Actions to take
- Set a goal for the day.
- Plan your tasks around your daily goal.
- Block at least 1 hour to focus on your goal.
There are so many things everyone talks about to be productive, but let’s talk about something that is not letting you be productive. Staying productive every day can be a task in itself. You need an organized system that can let you work and track the progress of the work you are doing. It just doesn’t end up with a simple todo list, you have to prioritize those tasks and stay away from distractions.
You are your own manager, you are not just working but managing yourself as well. Ironically managing others can be easier than managing yourself in many ways. You can miss the deadlines, you can sneak through mistakes and so on. There is a long list of perks and benefits you have while managing yourself.
Distractions will always be there
Once you are able to move ahead from this hurdle of managing yourself, you are faced with something that will never be under your control. That is distractions. Some of the distractions like your phone, food, TV, social media are under your control. You can manage yourself from not getting distracted by them. The days are unpredictable and anything could come up that needs your attention. It can be your work or something personal. They will always be part of your day, at least once in a while. Instead of wasting energy in dwelling about these distractions, be in that distraction as an event that needs your attention. You cannot sail in two boats at a given time so why worry about not being able to do that.
Be nice to yourself
You can be nice to yourself and realistic about your daily, weekly or monthly goals. When you set these goals you don’t know what distraction will hit you. They could consume a lot of your time and you can miss your goals. This is not just true for long-term goals but also for your daily and short-term goals. Even if you are not consciously setting goals every day, your mind is setting subconscious intentions which are more or less like your daily goals.
One of the biggest mistakes we make while setting our productivity goals is we expect too much from ourselves. We believe staying productive every day is more about getting a lot of things done. It might give you quantity but not quality. Being productive is more about being focused on the things which are most important in the day. The count can be 1 or 100, but the only thing that matters is how important those tasks are. Here are a few things to keep a check on the importance of your tasks:
- Is the task urgent or important?
- Does it align with my goal?
- Is it a subtask or the goal.
- Make sure that it is a subtask because goals are formed with smaller tasks.
- It will be overwhelming for your brain to see your goal as a single task. You will perceive it as difficult and most likely procrastinate.
- Am I the only one who can do it? or Can I delegate it?
Don’t be too nice
Be realistic about what you want on your plate. While delegating and automating tasks can help you focus on the most important thing, don’t overdo it. Managing and assigning tasks to the right people is productive, but don’t remove everything from your plate. Being productive is about doing more than you can and less than what you think you can.
Don’t try to do too much
The last line might sound a little confusing but being productive is not a sweet spot that you hit every day. Being productive is a slow and incremental process, you get better every day and get more done the next day. The difference could be 1 second or 1 hour, but you improve every day depending on what type of work you do.
While we improve every day we underestimate the time it will take us to do new things. There is always some kind of learning curve while jumping on to a new task, so make sure you are taking that into account while you plan your day.
Set a goal for the day and that will act as your milestone for the day. No matter what distractions you get in the day you at least have to make sure that you are able to achieve that goal. This will make your day automatically organized and your productivity is not revolving around 10 different tasks but 1 task that is important.
Manage focused sessions
Block a few hours in your day for the most important task. You can start with one focus session and as you start getting more done you can increase the number of focus sessions. At least one of the focus sessions should be in sync with your daily goal. These focused sessions can be late at night or early morning depending on your lifestyle and work. If distractions can hit you any time you can be prepared by setting aside hours where distractions cannot distract you. This holds true for your work hours as well, you can figure out a pattern when there are fewer meetings and co-workers are less distracting. This time slot can be early in the morning when there are fewer people, afternoon when everyone is kind of sleepy or evening when most have left.
This allows you to be present for the important tasks and makes sure that you are giving it your full attention. This not only will help you be productive but also improve the quality of your work.
In conclusion, you need to start focusing on the important things instead of everything. Take things off your plate by decreasing the number of tasks that you need to do. We are rarely very clear on what we want, so set a daily goal every day with your usual productivity ritual. Keep room for distractions in your day and tackle the goal in focused sessions, when you can be fully present for the challenge.