It’s often said, “we manage what we monitor.” With all the holiday events, vacationing with family and last-minute projects wrapping up Q4, monitoring productivity is not typically a priority. Yet, with the fresh start of a new year, it’s time to take a few minutes to review productivity tactics and habits that make us better at our jobs.
To be clear, being productive does not mean “being busy.” You might attend 10 meetings in a day, multi-task between emails and engage in conversation over conference calls, but that may simply be a delusion of productivity. The bottom line is this: Productivity in the workplace should be measured by output that directly benefits or contributes to the success of your organization.
There are a million productivity hacks, but they all start with prioritization. If you aren’t setting your priorities, you’re not the one in control of what you accomplish each day.
Create a habit of beginning each day by tackling the most important tasks first. Well-known speaker and author, Brian Tracy, refers to it as eating a frog first thing in the morning. While it’s tempting to start with the easier tasks to create a feeling of productivity, those tasks won’t contribute to the bottom line. Often, that’s just a means to procrastinate when a more important and bigger task is waiting.
Accomplishing your most difficult task first will remove the “dread” of having to accomplish it later and will make other tasks seem easier.
Once you have a list of priorities, start a habit of creating a schedule that will keep you accountable to accomplish your priorities. It’s so easy to get swept up in reading and responding to emails, which occupies 13 hours each week for the average employee. Creating a schedule that’s based on your priorities will eliminate a lot of unnecessary time spent elsewhere.
Scheduling work blocks is often easiest through Outlook’s calendar because it’s visible to coworkers and reminds you what you should be doing. You may even want to schedule time for checking email to eliminate unnecessary multitasking. Leave some time free each day for unplanned priorities that may pop up, but use the majority of your time to accomplish known priorities. Also, be sure each calendar block is set to “busy” in Outlook.
After a productive but stressful task is accomplished, it’s good to know that you have something to look forward to. Rewards are powerful motivators and can help you keep your habits of prioritizing and scheduling. That’s why you need to also have a habit of rewarding your productivity.
Something as simple as taking a break, grabbing a can of soda, or taking a lap around the parking deck (if that sounds rewarding to you), will be small but helpful motivators. Don’t focus on making this too complex. Once you create a habit where you know something good is coming after you accomplish a priority, it’ll get easier to check them off your list.
If being productive in 2018 is on your priority list, then start by forming these three habits. Habits take time to form, but they get easier once you get into a rhythm with them. Eventually, this will be second nature to you. That’s where productivity really takes off.
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