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4 Ways to Start the Day Right and Boost Productivity

4 Ways to Start the Day Right and Boost Productivity

We all know that how a person starts the day will impact what they achieve for the rest of the day. Getting off to a good start sets the stage for a very productive day while a slow start can mean not achieving your objectives.

If you want to boost your productivity, you need to get off to a good start. Follow the steps below and you should experience a noticeable increase in productivity throughout the day by, ensuring your mornings are focused on your most important objectives.

1. Create a To-Do List the Day Before

One of the best ways to get a good start on the day is to take the last 30 minutes or so of the previous day to plan ahead. Simply put, creating a to-do list before you go home establishes your plans for the following day. The list will immediately put you on track when you arrive for work the next morning.

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Arrange your tasks in order of priority for a more concise and productive plan. This will save additional time by not requiring you to organize your priorities first thing in the morning. You can walk in and get right to work.

2. Do Not Open Your E-Mail First Thing

Checking email in the morning constitutes the biggest productivity destroyer at all levels of business. According to an Accountemps survey of 2,100 CFOs, 58% started the day reading e-mail rather than working on projects. Doing so harms productivity because the vast majority of e-mails are routine and do not require immediate attention, yet workers are distracted by these routine issues instead of concentrating on more important tasks.

Do not open your e-mail inbox when you first arrive at work. Instead, spend the first hour or so of your day working on the most important task on your to-do list. Only when you have made significant progress or completed the task altogether, should you even think about checking your e-mail.

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The problem with e-mail is that your inbox is essentially an electronic can of worms. Once you start reading e-mail, you end up dealing with insignificant things that only hinder your productivity. You may believe you need to check your e-mail first thing in the morning, especially if you work with external clients, but for most, it is unnecessary. Anything that requires urgent attention will instigate a phone call from your client rather than an e-mail message. If you do have clients sending urgent requests via e-mail, you might want to communicate to them that the telephone is a more effective way of making you aware of anything urgent.

3. Do Not Attempt to Multitask

Contrary to popular belief, multitasking is not the best way to achieve maximum productivity. Multitasking takes longer, reduces productivity, and increases the likelihood of making mistakes. One need only step back and observe someone trying to walk down the street and text at the same time. Multitasking does not work well. By contrast, a single task focus is the best way to ensure your work meets high standards and make maximum use of your time.

Believe it or not, your co-workers make multitasking necessary by approaching you and asking for assistance while you are in the middle of something. You might be requested to join a meeting just getting under way, or having to stop what you are doing in order to solve a problem a co-worker deems a higher priority. In either case, you need to learn to say no.

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Block out specific times on your schedule, based on your daily to-do list, when you will be unavailable to your co-workers. Share your schedule with them so there is no temptation on their part to interrupt your productivity. Then stick to that schedule. If they see you working hard and making good use of your time, they will be less likely to distract you.

4. Turn Off or Mute Notifications

The mobile age has exposed us to all sorts of notifications that constantly distract us from the tasks at hand. Notifications may seem helpful, but they actually destroy productivity. Turn them off or mute them; do not allow notifications to continue to hinder performance.

Like controlling e-mail, turning off or muting your notifications does not disconnect you from your co-workers and the outside world. It merely allows you to control when you are exposed to incoming messages. Make a point of checking your e-mail and notifications during your breaks. This will keep you up-to-date with what’s going on without distracting you when you are working on important tasks.

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Productivity is everything in the modern workplace. You can increase yours by getting off to a good start first thing in the morning and then sticking to the steps outlined above throughout the day.

Featured photo credit: Nolan Issac via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on June 18, 2019

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Making Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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