What is the secret to getting things done?
Why is it that by the time 4 pm comes around, we often realise we haven’t got anything done that we wanted to that day, and there’s not enough time left to start anything of value.
You probably know some people who seem to always be getting meaningful tasks done.
What are their secrets?
Let’s look at 6 habits of productive people, and 4 things they avoid.
6 things productive people do:
1. Tackle the biggest task first
Productive people know that their energy levels are highest in the morning. They don’t start the day by checking, replying to and processing email.
Tackle your biggest task as soon as you start working. If you put it off you allow other things to get in the way – and then you’ll tell yourself there’s not enough time to do that important thing today.
Free up some extra time by implementing a few simple changes to your email management. Read our 7 email productivity top tips that will make your life easier.
2. Schedule priorities and commit to them
You likely know what your priorities are. But are you treating them as such and scheduling them in your calendar?
How many of the things scheduled in your calendar are your priorities?
Many people don’t get around to their priorities because they allow others to dictate their tasks for the day.
Don’t look at your tasks and say “how am I going to fit it all in?” Instead, say “what am I going to fit in?” Remember that 80% of results come from 20% of the inputs.
3. Get challenging tasks done before lunch
Procrastinating over tasks and putting them off for later generally means they never get done. After-lunch is when energy begins to wane for most people. “Eat those frogs” before lunch.
4. Know the difference between urgent and important.
Reacting to urgent tasks instead of deciding what deserves your attention results in getting no meaningful work done, and leads to burnout.
While people are busy reacting to the pressing needs and concerns of others, they aren’t getting any of their priority work done.
Do you spend most of your day dealing with incoming emails, phone calls, unimportant meetings or people queuing up at your desk to ask questions? None of these tasks creates a positive impact.
5. Empower employees to help themselves
Productive people help those they supervise, but not by giving them all of the answers or doing work for them.
Waving a magic wand and solving work-related problems for others just means you give them an easy way out, and create a habit. Next time they don’t know how to do something, they’ll expect you to do it again.
First, ask “what do you think we should do?”. If they have no ideas ask; “where do you think we should start?”
Over time, this will stop employees from always coming to you to fix their problems and train them to think for themselves, giving you fewer interruptions.
6. Spend time doing “deep work”
Instead of reacting to the urgent and unimportant, productive people get stuck into “deep work”. They put headphones on, shut themselves in a separate room, block out the calendar and generally don’t allow anything to distract them from their meaningful tasks.
4 things productive people don’t do
1. They don’t prioritise emails
Productive people don’t prioritise emails, but they have a system to manage them.
If your system is reading each email as it comes in and trying to deal with it there and then, that isn’t a system and it’s likely getting in the way of more meaningful work.
Stopping and starting tasks all the time leads to a lower quality of work. You also run the risk of being distracted from important work to do something relating to an email that came in.
Don’t be on email all day. Have set times that are email times. First thing in the morning is not a good time! You don’t want others to dictate the whole day.
2. They don’t multitask
Research conducted by Stanford University has shown that multitasking produces poor work performance.
Trying to multi-task hurts your productivity as each task takes longer to complete and is done to a lower standard.
3. They don’t have meetings on Mondays
Having internal meetings on a Monday sets up your week in reactive mode.
Instead of focusing on the work which you have set yourself as a priority, you are now more likely to be dragged onto another task.
Having too many meetings on a Monday sets your week off on a bad foot. You need to create momentum on your first day in the office.
Client meetings, new business meetings, and quick huddles (to decide the plan of attack for the week) are the exception.
4. They don’t say yes to everything
Productive people are ruthless with the word “no”. Know your limits and work to your full capacity. Don’t take on more work than you can handle, especially when this work is of a lower priority. This means saying no to people sometimes.
What this means is you’re saying “yes” to the tasks you deem a priority, your “big rocks”. Saying no means you’ll get more things of value done.
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