Do you wake up each morning with a plan to be super productive? Tackle everything on your to-do list? Attend every meeting well prepared, with ideas that are sure to wow your colleagues or your clients? Participate in the 5 p.m. networking event across town, then hit the gym, go out to dinner or put dinner on the table, and then get the kids to bed by 8 p.m.? It’s all in a day’s work, right?
I don’t know about you, but I have come to expect – and even embrace – that no matter how great my intentions are to get through my never-ending to-do list, something ALWAYS derails it. That is the beauty of life – right? But how do we stay focused and remain productive in a world that is ALWAYS ON? I was discussing this issue with a friend over dinner last week. With exasperation, she said, “I can get it all done, I just need to find more time.” I’ve been thinking about that comment a lot lately. We all say we just need to Find. More. Time. Unfortunately, you can’t really FIND more time in the 24-hour day. You have to MAKE more time, which means learning to work smarter, not longer. Do you have any fool-proof productivity tips? If so, I’d love to hear them! Following are my five tips for a more productive workday:
- I apply the “Ivy Lee method” to my to-do list: If you’re in the marketing and communication field, you’ve probably heard of Ivy Lee, a pioneer in our industry. In the early 1900’s, he came up with a simple, yet effective, method for achieving peak productivity that is still relevant today: (1) Write down the six most important tasks you need to accomplish tomorrow. (2) Prioritize the six items in order of importance. (3) When you arrive at work the next day, concentrate on the first task and do not move on until it is completed. (4) Approach the remainder of the list in the same way. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to your new list of six tasks. While this approach doesn’t take into consideration the chaos and disruptions of everyday life, it does make you commit. Take a deep breath, deal with the unexpected as it arises, and then get back to your list.
- I’m in control of my calendar: In our organization, colleagues can view each other’s Outlook calendar. While convenient, it can mean that my entire day is scheduled with back-to-back meetings — All. Day. Long. This means I don’t have time during the day to get my work done, and must do it after office hours or in the wee early mornings. To avoid this overload to my calendar and being derailed by unexpected meetings, I block out time each day to tackle important tasks. While this method doesn’t always work as planned since client and team needs will arise that require immediate focus and attention, I remain in control by prioritizing accordingly and determining what’s most critical for me to accomplish during a given timeframe.
- I have mastered the art of delegation and collaboration: The people who are the most productive know how to “let go.” I have hired and surrounded myself with exceptionally talented people. I trust my colleagues and expect them to make smart decisions and execute to the best of their ability. However, I also understand that very little gets accomplished by one person alone, especially in the fast-paced world of healthcare marketing and communications. Collaboration is critical to overall success. In a world where teams are highly interdependent, the old adage that W2O has adopted as part of our core values rings true: We are always better together.
- I check my email first thing in the morning: Yes, I know this is controversial and many organizational psychologists disagree. However, checking my email first thing in the morning ensures I start my day on the right foot. W2O has offices in four time zones, so, depending where I am on a given morning, many of my teammates and clients have been up working for three+ hours while I’ve been asleep. It’s important that I check in before I start my day to address important issues that need my attention and determine whether I need to adjust my day or proceed as planned.
- I take time for professional development: Whether you’re a CEO or an intern, there is always something new to learn – through a company lunch & learn, a 10-minute Ted Talk (Seth Godin’s The Tribes We Lead is a regular go-to for me!), an industry conference (make time to go and get involved!) or the newest business best-seller (I’m reading Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in A Silicon Valley Startup). It’s important that I further my business and leadership knowledge, learn new skills and gain fresh perspective. If a new skill has the potential to help increase my value to my team, my clients or my own personal and professional growth, which inevitably impacts my productivity, you better believe I’m going to master it!
Remember, mastering productivity isn’t rocket science. You simply have to make it a priority. Send me a note with your thoughts on how you stay most productive firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear your ideas!