To be more productive, we have to be more intentional.
The more we take ownership of our decisions, the more we get out of them.
With that in mind, here are six simple decisions we can make to become more productive in our life and work.
Decide what matters.
All things are not equally important. That’s why productivity is about priorities.
The first step to increased productivity is to decide what we care about — what’s most important, what do we value, and what impact do we want our effort to create?
The more clearly we understand what matters, the more efficiently we can achieve it.
Decide what you want to accomplish.
There’s a big difference between things we “do” and things we accomplish.
A focus on what we want to accomplish allows us to approach our work in an intentional way and ensure the items on our To-Do list align with our goals and ultimately result in a meaningful Done List.
If we focus on what we need to do without aligning those tasks to what we want to accomplish, we waste time on projects that don’t matter and our productivity suffers.
Decide when YOU want to do things.
Look at your calendar. How many of your meetings, calls, appointments, and projects were scheduled based on when you wanted to do them and how many were scheduled based on when other people wanted to do them?
Whenever possible — and it’s possible way more often than we realize — take control and schedule things at times and in places that make sense for you.
Be the first one to suggest a time and place for a meeting— don’t just wait for the other person to suggest a time that’s best for them.
The more intentional we are with our schedule, the more productive it enables us to be.
Decide how much time you want to spend being reactive.
Email and social media are not inherently evil (as some people think), but they are reactive platforms.
When we dip into our inbox or get a notification from a social platform, we are reacting to other people’s inputs.
It’s not an intentional approach and it can drain our productivity.
Rather than allow those platforms to draw us into a reactive state, we can regain control by using them with intention.
We can choose specific times to use those platforms (even if those times are frequent) and limit ourselves to those times.
We can (and should) turn off notifications.
Doing so protects us from falling into the trap of spending the majority of our time in a reactive manner as opposed to a proactive one.
Decide when you will take a break.
It may seem counterintuitive, but breaks are productive.
Research has shown breaks during the day (and vacations) make us more productive, creative, and successful.
But we are often not intentional about how we take breaks.
Our breaks come about when people magically stop bugging us about something, when a meeting happens to end early, or when there’s a random slow moment at our job.
Those are happy accidents, they are not intentional.
An intentional approach to taking breaks means incorporating them into our schedule regardless of what else is happening. And it means truly disconnecting from our work during that time — even if it’s brief.
Fifteen minutes spent sipping a coffee and watching the world go by is a break. Fifteen minutes in a coffee shop checking our work email isn’t a break — it’s just work in a different location.
Breaks matter. Take them. Real ones.
Decide what you will let slide.
We can’t do it all.
No matter how hard we work, no matter how productive we become, we will never be able to accomplish everything we want.
It’s important to be honest with ourselves about what we’re willing to let suffer.
What are we willing to let fail? What are we willing to commit the minimum amount of effort to? What are we comfortable with not giving our full attention?
These are difficult questions to answer, but they’re just as important as knowing what we most want to accomplish.
The more we can be honest with ourselves about what isn’t important to us, the easier it becomes to let it go.
And letting it go frees us up to focus on things that matter. The things we want to accomplish. The things that make us productive.
Which is why you started reading this in the first place, right?
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