Busy is one of the most overused words. We hear all the time, “I’m too busy,” or “I don’t have time.”

How often do you actually achieve results while you are busy? Not too often, I bet. Switch your focus from being busy to being productive, so that you can accomplish more, see tangible results, and have time for fun.

Here are three things you can start with:

Have a to-do list for things that MUST get done today.

MUST is the key word. This is where a lot of people go wrong. They sit down to make a list, and they keep adding and adding, all the things they should’ve done, all the things they want to do, and all the things they wish they could do. They end up with a mile long list, and find it so daunting that any motivation for tackling it disappears.

“MUST get done today” list should have no more than 3-8 items, depending on how big they are, and depending on your lifestyle. They should not be the things that everyone has to do. For example, grocery shopping, picking up kids etc. – they don’t belong on this list, because you have to do them, and you are going to do them. This list is for things that are taking you towards your goal. If you want to write a book, have a goal that says, “Write 500 words.” If you want to have your own business, have a goal that says, “Read couple of articles on setting up a new business”

These goals are about what you want to ACHIEVE.

Learn Single Tasking

We live in a society that views multi-tasking as a skill. People say with pride that they can multi-task. I used to be one of those people too. But when you really think about it, and analyse your results, multi-tasking does not achieve the same amount and same quality of result that you can get by focusing on a single task.

It doesn’t mean that you just work on one thing for weeks or months until you finish it. You can still have variety. It only means that while you are working on a particular task, for that duration of time, you work on that task and that task alone. If it’s important to you, if it adds value to your long-term goals, takes you closer to fulfilling that dream, then give it the attention it deserves.

Keep A Productivity Journal

A productivity journal might sound like a lot of hard work, and it will certainly feel like it until you get into the habit, but it could also become a valuable tool.

So what do you write in your productivity journal?

List your main goals. If you have life goals, list them, otherwise list your annual goals. Then, each day, write down you “MUST get done today” list. Journal about how it went. Did you finish everything? How did you feel while you were working on these tasks? Did you feel charged and enthusiastic or did it feel like a chore?

Look for the patterns. Are there particular times in the day when you feel more productive? Do some people’s company spur you towards your goals but others have a negative impact?

A productivity journal serves two purposes. At the time of writing, it gives you immediate awareness of what you should be focusing on, and what you achieved. It’s there in black and white, and you are writing it down, so there is no room for excuses and no avoiding it.

The second purpose it serves is an analysis tool. The data you gather today, facts and figures and your emotional state, is what you can use tomorrow to be aware of how productivity works for you.

(Photo credit: Metal roadsign spelling Productivity via Shutterstock)

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