The most productive people share a common set of workflow habits. These habits are predictable, identifiable, and they are different from what normal people do.
If you would like to be abnormally productive, integrate these 10 habits into your workflow….
- Start early. Ben Franklin's advice that being “early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” seems to be true. The most productive people almost always start their day earlier than everyone else. I recommend 5 AM. Trust me, interruptions are much less of a problem at this time of day.
- Do the hard stuff first. Ask yourself, “If I only get one thing done today, what must that one thing be?” Do that thing first. Then move to the second item on your list.
- Work in focused blocks of time. Dedicate blocks of time to specific tasks, use a digital timer, don't do anything else during that time. For instance, if you set aside one hour to write, set your timer for an hour, and no matter what don't do anything else but right. Don't answer email, shut off your cell phone, close your office door. Only writing is allowed.
- Do not tolerate interruption. Interruption is the killer of productivity. Guard your time carefully. Even a 10 minute interruption can cost you dearly. Estimates are that it may take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes for you to get back on track with what you were working on before the interruption.
- Schedule your predictable interruptions. Predictable interruptions include phone calls, emails, and “got-a-minute” meetings (as in, someone walks into your office and says, “Have you got a minute?”)… Schedule specific times in the day to check your voicemail and return calls, to check your email and return emails, and for all of your “go- a-minute” meetings.
- Check email only once a day. The world will not come to an end. As I've said before, your inbox is a fantastic productivity tool… for other people.
- Beware the “walking dead”. The world is populated with zombies, who seem determined to wander the landscape and eat up everyone else's time with meaningless conversation. Love these people, treasure them as God's children, and do not permit them to use up your most valuable resource. Just say no to coffee klatch gossip, lengthy bull sessions at work, and most deadly of all, the nefarious “got-a-minute meeting”.
- Embrace the power of One. Ancient Proverb: a man with one watch always knows what time it is, a man with two watches never knows. Repeat after me: one calendar, one email inbox, one phone number, one capture device for all the random notes and tasks. One.
- Embrace the power of No. Rick Warren: “The most powerful productivity technique I've ever learned is the word no.” It has nothing to do with nice. Every time you say yes, there is a cost. Count the cost. And learn to say no most of the time.
- Have a bias to action. The battle rarely goes to the general who can't make up his mind. Develop a tendency to leap into action more quickly than you're comfortable with. Remember the saying, “The people who complain that it can't be done are very annoying to those of us who are busy doing it.”
These habits are not new. They are not revolutionary. They are not even surprising. They are, however, rarely employed.
Put them to work for you, and someday soon I predict your peers will be wondering how you get so much done.