I don’t know about you, but when I am less than productive, I am grouchy!
I get irritable when I get behind. Interruptions annoy the crap out of me. Not only do I get short with others, but I also beat myself up.
At times, it is in fact, very hard to stay focused! But it doesn't always have to be.
Unproductive days = Bad mood
You too likely feel this level of irritation on less than productive days. You also know the consequence of how an unproductive day can spill into your evening. Being terse with your staff is certainly not optimal, but a cutting remark with your child can leave you feeling inept in the parenting department. Adding to the guilty parent syndrome is insomnia. As you lay there ruminating through your list of undone tasks, the cycle begins again. The pressure increases the next day, to more, in less time.
Turn that frown upside down
This all too familiar cycle was the norm for me for years. The more determined I got in the last few years to meaningful work, the more necessary it became to be productive. Changing a few things has made an incredible difference for me. I still have less productive times, but they are fewer and farther between. I end most weeks ticking everything off of my weekly list.
Planning + Prioritizing + Hacks = Productivity
The last couple of weeks I walked you through my method of weekly planning and prioritizing. This week, I’m giving you 3 productivity hacks that will help you take that weekly and daily to-do list and get them done. The result, you can shut off at the end of the day knowing you completed what you needed to. Being productive at work frees up your mind and your energy to shift into the rest of your life. Feeling upbeat when you come home at the end of your workday results in a much more enjoyable evening with your loved ones!
The 3 Productivity Hacks Guaranteed to Boost Your Mood
1. Batch Similar Tasks
Batching refers to doing the same things at the same time. It also relates to completing similar types of activities back-to-back.
You likely already know that multitasking is ineffective. That is because your brain can only do one thing, at a time. Multitasking is when you are trying to switch from one to another. The problem is, it takes your brain a bit to catch up.
Remember Newton’s law: An object in motion stays in motion? The same happens with your brain. When you are focused on performance reviews and then switch to opening up an Excel spreadsheet with budgets on it, your brain is still moving in the direction of staff growth and development. It takes effort to stop that train of thought and switch to thinking about numbers. Don't work your brain so hard. Batch similar items together, so your brain is going in the same direction.
Another benefit of batching is reduced preparation and cleanup. If I am working on one project, I have files out, and binders flagged, There are a multitude of windows open on my computer. I won’t lie to you; it’s a mess. To shift to a different project, I either have to spend time cleaning it all up (only to pull it all out again tomorrow) or open folders, books, and tabs on top of the current mayhem. Starting something new before finishing the old adds to the clutter. Both of these options make a messier workspace. They also take up more time. Batching items together cuts down preparation time and minimizes clutter.
When you are working on a project, stick to it. Batch projects together to keep the brain focused, save time, and eliminate clutter. Here are some examples:
2. Make the best use of your productive times
First, figure out when your most productive times are
Second, know the tasks necessitating your peak focus
Typically, just like in school, the things that require that level of diligence are reading, writing and arithmetic. If you need to read over and digest a report, you’ll need high focus. Composing a letter, a review or proposal are duties that demand attentiveness. It goes without saying that for most of us, spreadsheets call forth a need for concentrated attention as well.
Finally, use your time wisely
Schedule the activities requiring intense concentration into the times that you are best able to focus. I think I say this in every blog post….don’t do email first thing! Save email as a before lunch activity when you are already a bit fried. Do your reading, writing, and arithmetic when you need peak energy, focus, and willpower.
3. Minimize and eliminate interruptions
Create your environment, so you are least likely to be interrupted
Set your boundaries
Get clear that you’re unavailable and for how long.
Reinforce your boundaries
Practice what you’ll say to people when they interrupt you.
“I will time at 10:00 am. Right now I am focusing on these reports needing to be completed. If it’s important before then, Crystal can help you out.”
Be strict ---> with yourself
You are your own worst enemy. Your lack of focus comes more often from inside than outside. Focus requires an incredible amount of willpower. Read these blogs to discover more about staying focused.
Lengthy To-Do lists are paralyzing!
The endless list of tasks, all which seem important, blurs in front of us. Flabbergasted at the daunting chore of prioritizing, we play it safe. Many of us then default into checking email one more time. By averting the cursed To-Do list repeatedly, we not only get further behind but more and more disheartened.
It's the norm for most of us
Ask any leader and you’ll likely hear a similar response.
Stop fighting with your To-Do list
Rather than your To-Do list being your foe, let me show you how it can be your valuable assistant. By prioritizing your To-Do list into some semblance of order, it can become a tool working for you, instead of a threat against you. Last week I walked you through a weekly planning session that had you develop a list of tasks for the upcoming week. Take the list you made and prioritize it by asking yourself the following 3 questions.
3 Questions to ask when prioritizing your To-Do list
Make use of the questions
Use these 3 questions to prioritize your weekly To-Do list and your accompanying schedule. Look at what you realistically needs to get done this week and move it to the top of your list. The rest can stay on the list perhaps and get it done if you truly have the time. But make sure the top priorities get done first. How do you do that? You get done the priories items by then moving prioritizing your daily To Do’s.
3- minute daily prioritizing
At the beginning of each day, spend three minutes identifying the top three priority To Do items for that day. Yes, only three!
It isn’t that you can only do those three things, rather those are the 3 mandatory things you must get done.
Make a separate sticky note, highlight the To-Do’s, or in some way identify that they are your top three items for the day. Then, ensure that these things get done to the best of your ability before 11 AM.
