Maximizing productivity is an aspiration of every leader. The trouble for many is prioritizing tasks, which can be difficult when everything seems to be a priority. The most productive people have a clear understanding of what needs to get done and when. They are able to put aside distractions—and they don’t confuse being busy with being productive.
So, how can you manage the chaos around you and focus on the tasks that are most valuable? Below are six helpful habits for productivity to embrace.
1. Inbox to Zero
A tidy inbox is one productivity secret. As soon as you complete a task, archive or file that message and all related emails. The reverse is also true: an open e-mail should be a trigger to accomplish an item on your personal to-do list. By using this kind of a system, you can file and organize work as it comes in.
Conversely, when you are working on important, non-email related work, turn off your media—no email and no notifications. Allow yourself to get into a deep flow state where you are able to think through big problems, write, and plan.
2. Balance Strategic and Operational Goals
Leaders will need to find a balance between working on strategy and managing the day-to-day operations. Both are important, but each requires a completely different focus and discipline.
Succeeding in strategic roles requires you to say “no” to some tasks, even if they are easy for you to accomplish. You must become comfortable with being disconnected to some operational elements of your organization – at least some of the time. Future-forward, strategic work is important work with lots of planning and systems design so that the people involved can contribute in a meaningful way.
3. Honor Your Time
Highly productive people are good at qualifying which tasks get your time. Another way to improve productivity is to try not to let others dictate your schedule. (Of course, this is sometimes unavoidable.) Instead, work at being a better negotiator of your time. Time is a limited resource. You must take control of yours in active ways as well as passive ways, such as blocking time in your calendar.
4. Take control of Your Schedule
Identify what time of day you do your best, or your worst, work. For some people, mornings are best for creation, output and focus. Afternoons are great for learning, social activities and meetings. Evenings for many, are best for meditations and planning. Find what’s best for you and build your schedule around it.
5. Celebrate the Small Accomplishments
People love accomplishing things, some really enjoy checking tasks off of their to-do list. As a leader balancing small projects with big ones can give you a feeling of achievement. A great time to do the small tasks is when you need a break from something that is demanding.
You can do this on paper, an app on your phone, or a workplace productivity suite. Have small and large tasks listed on your to-do list. Both need to happen, and both make you feel good when you check them off.