After 15+ years in my professional life, I’d like to share some productivity lessons that help me work more effectively every day. I’m sure you can incorporate a lot of these into your daily workflow management practice, reaching greater heights in any field of activity.
Once you choose a case and get started on it, the best strategy for high productivity is to continue to be involved in that case and its related project. As long as you’re involved, you can get more done than trying to work on several projects at once in bursts. Sometimes you have to switch. Sometimes you have to do it a lot. But when you have the choice of continuing or switching, keep going as long as you can.
If there’s a project that your heart’s more passionate about and there’s even the slightest chance to get started on it, you should get started. Motivation and inspiration aren’t permanent, so as long as you have it, ride the wave. It’s better than trying to switch between different projects just because they stay on your to-do list longer. You can do more on a wave of inspiration, and months or years from now it won’t matter how diligently you’ve switched between a lot of urgent cases, blunting your natural motivation every time. If you want to get to work on a project and have the opportunity, get to it.
If it’s hard to decide which thing is the highest priority at the moment, start with the first one. You’ll need a list for this, hopefully you already have one, or write down anything that’s troubling. Do the first one. Something tells you to do the other before it, do the other. This is the principle of the simplest and most effective to-do prioritization system, Final Version Perfected.
There are things that take a significant amount of time to complete. Even if you don’t have the energy to do it, start small, set a timer for the minimum number of minutes you have the energy for, even if it’s 2 minutes. Consider as a micro-goal not completing the whole thing or project, but immersing yourself in the context of the task, reducing your psychological resistance to doing it. Once the time is over, you can switch to the next task or clock in some more time, the same period or slightly longer. Fibbonacci numbers are great for this – 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 35 minutes – you choose the smallest you are physically and emotionally ready for.
The day is too short a span for planning, and it’s okay that your entire to-do list can’t fit into it. However, it can and should fit in a bigger space, like a week. Anything that doesn’t fit can be crossed off and has no place on the active to-do list right now. So count on the fact that you have a week to complete everything, hence the opportunity to dive deeper into the current task. One completed project is worth five half-completed ones. Simply because the last 20% before completion requires as much effort as the first 80%. Not always, but often. 80% of the time. So stay in business as long as possible, given a weekly planning horizon.
At the end of the day, it’s helpful to dream about what a productive day might look like tomorrow. What heroic over-the-top efforts you could make tomorrow. It’s not a given that you’ll have enough energy, but it’s very helpful to dream. Go beyond what looks real today, dream bigger. This will help your subconscious find ways to overcome the limits of your former productivity and reach new heights. Even if not all of them. But even one success, one achievement of what was considered a super achievement yesterday, is a feat.
Start with development. It’s good for all of us to sharpen our axe so we can chop things up more effectively left and right. And it’s worth doing before you rush into work. Let the first hours of each work day be spent developing. Can’t allow hours – allow an hour, can’t allow an hour – find a half hour. Difficult and that – start small, let it be even 10-15 minutes of focused effort to develop your skills. That’s the key to daily increasing productivity. You won’t see everything right away, but over time this effort will snowball into a higher level of performance.
They say that life lessons are only learned through experience. Well, then go ahead, incorporate ideas into your workflow and turn them into your experiences. 7 productivity lessons in a nutshell: