6 tips to improve your productivity

Blocking out time for email and social media, listing three major tasks in your daily calendar, and designating one day for just thinking—all can boost your efficiency.

Recently, Mari Luangrath posted on Facebook, “What’s your favorite productivity hack?”

Likewise, in the Arment Dietrich private Facebook group (sorry, it’s open only to employees), Clay Morgan posted, “What “hacks” or habits or pieces of technology do you do/use that make your work life a little easier?”

Time management is an interesting topic, and everyone has different ways of going about it.

In both posts, things came up such as using tools like BusyCal or managing time differently by checking email at specified times—instead of constantly—or by logging to-do items into your calendar as appointments so they’re sure to be completed.

There are lots of books and articles written on the topic of time management and getting things done.

Ten Time Management Tips that Work” in Entrepreneur has some interesting ideas, and so does David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.”

Six time-management tips

What works for one person may not work for others, but there are some tried and true tips that should work for everyone.

Schedule all your meetings in blocks of time. For instance, I hold all of my meetings each day before noon. It’s extremely rare I will take a meeting after 1 p.m. The afternoon time is for getting through my to-do list and being productive.

Have no more than three items on your task list each day. It is impossible to get more than three big things finished each day. By having a to-do list that carries over day after day, you’re adding undue pressure on yourself and creating feelings of being overwhelmed. Have a daily task list with no more than three items on it, and get all three things finished that day.

Schedule time for email and social media. Close your email (or take it offline, which is what I do) and keep your social networks closed for most of the day. Check both first thing in the morning, around lunchtime, and again before you shut down for the day. I’ll check my email from my phone, to be certain there isn’t anything from a client or an employee that is urgent, but it’s rare I will answer them except during my designated time.

Empty your inbox every day. This one may not work for everyone, because I know lots of people who use their inbox as their filing system. That would drive me to drink copious amounts of alcohol. Before I finish for the day, I go through my inbox. I add stuff to my to-do list (in BusyCal), file, respond, and delete. Of course, I have Inbox Zero for all of an hour or two, but when I start the next day, I have a handful of emails that came in overnight, as opposed to a week’s worth.

Write your task list the night before. Before you end your day, figure out what tasks you have remaining for the week, review what’s come in that takes priority, and assign yourself the three most important things for the next day. That way, when you begin your day, you’re ready to roll.

Use one day for nothing but thinking and doing. This day for me is Fridays. I rarely take meetings on Fridays because those are my days to get things done that have been sitting there all week. I do most of my writing on Fridays, I get the Spin Sucks guest posts scheduled, I work on business tasks (process creation, new products, new ideas), and I spend some time preparing for the following week.

Be productive and get things done

I know it’s easy for me to sit here and extol this wisdom. After all, I own the business so I can pretty much determine what works and what doesn’t work.

But I expect this same behavior of my team (cough, team, cough!).

There is only one person who can be sure you are productive: you

You’ll get some pushback in the beginning—”What do you mean you can’t meet at 5:30 on Friday night?”—but people will begin to get used to the schedule you’ve set and will accommodate.

Of course, there are jobs where this won’t work and there will be times you have to be flexible (for instance, I have a meeting this Friday that couldn’t be moved), but for the most part, these tips will help you manage your time, be more productive, and meet that elusive work/life balance.

A version of this article first appeared on Gini Dietrich’s Spin Sucks blog.

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