The world comes at you fast and hard every day. It is easy to get distracted and diffused. High performers cut through all the noise and trivia to focus on what matters most.
Here are 4 Productivity Practices of High Performers.
1. Capture Everything.
This is absolutely essential. Develop a system where you capture anything and everything that comes your way. Phone messages, emails, requests while walking down the hall at work, responsibilities that come out of meetings and ideas that come to you in the moment.
Get everything down: big and small, long term and short term, ideas inspirational to your dreams and everyday mundane items. Rather than have random sticky notes all over the place, try to minimize your collection ‘containers’ to 3 or 4.
For example my collection containers are:
My email inbox - I flag all emails that need a response or follow up.
A full size paper pad where I write down all phone messages, random thoughts, etc. I also bring this paper pad to meetings to write down anything tasks I have committed to do during the meeting
A technology app where I keep on-the-fly requests (walking down the hallway at work) or random thoughts when I don’t have my paper pad with me.
Getting stuff off your mind and written down gives you psychological comfort. I dislike feeling that I am forgetting something or failing to follow through on a commitment.
All of these items comprise a Master Task List(MTL). A MTL is the list of everything you need to do:, big and small, important and mundane.
“Our minds are for having ideas, not holding them.” – David Allen
2. Plan weekly.
Think of zooming in and out on a map. All week long you are zooming in: rolling up your sleeves and doing the work in front of you. The weekly plan is like zooming out to see the big picture.
Taking a step back once a week to process your tasks and set weekly goals is a must-have habit. This is where you eliminate completed tasks off your MTL and get all your ‘To-Dos’ from your collection buckets on to your MTL. Most importantly, plan your week based the tasks on your MTL. You will not be able to get everything done, so choose the most important and absolutely necessary.
3. Chunk Big Projects
We procrastinate because a large project seems overwhelming. But a project is really made up of a series of small tasks. If you break down a project into a series of tasks then you can concentrate on just the ‘next action.’
Here is an example of ‘chunking a project.’
Project: Prepare Presentation for Fall Conference
- Research content (4 hours)
- Develop outline (1 hour)
- Develop flow and bullet points of content (2 hours)
- Add stories, quotes and humor to content (2 hours)
- Develop strong introduction and conclusion ( 1 hour)
4. Set Aside Regular Times for Focused Work
This is critical to getting anything worthwhile done. Regularly shut out the world for a limited period of time and get down to doing your best work.
To keep me focused with periodic short breaks, I use an app called 30/30. You name the task and set a timer for a certain amount of time to do concentrated work. It sounds silly but I say to myself “when the timer is on, the rest of the world is off.”
I once read “Be a maker in the morning and a manager in the afternoon.” I love that principle. As much as I can, I try to do my most important work in the morning and schedule meetings or more routine work in the afternoon.
There are many more personal productivity principles (somewhere deep down there is a book on the topic in me) but these are the Core 4.
If you really want to make a difference, you have to be different and do things differently. Most people fly by the seat of their pants and hope for the best. These 4 practices will help you live more purposefully.
Please share any personal productivity practices you have found helpful in the comments section.