A few habits boosted my productivity dramatically in the last few years. They are presented here in the hopes you find them useful.
1. Schedule half hour chunks of time each day. When you get to work in the morning, or if you have a large chunk of empty time, break that down into half-hour or hour pieces and determine what you’ll do.
Combine this with your priorities. You probably have two or three things that you’d like to move forward today. Schedule them.
2. Create 4 lists: Projects, Next Actions, Waiting For, and Someday/Maybe.
The Projects list contains everything you’re trying to complete in the next couple of months. If you phrase each item in terms of how it will look when completed, your mind will be encouraged to make it real.
The Next Actions list contains the very next physical, visible action you need to do on each Project. It’s a bookmark for the Project. Why bother? Oddly, the mind has trouble deciding on an action when it looks at a list of goals, but if it sees a bunch of simple, physical actions, it’s easier to just choose one and go with it.
Moreover, while you can plan out a bunch of next actions for each project, you only really need one, and you don’t want a list that’s half-full of actions you can’t do yet.
(An advanced tip: break out your Next Actions by context: a list for actions at home, a list of actions at work, etc.
Put everything that’s on-hold until you get a response in the Waiting For list, along with the name of the person for whom you’re waiting. Review this every so often. Send reminders.
The Someday/Maybe list contains everything you want to do, but don’t have time for right now. This is perfect for Great Ideas that would normally pull you away from important, urgent work.
3. Review your lists weekly. Clean up items you missed. Add items that you may think of as you spend a few minutes really looking at your lists.
And take a step back. Has a Project been sitting on your list, with no progress, for a month? Maybe it’s time to re-frame it.
(Much of this is from David Allen’s Getting Things Done. It works.)
4. Turn off email notifications. Does your email pop up a notice when a new email comes in? Turn it off.
5. Get rid of your TV. You can watch everything on Hulu.com or on DVD later. TV is designed to suck you in for hours with shows you don’t really care about. What for?