I spend a lot of time talking to business owners and managers about how to improve productivity, beat procrastination and simply get more done in less time. I always hear the same types of things come up as strategies, from keeping a pen and paper next to your bed, to making a list and not going to bed until every item is checked off. Now, I am not one to pretend to be perfect, and I have definitely procrastinated in my career and life... But I have also found some unconventional things that work for me in order to get things done.
As I think about the strategies that I am in the process of writing about, its very clear to me that I don't do these things all the time, and I when I do them, I may not do all of them at the same time... but I definitely have my go-to strategies when things get crazy. I think about times when I was opening a new business unit, dealing with a busy season, or starting my own business and trying to wear multiple hats at a time. Those are the times when I learned what worked for me, as an individual, and what combination kept me organized, sane and successful.
1) Don't try to be perfect - just go! So often I hear people talking about having to learn a skill before they try something new, having to read a book, study a topic or have multiple conversations with people before they feel comfortable in trying. I can tell you that there are some scenarios where these things may need to happen before you take a leap, but I would be willing to bet that 9 out of 10 times you would be so much further ahead if you just went for it, learned as you progressed, and were confident in your current abilities. Progress is progress. Forward is forward. Too often we sacrifice productivity by overcomplicating things. Just go.
2) Listen to your body! This probably sounds strange when it comes to productivity. But I'm serious. When you are tired, go to sleep. When you are hungry, eat. When you feel inspired, get things done! Those things probably sound obvious, but so many people try to cram all night and then they forget everything the next day, or get up early and they are exhausted and useless by noon. The best lesson I have learned in my life in relation to this, is that I am NOT productive late at night. I am VERY productive early in the morning. So I get up early, I get important things done right away, and this allows me to focus on other things later in the day. Plus... the chances of something random coming up early in the morning aren't very high because everyone else is asleep ;) If you really listen to your body it will tell you when you are going to be the most creative and productive. Side note - Did you know that Barack Obama is a great example of this? He is a night owl and was known for regularly holding meetings with his White House team as late as 11pm! He knows when he is at his best.
3) Only reply to yesterday's emails today. Ok, so this one is difficult to do, but think about this for a second... you cant get any more emails yesterday! So, I encourage you to create a personal strategy around this. Emergencies happen, and need to be dealt with immediately sometimes, and that's ok. So if you have employees, or customers, make sure they know they can still get ahold of you if something very important comes up, otherwise you will reply to them tomorrow. The beauty of this approach is that if you leave all of your non-emergency emails to reply to tomorrow, you know that once you are through your emails from yesterday, you're done! (I personally love this one, and love to discuss it, so leave a comment if you have some thoughts!)
Whatever it is that works for you, stick to it. There are so many "hacks" out there and everyone has an idea. They probably all work for one person or another. My message is that you can always improve, so have some go-to things that work for you, and if you need help, there are always people like me who are willing to help!