The number one productivity technique which I recommend that you absolutely try this year is to move beyond using to do lists. It has proven to be one of my secret weapons in getting things done.
Instead of creating a list of things that I need to get done during a day, a week or a month, I use my calendar and block off a specific time frame to get each one of the various tasks done. As you know, it is an entirely different matter to just list six things you need to get done tomorrow rather than deciding to schedule 30 minutes, 8:30 – 9:00 to Make Calls to client X, client Y and prospective client W, 15 minutes to review the proposal that your assistant sent you to approve and an hour to work on preparing for that session you are going to have with your biggest client next week. It’s a whole different frame of mind when you are talking about that kind of accountability and specificity.
I have always believed that if you really want to get anything done, you have to write it down. For years I have been saying that the mind is a terrible place to store important information. (It’s not original. I borrowed it from a colleague and never gave it back.) Anyone who is serious about productivity never relies on their memory. You cannot have the greatness that your brain is capable of displaying being hamstrung by your need to remember to call Suzie at 3:00 pm. Write it down. You need to leave your brain free to be creative so that it can come up with new ideas or figure out how to solve the persistent problems that it has been facing.
Scheduling your tasks in a calendar with reminders takes your productivity game beyond just writing things down on multiple lists. I know that some people still prefer to write their appointments in a physical calendar and that’s okay too. I stepped away from that as I became busier over the years, since the paper based calendar did not allow me the flexibility that an electronic one did. If you however, are still using paper, you can also benefit from scheduling your tasks rather than using written to do lists.
Now here is part of the reason why this works. When the identified time rolls around you don’t have to waste precious minutes trying to decide or remember what to do. You have already made the decision and, at the appointed time, you can just jump straight into taking action.
Additionally, it works because it lets you know whether there actually is enough time to allocate to all the items you need to complete. It helps you to see whether you are setting yourself up for failure. With a calendar, you can immediately recognize that if your six tasks are going to take an hour each to complete, and you do not have more than four hours in your day that is not already accounted for, then you know that you will have to reschedule something. That allows you to better manage your use of time and the expectations that you allow others to have of you and your deliverables. That is improved productivity.
When I switched to using this scheduling technique, my productivity went through the roof. I couldn’t believe how easier it seemed to be for me to be able to get multiple tasks done in a relatively short space of time. Plus you know me. I get motivated by achievement and being able to schedule something and then get it done when it is scheduled to be done, is like achievement on steroids.
My experiences have shown me that this works, for me and for others. Try it and let me know what you think. Or if you have any other great productivity secret weapons in your arsenal, share them with us.
Marjorie Wharton is a trainer, facilitator and coach who works with individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance. She is based at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. For more of her writing visit https://marjoriewharton.live