Do you start each day with a plan for action?
Most people do. Whether they make a to-do list or leave emails in their inbox to work on throughout the day, they have some way to manage their tasks and projects. Each day, however, we manage more than just time. We manage conversations, meetings, and interruptions.
Have you ever noticed your productivity actually goes up the fewer times you’re interrupted during the day? This is the reason some people block time on their calendar; it is a way to specify the hours (or minutes) of the day that will go toward a specific task or project. For many people, however, they don’t have that much control over their schedule or calendar. If that is the case, here are three habits to practice to have a more productive year:
1. Arrive early – to meetings, airports, appointments, to the office, etc. When you arrive early, you are refreshed and relaxed. Instead of scrambling at the last minute and being stressed out from traffic, delays or other “unscheduled” surprises, you will be able to find a place to sit down and perhaps even review the meeting materials, or read something you have been waiting until you had time to read. This sets you up for success. You have a cushion of time if there is a delay or if you arrive early and can get something done (see tips below).
2. Make fewer agreements. For the next 5 business days be sure to write down each and every thing you say you are going to do…and, what others say they will do for you. Once you have this complete inventory, prioritize the ones that are the most important and start to renegotiate (or eliminate) the rest. One way to manage your agreements most effectively is to use some kind of Promise Guide (http://www.thepromiseguide.com) so you can visually see all you have to do and track your progress over time. The more items you complete, the better able you will be to manage all your actions and tasks. Then, slowly and over time, make fewer agreements, but make sure they are the most important ones!
3. Ask for assistance. Sure, at one time (in university, especially) it was very important to be able to work by ourselves, and demonstrate our capacity for productivity. However, now in an era of uber-connectivity (http://www.linkedin.com/in/jasonwomack) it’s very important that we recognize the experts in the world and reach out to them for assistance. Often, these people are just an email (or even a phone call!) away. Reaching out to ask someone for assistance will save us time, and expand our community and network. As we head in to another decade of a considerably flattening world, it’s going to be more and more important that we know WHO we need to know so that we can do WHAT we do better.
For the next few days, consider testing these new habits. They probably won’t form themselves overnight, but practicing with them will give you some ways to improve your productivity, one day at a time.