If you truly want to be more productive and successful at getting done the most important things, get your top three done every day. When you do, you will find things move forward much quicker for you.
Putting it all together
Remember to look at last week’s post on planning. In it, I walk you through the steps in how to pull out all of the To-Do’s items for in a weekly planning session. Each week, take your list and line it up against the following considerations:
Follow the plan and find your friend
Use these questions to help you create a weekly To-Do list that assists you. Your To-Do list becomes your friendly reminder of what is truly important. Use it to guide you each day, to pull out your top three To-Do items you need to focus on. Follow these steps and your peers will be wondering how suddenly you are accomplishing so much!
Question: What were your top 3 To-Do items for today?
Do you find each week you intend to get a lot done, but mournfully realize that when Friday hits you’ve barely touched your own to do list? Instead, you accomplished a lot of things that other people added to your to-do list. In the process of reacting to everyone else’s demands you didn’t get the assignments done, you wanted to. Miserably, you note that some of the unfinished items on your list were crucial tasks to move important projects forward that were truly important to you and your team.
Trust me, you are not the only one who feels like this at the end of your week.
Too much reacting rather than responding
Leaders spend more time acting on requests from others than completing their own priority tasks. The sense of urgency to solve everyone else's problems leaves a manager feeling as though they spend their days chasing fires and never getting anywhere. If you want to get off that hamster wheel and do more of your essential work, then you will need to be more intentional about what you are doing with your time rather than reactionary.
Critical to begin with planning
It is critical that you start each week by planning your week. Before you get caught up in chasing everybody else’s plans and agenda for you, you must reorient yourself to what are priorities for you. By setting aside time each week to lay out what you want your week to look like, you will have better control of what actually happens.
Get your head out of the sand
Weekly planning sessions allow you to pull your head out of the sand. While it is important to put your head down and get work done at times, a leader's critical function is to lift their head (and their organization’s head) up and get a bigger picture view repeatedly. Weekly planning time is this head up, expansive view of the bigger picture. This time allows the leader to put things into perspective for them and their organization.
Weekly planning allows you to get projects, plans, and tasks into focus again. From this outlook, you can choose how to respond to your week rather than frantically reacting to whatever shows up in your inbox, at your door or on your desk. Creating a habit of weekly planning puts you back in control and moving forward, rather than running around and around.
3 Steps to creating a weekly planning habit
1) Schedule a weekly time slot into your agenda
First set aside time each week to do your planning. Schedule it into your agenda and stick to it. Depending on your level of responsibilities and your style, you will need 20 minutes to an hour.
Dealing with the big list of items
You should now have a list of things you want to tackle in the upcoming week. For some of you, this might feel a bit overwhelming. For others, it might be refreshing. One way to look at it is that you now have everything out of your brain and in one place. There will be less of a chance of forgetting things or having things lost in the shuffle.
Dumping everything onto this list, from this big picture perspective is in itself, helpful. It creates a roadmap for your week. This plan also you to set boundaries with others when they are trying to take your time. You can align their request up, with what remains on your to-do list for the week. From there that you can make an informed choice rather of what to do than react to what’s thrown at you.
3) Creating your plan
From this list of action items, create your plan for the week.
Make weekly planning your priority
Setting aside time to plan your week puts you on track to having a more productive week. Choose when you want to do this, then schedule planning time weekly into your agenda. During the identified time review your annual goals, quarterly projects, the previous week appointments and upcoming week’s schedule. From this analysis create a list of tasks you want to accomplish. Stay tuned next week, for how to then, prioritize that list.
QUESTION: While this all sounds great, I'd love to hear your objections to doing this each week. What might get in the way? How would you work around that? Make a comment below.
If you are struggling to get moving on a project or finding a lack of motivation in your team, you need to figure our the “why” behind the task. You need to discover your motive.
A motive is something that causes a person to act such as:
At work, those truly aren’t the best motives. Even money doesn’t work to encourage people.
What does work to get motivation?
Getting connected to why you need to do what you need to do is the strongest motivator there is. If we can’t understand the importance of what we are doing, connected to the bigger picture, there is nothing to pull us forward.
Many of you have heard the following parable. I think it’s worth repeating here:
A man came upon a construction site where three people were working.
What is your team's cathedral vision?
We need to connect the brick we are each laying at this moment to the cathedral we are building together. You need to do this for yourself and your team. They need to understand why they are doing the task in front of them. People want to know they are part of something bigger. They want to know their part matters to that larger vision.
Dig for your "Why" by writing
The way connect everyone to that larger vision, is to spend time excavating the “why.” Set aside 5 minutes to ponder the questions listed below. Write your answers. Yes, write them down. The act of writing will completely transform this exercise from a waste of time to saving incredible amounts of time. If you don’t believe me, I dare you to try it. Then, tell me below if I was right or wrong.
The questions to ponder
When you are struggling with a lack of motivation, write down the answer the following questions:
I swear if you take 5 minutes to write down the answers to these questions you will save yourself and your team hours of frustration. If you take 15 minutes to do this exercise with your team, look out! You’ll be in for some incredible insights.
Motivate by finding your "why"
When you are struggling with motivation, connect to the reason you are trying to do the work in front of you. What is the desire, urge, or inspiration to do the task? Why bother? Take time to write down answers to questions that help you to open up your thinking. Save yourself time and frustration by investing in connecting to your motive. You’ll spark that motivation in both you and your team.
When you actually wrote down the answers, what did you discover?
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.