Let’s face it, no matter how much we get done each day, burning the candle at both ends, the longer our to-do list gets. I personally run to the side of overly ambitious in all the things that I want to pursue and accomplish. In any given day, I might decide to get a lot of work done for a client, work out an hour or two, make a great meal, clean my house, write some pages in my book-in-progress and spend quality time with my kidos. Some days I accomplish all of this and some days not so much. Because I’m always trying to do so much, I’ve had to find effective and simple strategies to get more done- without killing myself. The key? Quit trying to do so much! Here are four tips to help you get more of the right stuff done each day.
1) Prioritize – what do you really want to do and what really has to get done? Once a week (and usually every day), I make a list of the FEW things that absolutely must get done this week. For me, mowing the lawn isn’t on the MUST do list while cleaning the clothes is, folding them isn’t. Paying the utility bill that is past due so the electricity doesn’t get turned off is. At work, I really focus on the 80/20 – the 20% of things that have the ability to move the needle. So the few things might be meeting with my staff to develop next quarter’s strategic plan (helping them find their 80/20) but not cleaning out my inbox. For a busy executive – this list might only be 3-5 items long.
2) Quit multi-tasking – believe it or not multi-tasking is the worst thing that you can do. It used to come with bragging rights but now I think most people realize this is not the way to get more done. You end up working on a lot of things but getting nothing done well. Don’t believe me? Try it for a week. Only work on one thing at a time. You’ll get more done, you’ll feel less stressed and what you do get done will be done well.
3) Make your Mornings Count – Do the most important (and hardest) tasks when your brain is at its peak. For most of us, that is first thing in the morning. I realized a long time ago, that if I don’t get the hard stuff done by 11, I’m pretty much screwed for the day. And what we do the first thing in the morning sets the tone. If you start your day saturating your brain with email or worse yet last night’s Facebook posts, you’ll set yourself up for a very unproductive day.
So don’t use those precious fertile moments to read email or pay bills! That time is precious and should be used for things that require great creativity and or great thought. If you are working on a new business idea, writing a book or designing a new logo, this is the time for you! We all know these endeavors rarely are about quantity, they are about quality.
Also – start each morning with some “me” time – I like to start each day with a bit of quiet time. Sometimes I do light yoga, mediate or read something I find inspiring or spiritual – all while drinking my coffee of course! By getting just a touch of connection with my soul first thing, I find I set myself up for an extremely productive and meaningful day.
4) Take breaks – and a nap if you can! Seriously, more and more CEOs are recognizing the benefits of breaks in the work place to improve productivity. I recently watched Arianna Huffington (the founder of the Huffington Post) in an interview with Oprah. She said she has implemented “napping rooms” in their offices that employees can feel free to utilize throughout the day. She feels strongly that this has led to greater productivity. Your office isn’t cutting edge enough to have “napping rooms”? Well head out to your car for a few minutes. You’ll get a touch of exercise and a break.
The key to achieving more is doing less. Effective productivity day in and day out requires finding balance in our lives. None of us have enough time to do everything on our lists. The key is to recognize that not all things on the list are created equal. Prioritize, push back and spend your energy on what will really make a difference.