People who are consistently productive have mastery in these five key areas:
Mastering priorities begins with deciding what is most important. At a high level, your priorities should remain stable, and by using those as guiding principles, your day to day decisions are easier.
If you are having a difficult time deciding between two priorities, ask yourself this question: Is Priority X more important than Priority Y or is Priority Y more important than Priority X? Even though it seems redundant to ask the question both ways, it gives your brain a chance to consider both options equally.
Take the time to think about your priorities so in the heat of the moment, you already know what is most important. First aid responders are taught how to triage patients in the event of an emergency. They already know that a patient who has stopped breathing is more important to attend to then someone with only a few bumps and bruises. Think about your priorities ahead of time so that you don’t feel like you’re operating in emergency mode all the time.
Planning must be done consistently and should be done at various levels: annual planning for the big picture, quarterly and monthly planning to ensure the annual goals are accomplished, and weekly and daily planning for the details of day to day work. While an annual plan might take a day or more, each progressively smaller time chunk should take less time to plan for, so if you’ve planned well, a daily check-in with your plan might take as little as a few minutes.
The best way I have found to improve my focus is to make my self care a priority. I make sure I eat well, sleep well and exercise. I pay attention to stress reduction techniques. I ensure I’ve done steps one and two. All those things make it easier to focus, but the last, most important thing is to decide to be focused. If you have a hard time maintaining focus for extended periods of time, set a timer and be focused until the alarm goes off, take a short break, set the timer and be focused again.
There are plenty of people in my life who are better at this than me and I learn from them all the time. I’m a planner, a strategist and a hopeless implementer learning to get things done. The key for me to increase my productivity is to have decided ahead of time what should be happening at any given time. The clearer I am about the task at hand, the easier it is for me to accomplish the task.
Follow the same principles as the principles for mastering focus, practice good self care and decide to take action, then go for it.
People who are the most productive also break up big tasks into smaller, manageable pieces. Taking action consistently on smaller tasks is much more effective than single big pushes.
The people who are most productive take heed of the maxim “Inspect what you expect.” Whether it is yourself (less powerful) or another (more powerful) holding you to account, checking in regularly with your progress helps to maintain momentum on a project.
It helps to develop a strong relationship to “what is” rather than “what I hope is”. If you operate from a place of honesty, it’s easier to make adjustments to processes or behaviors in order to achieve the result you are looking for.
Support for accountability can take many shapes and forms, from your own checklist, being part of a group that is working towards simular goals, or working with a buddy, a coach, or supervisor for one-on-one accountability.