Countless new books, articles, and seminars each year focus on how we can boost our productivity, get organized, and make the most of our days at work. Don’t get me wrong, the overwhelming majority of them are filled with useful information, clever tips, and inspiring ideas for ways to become more efficient. However, what works best for me are often the most simple of strategies. I’ve taken my favorite tips from what I’ve read, and also what I’ve personally found effective, to create a simple three-step system for staying organized and boosting my own productivity.
Here are my three time savers for staying efficient, effective and productive each day.
1. Calendar Everything
By adding important tasks to your calendar, you are ensuring that it will stay top-of-mind and will not get overlooked throughout the day. It is the best form of a to-do list – and as long as you stick to the plan, you will get everything that you had hoped to achieve done.
At the end of each day, I take it a step further by adding a block of time in my calendar (I use Outlook, but Gmail and iCal work too) to prepare for my meetings and make a plan for the following day. Yes, I effectively have a meeting with myself, before I head to my “real” meetings. This ensures that I am always prepared for the particular meeting I’m attending, and that I start the next day feeling calm, in control, and with a clear understanding of what it is I am hoping to accomplish. Otherwise, I’ve found I get absorbed in tasks that are important, but not time sensitive, and the things that I really need to accomplish are pushed aside. It is so easy to get lost in the shuffle of a busy day that spending a few minutes of time strategizing the night before has proven time and again to keep me on track.
2. Plan for Playing Catch-Up
In a perfect world I’d have an entire day each week just to catch up on things that I didn’t finish for the rest of the week. Maybe I started to outline a new article, but a call came in that I needed to take, and it was never finished. In any case, sometimes even with the best intentions, I start a project that for one reason or another doesn’t get completed. To help prevent that, I always block off at least one-half of a day per week for catching up. I like using Friday afternoons for playing catch up, as it lets me go into the weekend feeling organized, but I’ve found that Wednesday afternoons also work well to get me through the week as organized and on top of my work as possible.
3. Commit to Consistency
If email is important to your business, spend time every morning at the same time each day to respond to critical emails. If you need to make marketing calls, schedule specific hours when you’ll focus only on doing that. Having a schedule and a routine that you stick to can keep you calm and productive even if the remainder of your day goes haywire. Having a schedule where at least a few hours a day are devoted entirely to a specific and vital task will ensure that the most important part of your job never falls by the wayside.
In order to avoid feeling like there just aren’t enough hours in the day, or worse, that you’ve spent hours doing nothing, make sure you’ve prioritized your responsibilities, you’re prepared for meetings, and that you allow yourself adequate time to address the most pressing needs of your job. Then, you might just find that you’re getting a little bit closer to achieving more balance in your life!