How To Be More Productive Every Day

SPECIAL NOTE: I’m starting a brand-new weekly podcast, which begins tomorrow. Be on the lookout for an e-mail about the inaugural episode. Or, if you want to just get the new podcasts automatically delivered to your iPod or other MP3 player, just subscribe to the show in iTunes now.

-Ray Edwards

If you’ve been reading this blog very long, you know I tend to have many “irons in the fire” at any given time.

How is it I’m able to juggle so many priorities and projects?

More importantly, how can you juggle your own priorities and projects – and get more done in less time?

The answer: through careful conscious choice, and good systems. In this article, I will share my own insights, learned in the trenches of my daily business.

And quite frankly: it’s a work in progress.

In order to deliver the very best work to my clients and partners, and to still leave room in my schedule for rejuvenation (sleep, family time, time with God, and time to just plain relax)… I have to guard my time vigorously. And I have to be on guard against what Dan Kennedy calls “Time Vampires”. Some tactics that work for me in my current system:

MSR
My Morning Success Ritual is vital to my most productive days. While I don’t manage to get this in every day, I’m getting better at it. My goal between now and the end of the year is to achieve 95%+ compliance with this ritual every day.

The MSR is summed up by the acronym WWW B PREP, which stands for:

  • Wake
  • Water (16 oz. filtered)
  • Walk (at least 20 minutes)
  • Bible
  • Prayer
  • Eat
  • Plan (the day)

The days when I follow this MSR, starting the minute my feet hit the floor out of bed, are invariably my best days (most productive, most joyous, most satisfying). Probably because the most important things were done first – and when I’m still in the “NDZ”: No Distraction Zone (meaning no email, no voicemail, no phone calls, etc.)

Writing
The first thing I *must* do each day, after my MSR is complete (and after I have showered,  etc.) is WRITING. I am primarily a writer. So this is my #1 Revenue Producing Activity (RPA). At this point my phone is off, I have still not checked email, not checked voicemail, etc. Still in the NDZ. I write for a large block of time at the beginning of the day — often 4 hours. NOTHING gets to interrupt the writing — including (and even especially) the clients for whom I may be writing.

Email
My auto-check feature in Apple Mail is turned OFF. I only get email when I press the “Check Mail” button. I check it  once per day,  Monday thru Friday. Usually around  4pm Pacific. This is one of my policies that tends to be unpopular with those who are “urgency addicts”, and who want me to have a constant email discussion about minutia with them. I refuse to sacrifice my highest valued commodity (time) for the sake of what usually amounts to trivia. I suggest you adopt the same policy.

Meetings
Any meeting that lasts longer than 15 minutes is probably too long. Not always, but most of the time. Any project that requires multiple meetings each week is probably in trouble. Long meetings = inefficiency at best, and postponement of the inevitable at worst. (As a sidebar: frequent short meetings are just a disguised way of having long meetings. HEAR ME: if you have “meeting-itis”, either you just want an excuse to talk about work instead of doing it, or something is wrong with the project … something another meeting won’t solve).

Phone Meetings / Conversations
Same as meetings, only worse. Conversations and phone meetings should be 15 minutes or less. Anything longer and you’re probably wasting time for at least some people in the group.

Instant Messenger
Just say no. The only time I use it is when I have SCHEDULED events on Skype (usually interviews). Also, I occasionally chat with family or friends — but again, this is SCHEDULED. I am NEVER “just available” to be interrupted. (If I was, that would mean that I was either doing something unimportant, or that I was doing NOTHING. If I’m doing something unimportant… WHY? And if I’m doing NOTHING, it’s a PLANNED nothing and it’s important that this not be interrupted!).

Office Hours
Yes, I keep office hours.  I keep regular business hours most of the time: Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm Pacific.

Bottom Line

These simple tactics in the saving me a minimum of 2 hours each day – or 10 hours per week. Think about it this way-if you are able to save just 10 hours per week of wasted time, that means you save 520 hours in a year. That comes to 65 work days! It’s like giving yourself an extra 2 months every year.

By the way, productivity is one of the topics that I’ll be focusing on in my brand-new podcast, which begins tomorrow. Be on the lookout for an e-mail about the inaugural episode.

Or, if you want to just get the new podcasts automatically delivered to your iPod or other MP3 player, just subscribe to the show in iTunes.

Question for you: what tips or tactics have helped you the most in being more productive? What do you do to get more accomplished in less time? Comment below.

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at RayEdwards.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • DanaSusanBeasley

    Great tips, Ray! My biggest key to productivity is to focus on what God’s calling me to do on a daily basis and do it! Sounds simple but it works. I develop a mission or goal from a Bible passage (usually a Psalm), pray and meditate, then let the Holy Spirit help me plan the day. This gives me tremendous focus as I work on my mission for the day. I am more than motivated, I am inspired!

    • http://writingriches.com/ RayEdwards

       @DanaSusanBeasley  Very helpful tip, Dana. I appreciate your sharing, and I certainly endorse your tactic is a very good one!

  • http://www.kingdomembassynetwork.org bagbortogo

    Ray, your post is very valuable and the subject of productivity is actually the first commandment God gave man “be fruitful and multiple…” Without productivity, it becomes challenging to bring products and services to the market place on time. Personally, I try to plan my day ahead so I can pray for the day during my Bible study time in the morning. In many occasions, I had to edit my plan in the morning to flow with the leading of the Holy Spirit.

  • williammcpeck

    Looking forard to hearing your podcast Ray.  Your comment about 15 minute meetings made my laugh.  I only wish that we the case where I am employed!
     
    To your list of suggestions for getting more done I would add using focused attention.
     
    Having a good system to support you is critical.  Once you make a conscious choice about your priorities, you should then focus 100% of your attention on the chosen task(s).  Eliminate the distractions as you noted and then focus on your highest priority task uninterrupted until it is done or for no more than a 45 – 90 minute period of time, followed by a set time period break (15 – 30 minutes) before returning to another period of focused work. 
     
    I trust Ray that your 4 hour block of writing time is punctuated by mini-breaks.
     
    The research that I have seen indicates we do our best work when we devote focused attention to a task followed by recovery/recuperation breaks.
     
    Bill McPeck

  • williammcpeck

    Look forward to listening to the podcast Ray.  You also made me laugh when you suggested that meetings last only 15 minutes.  I wish that were the case where I am employed!
     
    To your list of suggestions for getting more done, I would add the practice of using specific periods of focused attention.
     
    There is no doubt that having a good system to support you is critical.  Once you make a conscious choice as to your priorities, then you should devote 100% of your attention to your chosen task(s).  Eliminate the distractions as you noted and then focus solely on your task until completion or for a specific time period (45 – 90 minutes).  Then give yourself a set time period for a break (15 – 30 minutes), before returning to another set period of focused work. 
     
    My understanding of the research is that we work best when we use periods of focused attention followed by periods of focused rest/recovery.
     
    Given this, I do hope Ray that your 4 hour block of writing time is punctuated with periodic breaks for rest/revovery.
     
    Bill McPeck