Productivity in life seems to be something that we all struggle with and strive for. Even people who are well-organized and focused are always in pursuit of strategies to make their time even more productive, allowing them to get more done each day and to enjoy their non-working time more.
These seven tips will allow you to have better life productivity starting as soon as you implement them. And they’re easy enough to start now and to make into regular habits, so why not give it a try today?
List everything you need to do
I’m a big fan of paper lists, but you can use a to do app on your smartphone or tablet, or even just work in a notes or word processing document.
Write down everything that’s on your mind that needs to be done, from that phone call you need to make to finishing a project and getting a haircut. Whatever has been weighing on your mind, whatever deadlines you have looming, get it all down.
We think that we’ll remember everything we need to do, but it isn’t always the case. Writing things down frees up your mind to work on the tasks and problems before you instead of just remembering that they exist.
Prioritize and pare down
Now that you know what needs to be done, how do you know where to start? First, look at the list with an eye toward things you can ignore, eliminate or delegate. Sometimes things are nagging us that aren’t really that important, and consciously letting go of those tasks can be really freeing.
Once you’ve dealt with any items you can delegate or simply cross off your list altogether, it’s time to prioritize what’s left. What needs to be done by a certain time or in a certain order? What do you really want to do? What will it make you feel great to have finished? There are lots of different ways to prioritize, including making a numbered list or lumping tasks into categories like “urgent,” “important” and “not pressing,” but this step is essential to making your life more productive.
Set a time limit
When you have your priorities in order, the next key is to think about how much time each task–or part of each task if it’s a big job you can’t do in a day–ought to take. Be realistic, but don’t allow yourself more time than you should reasonably expect to need.
For example, I might set aside five minutes for an email response, 10 minutes for social media promotion, and an hour to write a blog post. Sometimes I’ll give myself just a little less time than I really think I need, set a timer and race myself. Often I’ll finish before the bell rings.
Do the most challenging thing first
The thing it would make you feel great to have finished is often a good place to start, because that task that has been nagging you or that feels like a really big challenge will end up being the thing that makes you feel super productive once you’ve finished it.
Often you’ll be surprised by how little time that supposedly awful thing actually takes. For instance, when we moved I put off changing my address on my voter registration just about as long as I possibly could because I was sure it would be a hassle. In reality, it took 26 seconds on the phone.
I know I spent a lot more that 26 seconds thinking about it and avoiding it, so attack the challenging thing first and you will feel amazingly energized for the next task.
Automate where you can
Today’s world makes it easy to automate and schedule recurring items in advance. Whether that means having bills paid automatically, putting money into savings as soon as your paycheck comes in, or setting reminders in your electronic calendar to replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and schedule doctor’s appointments, the less you have to think about those sorts of tasks the less you will worry about them.
I always forget which months I’m supposed to pay estimated taxes, for example, so this year I’m adding reminders to my calendar so I won’t have to think about it other than those four times a year. Getting things out of your brain is one of the best ways to have better life productivity.
Set up today for success tomorrow
A big part of leading a productive life is setting yourself up for success. How you finish your day is just as important as how you start it.
At work, that might mean cleaning off your desk and setting your top three priorities for the next day, or doing one more of those nagging little things so you can finish the day off feeling productive and successful.
At home it might involve setting out your clothes for the next day, programming the coffee pot and having a plan for breakfast and lunch. You could also write down what you’re grateful for or the best thing that happened that day to remind you of the high points.
Learn to say no
To end almost where we started, one easy way to feel more productive is to make sure some things never make it to your to do list at all. If you know what’s really important in your life, you will know what to focus on and what you can so no to–whether that’s a committee assignment for your child’s school, an offer to help a friend with work you’d usually get paid for, even a job–and really honor those choices.
The last thing any of us wants is to die with regret because we let those ultimately unimportant, small things keep us from what was really important to us. And being more productive, in the right ways and with the right things, allows us more time for those things that are really important.
Featured photo credit: Events Calendar/Yandle via flickr.com