3 Steps to Becoming More Productive in Your Everyday Life
I always thought I was a productive person. After all, I did well all through school while playing sports and keeping some time for fun.
One day, I decided to get my MBA. Instead of leaving my job, I chose to join the evening graduate program at Santa Clara University. I had no idea that this experience would completely change my approach to managing and optimizing my day.
All of a sudden, I was working full-time and going to school at night (not to mention the homework and group projects). I knew I had to take my productivity to the next level. I stumbled at first: The thought was "not enough hours in the day!"
Over time, I adapted because, frankly, I had no choice. I became more efficient with my time. I identified three actions that made me more productive and more successful:
- Getting into a routine.
- Planning my day with a “what is success” plan.
- "Building around" openings – removing "dead" spots.
Step 1 is all about setting a routine.
A routine is a key to success. Identify 15 to 18 hours of the day that you plan not to sleep and stick to a common schedule. My schedule is 5 a.m. - 10:30 p.m., and I stick to that nearly every day. Sticking to a consistent pattern (even on the weekends, if possible) allows you to plan successfully for Step 2. Special events or significant work deadlines will stand in the way, but try to be as disciplined as possible.
Step 2 is setting the stage for the day by determining what would
result in a successful day.
This is where I list out tasks or goals that I must complete that day. This planning allowed me to clearly make prioritization decisions since I have a clear set of activities on which to focus.
Step 3 requires a willingness to fill gaps in the day with opportunities to be productive.
When I started school, I took advantage of every moment that I had available by avoiding what I call "dead” spots in the day. For example:
- I used the time from 5 a.m. - 6 a.m., when I was most alert and energized, to work on homework while eating breakfast.
- I also realized that my bus commute to work provided 30 minutes (each way) to read case studies or complete additional work.
It applies when working without school as well. Schedule openings could be spent preparing for a presentation at work, read up on a new hobby or spend quality time with a family member. Identify your openings and apply a productive activity to help you progress as a person.
Ultimately it all comes down to routine, focus and optimization. Productive people develop strong routines, focus on achievable goals/milestones and optimize every minute of the day. To stay productive you must continue to practice these effects as if you are exercising to stay in shape. The "productivity muscles" can wither when they are not challenged.
JA Board Member Nilay Thakkar
Managing Director, San Diego
ACME Business Consulting