work throughout the night, to begin figuring out how to complete the tasks while I sleep, giving me a head start.
Secret #2 to even better results…
Doing this weekly as well. Identify some goals or things you’d like to accomplish by the end of the work week and then start identifying what has to happen and on which day in order to reach those goals.
I recently read that people who plan their weeks in advance have a 500% increase in productivity.
Think of the competitive advantage that would give you!
And what if you could get your employees to start thinking through their week and day like this!
Here’s the thing about all of this…
It’s really simple to do these things, and I think it was Jim Rohn who said, what’s easy to do is easy not to do.
Most people wont do this, or they’ll try it but give up after a week or a month at the most.
If you can create the discipline in your life to make a couple minor changes like these, you’ll start to experience better results in life, and feel better about your life.
I may not complete any of the 5 items on my notecard in a day, but as long as I was focused on number one, and doing everything to accomplish it, I feel really fulfilled at the end of the day.
I dear you to try it. What’s the worse thing that could happen, you miss an “important” email, or forget to do something “important”.
The best part of doing these things, is the power it gives you. How nice would it be to take back control of your life and start living it the way you want to and not the way your boss or clients want you too.
I’d love to hear about your results. After you’ve tried this for a week or two, come back and use the comments to tell your success story.