I’ve spent the last several months launching a startup for life coaches while also working at my day job. I’ve had to work productively and effectively to get a lot of things done in a very short amount of time.
Today I’m sharing with you the top 4 guidelines that I’ve distilled in my pursuit of supreme productivity. It applies to working as well as studying. If you don’t already have a life coach, consider getting one or becoming your own.
Rule #1: Optimize Your To-Do List
Do not keep your to-do list static.
If the work that you’re doing is anything like mine, then you might need to re-prioritize your to-do list several times a day. The most important tasks that you need to accomplish might change daily or hourly.
For some people, the top of your to-do list might be the same two things every day. For instance, a salesman friend of mine has the same 2 top priorities every day: prospect for new customers and follow up with prospects. The point is this:
Always keep the most important things at the top of your list.
It’s human nature to avoid the things that we don’t like doing. So we often do what we feel like doing first, and push off the things we don’t feel like doing for another day. This will keep you comfortable, but not productive.
If you really want to be productive, you’ll have to bite the bullet and do the most important tasks first, whether you feel like it or not. This is your job — to do the tasks that will allow you to reach your goal as quickly as possible.
When you finish a task or you don’t know what to do next, keep going back to your list. Be systematic. “Task A is done, what is Task B on my list? I will start Task B right now.”
Rule #2: Keep Your Ultimate Goal at the Top of Your List
Keep your clearly stated overall goal at the very top of your to-do list. Let’s say that your goal is to get a new customer. At the top of your to-do list, write:
Goal: Get new customers.
Every task you have is subordinate to whatever goal you’re trying to attain. Keeping your ultimate goal at the top of your to-do list will keep you focused. It will allow you to keep re-prioritizing the most important tasks so that they align with your goal.
Without your goal at the top of your to-do list, it’s easy to get sloppy and have less important tasks near the top that won’t really get you much closer to your goal. Demote that task and replace it with something more effective.
Rule #3: No Distractions Allowed
Don’t set yourself up for failure. Give yourself the right environment to be successful. You don’t need people talking to you, Facebook open, or to be checking your email. If you have to, lock yourself in a room.
If you really want to be productive and get things done, then block out a period of time in which you will commit yourself to doing your tasks. In this time, you will disallow any and all distractions (except for true emergencies).
For example, let’s say that you’re going to work productively for 1 hour. In that hour, there is:
- a quiet, distraction-free environment
- no Facebook allowed
- no checking email allowed
- cell phone turned off
- no people around you who will distract you
- complete focus on your tasks
Pretty simple. Sound harsh? If you want to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs. I would rather work with intense focus for 1 hour than to work half-focused for 4 hours and get the same amount of work done.
Rule #4: Take Breaks
If you work non-stop for too long (like I often do), you’ll get tired and become less productive, less creative, less inspired and less motivated. Ironically, taking breaks makes you more productive.
Find the right proportion of breaks that allow you to recover and re-charge your batteries. Some people say 5 minutes every hour. I like to do 15 minutes every hour and a half. Keep it systematic so that you’re getting things done, instead of working for an hour and then taking a 2-hour break.
Use your break time as your time to do anything you want, maybe something fun or relaxing. Whatever feels best to you. This will help you to recover more effectively. Look at Google’s work environment as an example. There are plenty of great things to do while taking your break.
How About You?
So what are your guidelines for being productive?
What works best for you?
Tom Casano is the founder of LifeCoachSpotter.com. Get answers to common questions like What is a life coach? and How do I find a life coach? Learn about how a life coach can transform your life in just a few months.