How to Increase Your Productivity by Leveraging Transition Points
For the average person I coach or interact with, their approach to planning consists of getting a list of tasks together and keeping their calendar up to date with commitments. They then wake up and go, off to the races like a rifle shot. That is, until the end of the day when they sit in bewilderment at what just occurred for the last ten hours.
In the midst of that sprint, hundreds of transition points occurred when you were wrapping up one action and had to decide what to do next. This could be getting in the car and deciding what to listen to next, or finishing one meeting at 10:45am and finding yourself with 45 minutes before your next obligation. Many of these transition points are smaller in stature or stakes and handled automatically, but you will find yourself with around 10–20 throughout the day that hold tremendous potential for your overall effectiveness.
Let’s revisit the previous example of finishing a meeting at 10:45am, but with some direct application to yourself. Once you return to your desk, you will most likely hop into your inbox. It has become instinctual for you, whether it’s the dopamine effect or your fear of missing out on something that gives you a sense of value. However, is checking your inbox the most effective use of your time? In almost all cases the answer is a resounding no. What if you instead completed 20 minutes of additional research for a critical meeting that afternoon? Or what if you sent handwritten notes to your two most critical business relationships simply expressing gratitude? You could also complete the memo your boss has been requesting for the last week, and in turn check that off your to-do list and relieve the internal anxiety it’s causing. These examples are a far more effective usage of your time. Your inbox is still going to be there 20 minutes later, and those 20 minutes are not going to make or break someone else’s demands of you.
And on that subject — what does your inbox truly consist of? In some part, there is vital information for you to execute your priorities. For the most part, though, much of what you will find there is everyone else’s perceptions of what your priorities should be — and these rarely align with your best interests.
Here’s an exercise you can immediately apply to your day to help you manage your transitions between commitments — and fully realize the value this concept can bring to your life. We’re going to build on a level of structure you more than likely already possess and just make a few tweaks. Go ahead and pick 2–4 tasks that each take 15 or less minutes. Now, let’s look at your calendar and identity a few moments where you’re finishing a commitment and have a block of open time. Take a task and create a new calendar item dedicated to it that immediately follows the already existing commitment. Be sure to fill in all the details you’ll need to complete the task, attach any files, etc. The second that initial commitment is completed you’ll want to be able to seamlessly hop into your calendar and knock the task out.
Planning your task-based transitions does take practice. If you find some success in your first effort, then make a commitment to try it for 4–5 days. I’ve found this length of time allows my clients enough of a sample size to fully grasp the value the behavior generates.
Additionally, there are a small handful of very critical transitions that exist each day that are focused more on the roles you fulfill than tasks that need to be completed. All of us exist in multiple roles — professional, peer, parent, friend, partner, whole self. And every day we’re trying to manage these roles and switch in and out of them with some sense of fluidity. The reality, though, is this is near impossible to do without significant intention.
Make a list of all the roles you can think of for yourself. Mine would look something like the following: father, husband, friend, peer, coach, consultant, content creator, boss, learner, and athlete. Considering I have around 18 hours each day to fulfill these 11 roles, you can see where the wheels can quickly come off if I’m not focused on transitioning between each of them.
I work primarily from my home office, and the only thing separating my professional roles from the roles of husband and father are a single door. I cannot do these latter roles justice if I finish a highly intense coaching session and immediately step outside my office. I need to transition from one role to the next with ten minutes of some decompression activity. For me, the learner role serves as a powerful transition between high anxiety roles (coach) and the roles I should be enjoying (husband and father). Before I leave my office, I’ll spend some time reading and taking an online course before stepping into the roles of my home life.
Transitions = Decisions between tasks + Role switching
Preplan your transitions with items already existing on your list. Put them on your calendar immediately following preexisting commitments. Include some high value tasks if you can, but even the smaller yet still urgent items work wonderfully.
Identify all the roles you fulfill each day and plan their transitions with maximum intention. Some of them can even complement each other, creating a natural flow to your day.
Originally published at https://www.retri.consulting.