Hack your productivity

I’ve always been someone that held good organisational skills in high-regard, and I live and die by lists. But with an increasingly busy professional and personal life I needed to find a way to streamline my to-do list and gear myself up to achieve more.

To help me do this I have created — by way of fusion — what I think is one of the most complete approaches to a productive day… well, for me anyway.

Make your bed

A brand new addition to this approach but one I have been an advocate of for many years, without even realising. Make you bed after you wake up. And make it well. Doing so and you are completing your first (albeit small) task of the day making the next challenge (exercising, having breakfast, or in my case brewing coffee) seem that much more achievable. Now you have momentum!

Avoid your email

At least for the first 30–60 minutes at your desk. Make this time about you. Bring yourself up-to-speed on news from your industry. Speak to your colleagues. Make those phone calls you’ve been meaning to make. Clear away distracting clutter. Update your schedule (including breaks). Whatever you decide to do, set yourself up for the day. Which brings me onto the next step…

Make your lists

I’m a big advocate of good list making. It helps me to get things done. I generally use todoist.com to record tasks on the go. I also highly rate traditional pen and paper. But just writing things down in a long, seemingly unending string of “to-dos” is counter productive. It’s oppressive. And it has no sense of priority. That’s why I’ve combined a number of methods to help sort through the noise of a busy day…

The Eisenhower Method: Or more commonly Quadrants. But with a twist. My quadrants are labelled as; Actions to do today; Actions I need to do; Things I’d like to do; and Things I’ve delegated. I find this much more positive and it allows me to list down everything I need to do, including any creative ideas I’ve had, whilst remaining focused on the most important actions.

The Ivy Lee Method: I gain some focus by only listing up to six actions in my “Actions to do today” quadrant. I can choose to list less but definitely add no more than six. And obviously if I do all six I move on to other quadrants and get cracking.

The 1–3–5 Method: Revised to my own 1–2–3 Method. As in, for my six “Actions to do today”, there will be one big item, two medium items and three smaller items. This allows me to further prioritise today’s work which actually improves the likelihood of completing everything, freeing up more time to work on some of the other actions.

Do the big stuff first

Aim to complete the biggest, scariest, most complicated action on your “Actions to do today” list first… and aim to complete it before lunch. In a similar way to the “Make your bed” step, getting something substantial out of the way in the morning will give you plenty of momentum, making your afternoon seem easy in comparison.

List your extras

You can’t plan for all eventualities. So if you get given something to do that’s not on your list that simply can’t wait, write it down so you can cross it out when it’s done and bask in an added sense of achievement.

Do your chores

Save the last 30–60 mins of your day to tackle any of the inescapable admin and chores we’re all burdened with. Dealing with this stuff everyday in small bites can prevent this sort of stuff mounting up, wasting more time later on.

Take time to reflect

Review your day. What went well? What didn’t go well? Did you have enough to do or too much? Are any of today’s actions going to be at the top of tomorrow’s list? Be mindful of what you have achieved and tomorrow will be even better. I promise. And of course, your review time is a great chance for you to be getting ahead of the game and start planning for tomorrow.

And there we have it. My full (current) approach. Please do let me know if you try any of this for yourself. And if you have anything to add, please comment .

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