In honor of Stephen Covey’s resent passing I thought I would put together a post in his format.
This entire post discusses the 7 highly effective habits of productive people. Therefore it wouldn’t make much sense to fail to include creating habits. It has been said that a habit can be formed in 40 days. I truly believe this is a significant foundation point in being productive. Without daily habits it is too easy to get caught up in the weeds. Think of habits as a personal weed eater. As we all know setting new habits is difficult. Start with something small. What is a habit that could really improve your day. It doesn’t have to be work related. For example, in my house a habit I had to establish many years ago is a clean sink before bed. This ensures I do not get distracted by dishes when I am supposed to be working first thing in the morning.
Systems are built off of habits. It is important to successfully follow through with some essential habits before creating systems. Think back to kindergarden, there were a lot of small habits that created a system allowing 1-2 teachers to manage 20+ five year olds. Cubby holes, daily jobs and take home folders are all the factors that keep the day running smoothly. See what systems you can put into place, perhaps it is the number of blog posts a month and what day they are due, or the way in which you organize all your work related research.
Building systems allow you to do things like, go paperless. It might seem a little ridiculous that going paperless is one of the 7 habits, but this is such an important part of streamlining your information (the next step) that it can’t go without mentioning. Going paperless requires both good habits and well oiled systems. But the rewards are great.
Streamline Your Information
With all of your information in a digital format it makes it much easier to manage. Now I am not suggesting that there isn’t still a time and place for pen and paper, but allowing your information to be accessible from any device is a real time saver. Think back to the time when the only access we had to our email was on a computer, and not just any computer, but ONE computer. It didn’t take long for webmail to take over the email world. Why? Because it made everyone’s email accessible from any computer (or now phone). The same can be true with the rest of your information. Use a cloud based service (like Evernote) and try working from there.
Prepare Your Next Day The Night Before
I recently wrote a detailed post about creating a Daily Portfolio the night before. This is not the answer for everyone of course, but some method of preparing for your day the night before offers you a real head start in the morning. It sounds so simple, but not having to think about what you are going to spend your time on saves you a lot of it. It takes me a good cup of coffee to get rolling in the morning. Preparing a list of boring, but mindless tasks makes it easy to get the ball rolling and offers a sense of accomplishment when I get those monkeys off my back. As the day progresses this Daily Portfolio continues to guide me and keeps me on task.
Experiment With Time Management
Effectively using time is complex. Preparation is a huge component, but then you have to figure out when you are going to plug into this work. It really varies from person to person. Are you someone who works a day job and is running a small business in your “off hours”? Or are you like me, running a household and small business at the same time? If you can try reconfiguring your day and see how your productivity might change at a different time of day with the same number of minutes to work. I have always been a night owl, and loved doing work then. But I was finding that my productivity at night was decreasing. I was just too tired. I flipped my schedule and now get up very early. I never thought I would say this, but I am really loving it. It is peaceful and with my Daily Portfolio prepared the night before I can get started without much thought. This schedule allows me to leave the house already feeling accomplished for the day.
Remove all Distractions
Alright so your probably thinking, duh, this is pretty obvious. But I don’t think we actually apply this to our day. Sometimes it means turning off the WIFI connection or email client. But my favorite distraction to focus on is television. I so often hear people say they don’t have enough time in their day to start a blog or test out their small business idea. But they seem to still have time to post on Facebook about the latest Jersey Shore episode. Just try a personal experiment. Cut out all television for a month and see what happens. Chances are you have more time than you think. Another idea is recording your must-see TV and watching it while folding laundry or some other small task. This helps carve out more time in your day so you can focus on what is most important.
I hope one of these habits really resonates with you. Please leave one of your own productivity habits in the comments, I love hearing different ways to remain on track.