7 simple rules to make your day more productive

A topic I often hear to be discussed these days is how many things people are not able to finish within the deadlines set.  People struggle with deadlines at work, with deadlines in their personal life, with promises they make to relatives, close friends, and families. And still, after all these struggles, most of them do not have an idea how to change the situation and become frustrated, negative personalities, seeing dark colors in every situation and judging everything critically, and with no vision for success.

Recently I have had to deal with a colleague of mine, who is in the same situation.  This person is always late for everything – meetings, tasks, projects. Most people do not believe this person promises, because they do not happen.  The CEO of the company is not very happy with the person and always gives harsh feedback.  But, although the feedback this colleague of mine is still struggling to get all the things done by the deadlines committed.

Have you been in the same situation? Have you had moments where you feel overwhelmed with tasks and projects and feel like you have abounded? Did you feel like you are lost and do not know where to start? Well, you are not alone. There are many people out there who are in the same situation and do not know where to start from, to make others feel comfortable when they plan, promises and execute tasks and projects.

At the same time, we see people who are organized, deliver results, and make their way home at the end of the day without any serious issues or questions to think of.  For some of us, these people look lazy, not having enough work for the day, with fewer engagements in their work schedule, etc. But have you tried to follow such a personal day?  Did you try to analyze how he or she spends the working hours,  did you manage to analyze the final product this person is delivering at the end of the day,  did you manage to check the results from its work.  If you do that, you will be surprised how much work these people can finish. Then what is their secret, what they do differently than you, and how they manage to finish most of the tasks within the deadlines and still go home happy and on time?

Well, the simple answer is ORGANIZATION and PRIORITIZATION.  Nothing else. Now, we often discuss these two elements, but most of us do not get them right and cannot implement them the way these two elements can help them be successful and happy at work.

Do you still remember the story from above?  Well, here is what we did with my colleague to help him become more organized and delivering results within the timelines and the quality expected. These simple rules we set helped him improve his scheduled results with more than 35% in less than 4 months.

Analyze where you  are
If you want to make a plan that works and helps you move ahead you need to know where you are and what are the things you have missed.  Start with the big ones – like projects or complex tasks by making a simple table with three columns.  In column 1 write what is the task or the projects.  In Column 2 write the result you plan to achieve. In column 3 write what could happen if you do not deliver the results within the agreements you have made with others and what impact will they have on others.

Create Impact list
After you have finished your analysis group the results by the level of impact the results will have on you and others.  Start with these things that can impact the widest group of people. After finishing with them move to an inside circle that affects your team, and finish with the things that can affect only you as a person.  This impact list will help you to further manage your tasks during the day.

Distribute your and other tasks
You cannot do anything during the day.  In the list you have created write what tasks you will have to accomplish by yourself and what number of tasks you will need to delegate to others,  to be sure that the most important tasks won’t be left behind during the day.  If you do that every day you will build a habit of arranging your schedule for the day,  the week, and even the month, based on important and impactful tasks, instead of trying to finish all tasks that appear to you.

Create a brighter outlook for the day, by managing your inbox
One of the enemies we have created in our work is the inbox.  Nowadays people receive many e-mails. I often hear how hard it is for them to not read and answer these e-mails, the moment they appear on the screen. To lower the pressure about the e-mail answering process, set yourself a strict rule. Write somewhere where you can see it: “Today I will answer e-mails at XXXX”. Defining time windows for e-mails will help you save time from thinking about several things at the same time.  And if you start communicating this new approach with others you can even get some positives by setting some rules for them, when sending or expecting e-mail to you.

Make your calendar your TO-DO list
People often start something, just to see in a couple of hours that they have moved through several tasks and still have not completed any of them. You do not need a special tool to change that.  Just allocate time for the tasks you will have to complete in your calendar.  Plan the most important tasks for the day and put them in your calendar as an important time, allocated only for them.  Planning time for only one task at a time will help you to better focus on execution and results. After several weeks using this approach, you will see positive results.  I cannot offer you the magic to see results after the first week.  People learn differently about new styles of behavior.  You will have to be patient and continue until you see a real change in your style of doing things and an increase in the positive results rate.

Limit distractions
In a social media moving world, we are tempted by different things.  Use a simple list and pen or open a new list in some of the words and numbers writing tools you use and write the length of time you take whenever you need a distraction from the tasks you do.  Make three columns. In column 1 write the source of distraction, in column 2  write the length of time you have dedicated to this source of distraction, and in column 3 write the time during the day you have used this distractor.  At the end of the day sum the time from column 2 and group it by a distractor from column 1. This will help you to have an idea of how much time you lose during the day for each distractor. Do this for at least 2 weeks and at the end of the period look at column 3 to identify when during the day you are turning to a distractor.  Now having all the information, think of how you can transform the time from distraction to productive time.

Communicate your style
There is nothing wrong to change your attitude and schedule at work if this will guarantee you better results.  But most people make it without communicating the change.  That often leads to misunderstanding for their new style in others and open or hidden conflict points.  We work in a complex environment where we have built expectations in others toward our style of work and result delivery.  If we change the established approach to work and relationships, we need to make some effort and explain this change to others.  Clear explanations support acceptance of the change.  Lack of enough information can harm our efforts to change and cause us to invest time in sustaining relationships instead of using that time to achieve better results.

Reward yourself for the wins and small victories
Last, but not least, we do not have to forget that we are ego-driven creatures.  Our Ego demands to see rewards when we do something right. Rewards are the boosters ensuring sustainability and growth in the change process. What many people, no matter the role or position in the company miss is this simple element of rewarding.  When missing, this element can lead us to exhaustion, depression, negativity, burnout, etc.  That is why we need to plan in our schedule for the day small rewards to help us stay motivated, engaged, and on track with the challenges we face.  It can be an additional small break, our favorite hot or cold drink, playing a level of our favorite game on the cell phone, or whatever we can think of. The rewards we plan must be meaningful for us and only us.  Given at the right time they can become a productivity booster, but missing from the planned day, they can cause low-quality results.

The fast-paced world with always changing priorities is a strong factor for di-stress for every person,  no matter the area of expertise or the type of work,  what we will always see is a never-ending chain of challenges, aiming to stop us from bringing the best out from our productivity power.  To make it through the day and the challenges and dynamics it offers we need to plan for our productivity to be sure that we will achieve the best results with a balanced stress management style.


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