Have you ever noticed that our to-do lists are getting longer, our distractions are getting more high-tech, but our days aren’t adding any more hours?
Well, high demands require innovative solutions. If you need some creative strategies for getting more done in 2014, here are seven ways to power up and boost your productivity.
1. Create actionable lists
For me, lists are the drivers that document and propel my personal productivity. Without them, I’d be covered in sticky notes and wondering where I parked my car. But not all lists are created equal. The best to-do lists prioritize tasks, include supportive or prerequisite tasks, and are precise and actionable.
For example, instead of “open an IRA,” break that rather large task down into more actionable steps and get specific.The first step might be to research traditional vs. Roth IRAs. The second: Decide on the type of IRA and research three potential providers and their corresponding fund choices.
The third step or task might be to choose a provider and make your investment selections. Dividing larger to-do’s into actionable and specific tasks helps get things done by promoting incremental progress each and every day.
2. Stop multitasking!
Yes, this one deserves an exclamation point. Multitasking gets a lot of good press in our professional lives and in popular culture, but it’s not the best strategy for accomplishing every set of tasks we face.
Instead of trying to juggle three or four to-do’s simultaneously and risking mediocre results with each, focus your attention on one task at a time. Giving a single activity our laser-like attention helps us see opportunities, catch mistakes, and create efficiencies that would otherwise be the casualties of multitasking.
3. Quarter your day
Dividing the block of our waking hours into quarters can help us create mini-itineraries, each with its own goal or set of goals. A rough quarterly schedule might include a specific set of priorities for 7 to 11 a.m., another set for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and so on. Beyond the normal to-do’s like commute, work, prepare dinner, etc., focus on one or two of those “I’ve really been meaning to … ” tasks that can be reasonably accomplished in each block of time. By day’s end, you’ll have worked through at least four to-do’s and kept a healthy, consistent pace.
4. Un-silo your activities
From the solitary experience of driving in our cars to work to working out at the gym, modern life is filled with siloed activity where we’re performing a single task to the exclusion of all others. But it hasn’t always been this way.
Not so long ago, the lines between our activities were happily blurred. For instance, gardening was a food production chore but it was also a chance to socialize with neighbors, get some exercise, and spend time with our kids. Rural life was centered on complementing activity that wasn’t so much multitasking as it was task-blending. And it worked like a charm.
Today, we can accomplish more by taking a critical look at our siloed tasks and rethinking our approach. Consider those activities that naturally fit together. Could you turn that solitary daily commute into a carpool and network with co-workers? How about scrapping the gym membership and strengthening social ties by bicycling with friends and family instead? Maybe you could pick up an elderly parent or neighbor the next time you go grocery shopping and provide broader value for you and for them.
5. Plan one major project each month
We all have those lingering not-so-much-fun projects that we tend to put off month after month. Cleaning the garage, turning that spare bedroom into a home office, making a will, or updating our resumes and LinkedIn profiles all seem to get kicked down the road.
Make 2014 the year you tackle these hangers-on by knocking them out 30 days at a time. Choose one major project at the beginning of each month and resolve to complete it by month’s end.
But be tactical. A month of heavy traveling for work probably isn’t the best month to build your home office, but it could be the perfect time to update your resume, tend to your LinkedIn profile, and focus on building your professional network.
6. Derail distractions
There’s hidden irony in the electronic devices we’re surrounded by every day. They’re designed to make our lives easier and more productive, but they often have a profoundly opposite effect. Phone calls, audible email notifications, texts and IMs create a competing expectancy that divides our attention and dulls our effectiveness.
As surreal as it may feel to turn off that smartphone or set your online status to “busy,” carve out time in your day for uninterrupted work. Even a single hour of distraction-free focus can be enormously productive.
7. Review and reward
Sure, completing a task is its own reward, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a few bonuses here and there. Reviewing progress and rewarding success are key pieces of productivity. As you complete a project or check each item off your long list of to-do’s, take a moment to acknowledge your progress and reward yourself with a day off, a lunch out, or an extra long afternoon coffee break.
Remember, boosting productivity is one part strategy, one part discipline, and one part psychology. Positive reinforcement doesn’t hurt.
Increasing your personal productivity doesn’t have to be painful and finding the time doesn’t require staying up until the wee hours of the morning. With some basic planning, a few solid strategies, and the motivation that success brings, you can become a powerhouse of productivity in 2014.
What methods do you use to boost your productivity at work or at home? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.