Been getting a lot done lately? If so, maybe you can skip the rest of this. Maybe productivity isn’t an issue for you these days, but for some, it’s a challenge. I see plenty of discussions online and hear them on phone calls and around town – commenting about having trouble getting things done. Certainly there are plenty of distractions. It’s an election year, there’s COVID, the economy, and anything else you wish to add to the list that’s on your mind.
Over the last decade or so, the one thing that I found that seems to help people, at least the ones who say that they’re turning things around or have turned things around – is having a routine. Any routine.
Thankfully, this isn’t one of those “Get up at 4:30am and do these 11 things and your life will be perfect” discussions.
The key is not my routine or someone else’s routine. It’s the one that works for you. I know some people who plan their week on Sunday evening. Others tell me they do it on Monday morning or Friday afternoon. It doesn’t really matter when. What matters is that it gets done.
Once you have one, try it, stick to it, refine it over time as you learn things that improve it. It’s OK if it isn’t perfect at first. Adjust it to correct the things that aren’t working quite right and remove things that don’t work at all. It doesn’t have to be perfect today or even next month. It doesn’t need to account for every minute of every day or for every task you have lined up next week. If you let it become a chore, it isn’t going to help. Maybe you start with “These are the three things I MUST get done next week, in priority order.”
If that simple routine provides some structure & organization to your week & helps you get more of each day’s most important things done, that’s a good start. Even if you manage to more consistently complete (or make good progress) on the week’s (or day’s) one big thing, then a lot of the other things are more likely to fall into place as the week progresses. You might end up realizing that you have time to deal with things that you can’t normally commit to.
I find it helps to think my way through the week before it gets started. My calendar intentionally doesn’t have many appointments. I try to keep all of them on the same day so that I can minimize random / unscheduled phone time.
If I can schedule all my calls for the same day, it works great. This may not work for you. It reduces the number of interruptions of my focused work. Sometimes I have to take an unexpected phone call, but I work to avoid them.
Your situation may be different. You may have to pay special attention to how you deal with those calls and find a process to consistently re-engage with the interrupted work. All of this can become part of your routines. Perhaps you work out a post-call, merge back onto the work highway routine that includes scheduling a follow up, or noting expectations etc that came out of the call.
I do these things to keep me on the rails & deal with interruptions, distractions, or emergencies that may come up… even to guide me back to the focus work that was interrupted.
Having a master list of things I’m planning to complete that week, prioritized helps me immensely. Figure out a routine that gets you started right and if necessary, that gets your day back on track so you get a better shot at completing the highest priority work before anything else.
Maybe you don’t check email or voice mail before getting the day’s most important task done. Not everybody can do that, but if you can, you’re more likely to get that first important thing of the day knocked out. If you can say nothing else about your week – being able to get that most important thing done is significant. That’s a big step.
No one likes to look up and see that it’s six o’clock, and feel like you didn’t get anything done that day. Maybe establishing a routine to start, re-engage and end the day will help you get more of the right things done. Give it a shot.