Fall is one of my favorite seasons. I love the colors, the smells, and the celebrations. I find myself feeling downright joyful once I feel that ever-so-slight, cool breeze in the air, and the weatherman starts reporting more hospitable temperatures. If you live in a brutally hot climate like Florida’s, you probably know EXACTLY what I am talking about. I am so ready to be done with 99º heat and 95% humidity!
Fall signifies something for me professionally, too. In August, my work will steadily increase, so much so that by the time mid-September rolls around; I am running at a fevered, frenzied pace trying desperately to get it all done. And it is usually about this time that I am hungry for ways to be more productive.
I thought I would spend today’s post talking about five unconventional ways to increase productivity.
1.) Ditch the Traditional To-Do List
Productivity pros and Type A personalities usually stress the importance of the almighty To-Do List, and I consider myself no exception. I love To-Do Lists. But, if you are really busy, your written list of tasks can soon grow into a There-is-No-Way-I’m-Gonna-Be-Able-To-Get-That-All-Done List. It can be downright overwhelming and lead to major procrastination. In fact, I have found myself spending an excessive amount of time just writing, organizing, prioritizing, and analyzing my To-Do List until it is just PERFECT.
To help get those To-Dos “To-Done,” I stop and take a different approach. I will purge by writing down everything I need to do. Then, I will go back through the list and pick out the most important tasks I HAVE to get done (this should be a relatively short list and include only the things that will directly affect your customers or colleagues that particular day). Then, I move on and get to work. Once I finish those tasks, I look back on my original list and pick out a few things I want to do. I complete those tasks and repeat the process alternating between “musts” and “wants,” and by the end of the day, I have usually made some modest progress.
2.) Stop Multi-Tasking
It has been proven that multitasking is NOT a productive way to work. The human mind is not a supercomputer, and we don’t typically get as much done when we are switching from task to task or trying to do multiple things at once. I go into this in a lot more detail on an old post titled “Death to Multi-Tasking” on my own blog, but suffice it to say, sticking with one task at a time will help you to focus and get things done.
3.) Enter into the No Comm Zone
I am a self-confessed e-communication junkie. I will obsessively check my work email, my personal email, my instant chat, my text messages, tweets, wall posts, business, and cell voicemail messages, and the madness can cycle on and on and on. In fact, if I am not careful, I can waste a good portion of my time answering and checking these messages, particularly email, and 90% of it is not helpful to the tasks I am focused on. I find I get the most work done when I schedule some specific time for communication. I will spend about 30 minutes in the am, midday, and at the end of the day to triage the communication I have received
I find I get the most work done when I schedule specific times for communication. I will spend about 30 minutes in the am, midday, and at the end of the day to triage the communication I have received and answer the messages that are most urgent. Otherwise, I will “unplug” and focus on what I am working on. Sure, I will glance at my email inbox at other points throughout the day, but I resist the urge to answer those messages unless they are truly urgent.
4.) Rise Early Once a Week
Let’s just get this out on the table right now. I am not a morning person! But, when the work is piling up, and I have to increase output, I will start work early. Sometimes really early, like 5 am in the morning (**gasp**). The amazing thing is I will get almost a day’s worth of work done in a just a few short hours because it is quiet. I mean, extremely quiet. Of course, that is because the sane people of the world are still sleeping and unable to interrupt me, but, sometimes it is exactly what I need to get some work done. I can’t do this every day, but when things start to pile up, an early morning once a week tends to be really helpful.
5.) Stop Working & Laugh, Love, Pet, or Snooze
Probably the best piece of productivity advice I have gotten over the years can be summed up by the phrase “Sharpen the Saw.” It comes from an old analogy about a woodcutter. The wise woodcutter learns that to be more productive, he must stop from time to time to “sharpen his saw.” Sure, he can keep going with a dull blade, but he’ll be working harder and making less progress.
We got to stop working and refill from time to time. Take a few minutes and laugh at a bit from one of your favorite comics. Step out of your home office and go hug, kiss, and cuddle with your kids for a spell. Leash up your dog and take a quick stroll around the block. Set your clock for 15 minutes and take a quick snooze. Stand up, stretch, and take some deep breaths. It may seem REALLY counter-intuitive, especially when you are really busy. Still, by taking the time to “sharpen your saw,” you are preventing burn out, igniting your creativity, and defeating future procrastination.
These are just a few of the ways I beat the overwhelm and stay on top of the tasks. What do you do when the work starts to pile up? What unconventional or unusual tactics do you use to keep on top of it all?