I don’t claim to be the most productive person in the world. And no matter what I do, I still have those days where I don’t feel like I accomplished anything or made a dent in my list. But over the years, I have learned a few tricks to help me get things done.
- Learn the rhythms of your schedule. For me, 7-9 am is the best time of the day for me to read and write. My kids have just hopped on the bus and my home office is quiet. Four days a week, I use this time to read, write and think. They are often my best hours of the week, a strange combination of being most aware and most productive. Take a look at your weekly schedule and block off the right time (not just the right amount of time) to do what matters most. You have a unique wiring and rhythm – learn it and turn it into a strength.
- Pick a couple of tools and use them well. My tools of choice are Evernote, Things (a cloud based to do program for Mac) and a Moleskin notebook. I use Evernote to capture and save everything from sermon illustrations to blog ideas to tax receipts. I use Things as a to do list and rely heavily on repeated, automated tasks. And I carry my Mokeskin notebook with me everywhere to scribble down notes, ideas and thoughts. Whenever a new tool comes out with a shiny new feature, I usually stick to what I’m already using and using well. Here’s a short blog post on how I use Evernote.
- Get control of your two inboxes. Yep, you should have two inboxes – One digital and one inbox. Since most information comes into my computer via email, I use that as my hub. All of my email addresses come to one inbox and I do my best to keep it empty. I also have a physical inbox on my desk at home. Whenever papers come in, they go right in the inbox and I process them at one time. It’s one of those two-tier trays. The tray on the top is to do; the tray on the bottom is to scan or file.
- Try forced and focused work. Our team at The Rocket Company has seen the benefit of this over the last year. On a regular basis, we get out of the office or out of town and tackle issues that aren’t necessarily on our daily task list. What if you took a half day a week to get out of the office and go read for your messages? Or a full day every quarter to plan with your team? Or a day or two with your team to work on a significant issue?
- Plan your year, not just your day. Planning your day or month is great, but what if you took some time to sketch out your year? I’m not talking about where you’re going to eat lunch in July, but the big stuff. Put the conferences, vacations, and big projects on a calendar and you’ll experience a little more planning sanity. It’s great to say, “I’m not going to worry about that now, because I’ve got time scheduled in a couple of weeks for that.” And for what it’s worth, this is my favorite tool for annual planning.