We all have a great deal of work to do. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, church leader, have multiple jobs, or work in the corporate world – we all want to be more productive. Here are ten ideas I’m trying to employ to get things done better.
1. Do one thing. Multitasking is not the same as productivity. In fact, say it with me: “Multitasking is not the same as productivity.” Keeping multiple tabs open on a browser plus listening to a podcast plus checking email every few minutes plus working on a work project does not work well. So, find the one thing that is the high priority and tackle it.
2. Take advantage of technology Our company utilizes numerous digital systems for our work with Google apps at the center of it all. I use Gmail and Google Calendar for communicating and my schedule. Though I have other email accounts, they are all forwarded to Gmail. Additionally, I use Evernote for keeping notes on everything and Dropbox getting access to my files no matter where I am. On the church front, our church staff uses Planning Center Online to organize Sunday services.
3. Do not set Inbox Zero as the goal. I have given into the idea that answering, deleting, or archiving every email is a primary goal. Make well-crafted answers and effective communication your goal.
4. Take control of your schedule. It is your calendar, so act like it. Remember that it is perfectly okay to reject a meeting invitation simply because you want or need to do so. Let people know when you are available and not available.
5. Schedule meetings consecutively. To maximize your day, push your meetings together. It is not something that I do as well as I wished but I’m working toward it. Get in and prepare for them, have all of your meetings, and then finish your day.
6. Block off time for thinking. One of the dangers we fall into is to stay so busy that we never plan, strategize, or mentally process our work. Take control of your schedule so that you can think well. Busy-ness will drain you of creativity and working with a clear head. So intentionally block time to simply work on the next steps of work.
7. Read well if you want to communicate well. Eventually, after all of the work you do, you’ve got to talk about it. In order to do so effectively, you need to read well. I suggest that you take time to read great literature and biographies of great leaders. It will increase your abilities to communicate your thoughts, plans, and vision for the future.
8. Choose carefully how you meet with people. We are often enslaved to the person on the other side of the conversation; especially in how to do the meeting. So choose carefully. Instead of traveling to another city, try video conferencing first. Before starting a never-ending email thread, pick up the phone and settle the matter. And, perhaps best of all, get up from your desk and walk over to the other person’s desk. A face-to-face meeting is one of the most productive things you can do.
9. To-do lists actually work. Every job has a ton of details to maintain mastery over. Projects, reports, number crunching, phone calls, and all the rest need to be given attention. Create a to-do list—digital, app, whiteboard, or in a notebook—and then stick to it. Constantly force rank what has to be done and stay accountable to it.
10. Capture your “Aha!” moments. We constantly come up with great ideas but loose track of them. Find a system that you can use to capture them. Put a notebook by your bed for late night, middle of the night, and the just-woke-up-with-it ideas. Use a note-taking app on your smart phone or tablet. Carry around a journal. Do whatever is necessary to grab those great ideas.