When I think about how to be more productive today or tomorrow, I always start with making a list.
Tomorrow dawns a new day full of potential, but if you have no clear idea of what the day will bring, you increase the chances that you will be distracted by urgent tasks, have no real focus, run out of time to plan your day and fail to achieve any of the things you really needed to achieve!
If you arrive at the office to be confronted by the flood of emails, the colleagues who need your attention, the phone calls and sudden meetings, you’re already behind on your day.
You’ve immediately lost that essential planning time. Your day probably goes from bad to worse. Have you remembered everything you thought you needed to get done today?
Unless it’s written down (and yes, I do mean ON PAPER), it’s likely to be missed while you deal with all the other myriad distractions.
Do not start your day until it is already finished on paper
I have found that when I am consistent at doing this planning, my day tends to be more productive and my stress levels are very low.
If you want to be more productive tomorrow, you need to start preparing today. Before you leave your office, build in 30 minutes at the end of each day that is only for you.
Use this time to jot down tomorrow’s key tasks and collect any documents or resources that may be relevant for getting these tasks completed. Print out the documents, proposals, project plans and process maps that people have asked you to review and put them close at hand. If you don’t like working from paper, or you want to save trees = great! Open the documents out of the emails, save them to your desktop and put the desktop icons in the middle of the screen.
When I started to write this post yesterday, I was a bit blank and couldn’t finish it. Serendipity then struck, as it commonly does!
At work my colleague from an interstate office had read on his friend’s blog about the Pomodoro Technique, and emailed me his take on it! It’s funny how these things work and uncanny that it happened on the same day I was writing an article on time management and productivity and organization.
John had spend half an hour planning out his week on paper, blocking out Pomodoro blocks of time in which he could schedule his productive work, followed by a 5 minute break. We spend some time discussing how best to utilize the technique. I got all fired up and started brimming with ideas and inspiration for organizing my working day, week and team. If you haven’t heard about the Pomodoro Technique, read on and check out my upcoming articles as I explore it more.
Back to starting your tomorrow today…
When you come in to the office tomorrow, you will find your list. You’ll immediately know what your focus needs to be. Sure, you’ll still have those urgent distractions, and you need to deal with them quickly. If you’re using time-blocking to manage your day, like my colleague John, limit your time in dealing with these distractions if you can.
You will feel that much more productive and in control of your day when you walk in the door because it is already on paper.
But why stop at planning tomorrow? Keep going with this great tool. Use your half hour at the end of the day to plan your week, your month, your year. Stretch your mind and look at your long term goals. Picture how your workplace would function in an ideal world and start laying down some ideas that can work towards those long term goals. Let’s say you want your team to reduce the email barrage by half within 6 months. Think about the steps you can take to get there and write them down. At this stage, just get them into a list, you can always re-write the list later and organize your thoughts into categories.
Just start with a list, written on paper. I know it sounds so simple, but surprisingly few people are able to master this idea. The world’s most productive achievers master this method, can you?
You can also use this same method when it comes to managing your personal life. Sit down at the end of your day and get your list in order.
Now I know I said above that the list must be on paper, and there is a huge power in the simplicity of a paper list, but I know some of you have adapted to your online life and don’t use pens and paper anymore!
It’s ok to use a computer program if you have to.
I use Evernote for my homelife and there are plenty of list-making apps or just a simple spreadsheet or word document is fine. If you want to splurge, buy the Pomodoro books and a little tomato timer – more on Pomodoro soon. And don’t get me started on timers… tick, tick, tick
For more on how to be more productive tomorrow, take a peek at our get-organized articles and page.
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Great title and some really good ideas here.
I think I will wait until tomorrow to start procrastinating.
Regards and good luck
You made me laugh JohnV with your statement “I will wait until tomorrow to start procrastinating”. Make that your life’s ethos and wow, you could be so productive! The wisdom of years! I like your website too John. Thanks for stopping by.
So many times I don’t do things out of commodity or bad organization… I think I will start with putting a post-it on a door with “A year from today!”
Then, with the wisdom of that year, I will look backward and analyse. This is a sure way to see what’s important to me. 🙂
Hello Laura. I’m going to have some posters manufactured with “A Year from Today”. You’ll be on my list for the first one mailed out. Thanks for your comment and all the best for your year.
A magical and absorbing read Sandi… and very good point on the power of actually writing a list. I used to think this sounded too simplistic to carry any power of influence on one’s actions (or lack of)… until i tried it! You are so right… writing your intentions down on a piece of paper really works! I look forward to reading more about the ‘Pomodoro’ Technique too. Keep up the great work Sandi. All the best, Steve
Hi Steve. The simplicity of the written list is magnificent, isn’t it. It takes the pressure and stress off your brain and helps you to find focus to start working on crossing things off the list. That then gives you a sense of achievement! Bam! Armed with enthusiasm to cross more things off, you’re unstoppable. Thanks for visiting.
There is a great wealth of information here. Now everyone will be without an excuse … lol. Great job on your website!!!
Thanks Latoya for stopping by. Funny how we make excuses – it’s all just procrastination really. We also need to be careful that our list-making doesn’t become just another way of procrastinating. .. hmm, you’ve given me an idea for a post on Procrastination…watch this space.