Early on in my career I overheard a well-respected co-worker saying that he considered his day to be productive when he got one big thing accomplished, start to finish. “Just one thing? Easy stuff,” I remember thinking. Then I looked down at my to-do’s and realized that was easier said than done. Turns out he was right in his thinking.
More than “getting it done” or “crankin’ it out,” being productive means making the most of your 1,440 minutes in every day. Making those minutes work for you, not against you, to enable you to accomplish the most important tasks that move you closer to the goal you’ve set before yourself.
When you’re truly productive, you’re not focused on the lists; you’re focused on the success.
Real productivity evolves from a mindset: flipping the switch from thinking that your day is about shuffling tasks and snuffing out fires to taking charge and forging ahead, and staying zeroed in on meeting clearly defined goals. Productivity channels the mind and fuels the soul. It ignites that in-the-gut moment when you know you and your organization are on the right track and really going places.
Forbes reveals surprising things uber-productive people—Olympians, CEOs, professional athletes—do differently with their days that lead them into highly successful positions. A few key takeaways:
- Focus on the one thing: Ultra-productive people are more likely to start their morning with 1-2 hours of uninterrupted time devoted solely to their most important task for success. Put your brain power toward that, and put the interruptions away, instead of attending to email, office talk, morning news and Facebook feeds.
- Theme your days. Build the habit of setting aside time each day to a theme or category of work. One person used “Mondays for Meetings” for one-on-one check-ins with his direct reports. His Friday afternoons were dedicated to administrative tasks to clean up the week and prepare for the next. The idea is to batch work categories into themes to maximize time, and your attentiveness and energies.
- Use your force for good. There’s only one of you, only so many minutes in a day, and always more that can be done. “Highly successful people don’t skip meals, sleep or breaks in the pursuit of more, more, more. Instead, they view food as fuel, sleep as recovery, and pulse and pause with “work sprints.” Productivity is a marathon, not a sprint. Take care of you at every step.
Stelter Team Members Weigh In on Productivity
Making the most of our powerhouse of productivity, I polled people around the office about how they take charge of their 1,440 minutes every day. Perhaps you’ll find some insight or a solution in their words.
- “Read The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. The single best productivity tool is to FOCUS on THE ONE THING. When you want the absolute best chance to succeed at anything you want, your approach should always be the same: Go small. ‘Going small’ is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most. … It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.” —Randy, Business Systems Guru
- “It’s all too easy to come to work and get sucked into email jail. … (Email often represents other people’s priorities– not your own.) I think it’s crucial to tame your inbox and take control of your time. I use my to-do list to make a plan for the day and as a reminder … of what I wanted to accomplish.” —Jenni, Senior Project Manager
- “My system is fairly simple, but it has worked for me for a while. The basics:
- Use the calendar to schedule ‘me’ time in order to focus and plan for work, especially if it’s to prep for an upcoming meeting/event.
- Set up reminders for projects/task tracking, even turning on location-aware options to assist.
- Enter key research findings, URLs, screenshots, etc. into Notes (on my computer). It’s a good way to keep my thoughts in one spot.” —Kelly, Data & Analytics Wizard
- “I block off time on the calendar and set calendar events for recurring tasks I need to do, even if just for my own organization.” –Heidi, Client Success Manager
- “After reading Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport, I understand the difference between being busy and being truly productive. I now set aside large, sacred blocks of time to work on really hard things—projects that create extreme value versus busywork that is easily replicated. I also write emails that anticipate next steps and eliminate that annoying ping-pong match of communication.” —Bev, Chief Operating Officer
We’d love to hear what drives your productivity in work and in life. Feel free to share strategies or philosophies that you embrace to keep you focused on your goal-setting success—your productivity inspires us too!