I don’t know about you, but I’m doing more now than I ever did. With all the new tools and techniques it’s easier than ever to increase our productivity, but sometimes it’s good to stop and figure out if the tools are working for us or against us.
I know I couldn’t be as effective as I am without email and tracking tools, for example, but I’ve also realized that I have to be careful how I use them.
In no particular order, here are my top 5 tools to improve my productivity.
Cut Back on Meetings This one won’t work for everyone, but I’m at a place in my career where I can often decide if I should be in a meeting or if another member of my team can attend. Whether the meeting is at work or for an outside activity, I want to know what the purpose of the meeting is and if it’s possible to simply discuss by email or a quick phone call. Sure, it would be great to see everyone on the committee, but most likely, we’ll also end up chatting, which can cut into valuable time.
Tame Email I think we all continue to battle this one. At home, I’ve removed myself from most of the catalog emails or I have them delivered to an account I set up to receive those types of emails. I don’t respond to emails throughout the day as much as I used to. Instead I tend to check in the a.m., again mid-day and then at day’s end. Each week, I’ve been reducing the inbox by an additional five from the previous week. In the past few months, I’ve gone from more than 500 to less than 50. I no longer feel panicked that I am missing something critical because I have reviewed everything in the inbox. I still break the rule of using my inbox as a reminder, although I’m getting better with that, too, thanks to software like OneNote and EverNote.
Create Digital Lists I use OneNote to keep my lists. According to Microsoft, OneNote is “a digital notebook for capturing, storing and sharing all kinds of information.” I’ve found it particularly useful for keeping multiple lists going. I have one for each vendor with whom I work. I have another notebook with tabs for each person who reports to me. This allows me to easily track information and make notes about information I’d like to share. Not only does it keep me organized but it keeps me from sending one-off messages to individuals.
Prioritize On any given day, I know what I need to do. Sometimes, though, the most important item is the one I put off doing because it’s challenging or not fun to do. However, knowing that it’s my key priority and doing it first means the rest of the day should go smoothly. Before I leave at the end of each day, I write down the three things I must do the next day. When I come into the office, I know what my priorities are for the day and that’s where I stay focused (or at least try to).
Exercise We all know exercise is good for us. Sometimes, I exercise to clear my head or to think things through. There is nothing like an hour-long cardio workout to clear cobwebs from the mind. Just the other week, I was on the treadmill and I figured out how I needed to handle a project. I didn’t want to stop, though, so I grabbed my cell phone and recorded a message so that I could follow up when I got off the machine.
What’s your top tool to improve productivity?