It is so easy to fall into the trap of being super busy. You end up running around all day long, trying to check every box on your to do list and feeling utterly exhausted at the end of the day. This, however, does not necessarily mean that you’ve been super productive. Being busy doesn’t always mean being productive.
Productivity means accomplishing things that are meaningful to you. — Dave Crenshaw
Now, if you stop to think about it, you realize that most of the things we do during the day aren’t so meaningful. We may end up accomplishing one or two meaningful things but the rest is just lots of small errands that we do out of necessity, a habit perhaps, or to please others.
So, if you feel this is true for you, if you end up feeling tired at the end of the day without the sense of accomplishment, then you may want to try out some of the tips that follow. They worked out for me and I hope they will help you out, too.
Practice “Good Enough” Attitude
Things are rarely perfect and this can be very frustrating. You can lose so much time trying to do everything perfectly and in the end you may not get done everything you were hoping to accomplish. In his course on productivity, Dave Crenshaw talks about the distinction between the process and the result. He says that a process is never perfect so instead of trying to perfect it, we can focus on the progress in the process knowing that it won’t be perfect. On the other side, when it comes to results, they can be perfect so we can strive for a perfect result.
Focusing on a desired result achieved through an imperfect process is practicing the “good enough” attitude. Getting what you wanted even if you make certain adjustments along the way is just good enough and much better than not getting anything done, right?! You can always go back to it when you have more time, but for the time being, just tap yourself on the back for a job well done and accept that it’s good enough for now because you gave it your best.
Have Daily “Me Time”
It’s important to make some time for yourself during the day. This can be as simple as walking to work or taking a break for a cup of coffee. No matter what you do, it’s important to check in on yourself. Just ask yourself how you’re feeling and if the answer is frustrated, tired or helpless, stop what you are doing and give yourself some time off. Like I said, it doesn’t have to be a long period of time, but taking some time to breathe and relax is going to contribute to your productivity a lot more than you trying to get things done knowing that you’re not completely into the task at hand.
Get the Most Important Things Done First
It is so easy to get carried away by little tasks. Answering your email or finishing that 5-minute task is easy and before you know it, you’ve spent the majority of your day finishing up small tasks leaving yourself very little or no time at all for the most important task of the day. Not to mention that by the time you get to it, you’re most likely feeling tired and out of focus. I’ve fallen into that trap so many times.
Important tasks require a lot of focus, that’s why they are important. Also, that’s why it’s important to get them done first, when you’re still fresh and have the most focus in a day. Once that’s done, you can devote your time to other tasks. If your important task is too big, then break it down into several smaller ones and get down to completing those. Important tasks can take days or weeks to complete and that’s OK. What matters is that you know what’s essential to you and stir your focus towards it. You’ll be surprised by how much you can accomplish if you shift your focus onto important things first.
Schedule Every Moment of Your Day
In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport talks about draining the shallows, meaning that you need to know the depth of your activities so that you can focus on the deeper ones and cut down on the very shallow ones. One of the suggestions he makes in order to focus on deep work is to schedule every minute of your day in order to know what you’ll be working on throughout the day. So, the purpose of this is not to have a rigid schedule but to know what you’ll be filling your time with. The schedule is supposed to be very flexible and you can move things around as the situation calls for it, but make sure to write down the changes as you go through the day.
This way, you’ll be able to see how much time your tasks require and the more you do it, the better you’ll be able to organize your time and prioritize. Remember, if you focus on your most important things first, you’ll be a lot more productive and a lot less busy.
Have a Side List
Ideas just love to pop up in our head and they don’t really care about timing. How often has an idea popped up when you were doing something else? It happens to me all the time. So, in order not to forget it, I often stop with what I am doing to do the thing that popped up in my head thinking I’d just get back to my previous task in no time. Well, as you may imagine, that’s not always the case.
One thing that really helped me deal with this is Dave Crenshaw’s idea of a side list: a place where you can just write down the idea that appeared in your head knowing that you’ll get back to it later. The place can be a sticky note, a notebook or just a simple notes app on your phone; whatever you have the habit of checking most regularly and comes in handy for you. This little tip helped my productivity and I stopped stressing about whether I’ll remember what comes to my mind at any random moment.
Just like any other skill, productivity is something you need to practice and work on. It won’t magically start working for you. Luckily, there are so many little things you can do to get better at it. I’ve listed some of them in this article but you need to make sure you find the ones that work best for you and then just practice until it becomes an automatic part of your everyday life. It’s the little things that matter and that’s as true for productivity as for anything else in your life.
Already found something that works? Please, feel free to share. I’d love to know about it 🙂
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