Let’s follow up on last week’s episode and talk a bit more about getting it all done. What do the “experts” have to say about best practices?
What are some of the best practices for getting it all done?
Last week we started a 2-part series on getting it all done–not doing it all, but deciding what matters most to us and then getting all of that done. Last week I shared some things I do personally to help me get the things done that I need and want to do. This week we’ll be talking about some so-called best practices–some approaches, strategies, and tools recommended by many of those we might call productivity experts.
A key to getting it all done is being intentional about what we do. Learn to evaluate the tasks you’re doing and, to the extent you can, spend your best time, energy, and attention on the ones that are highest priority for you.
One tool that can help is called The Eisenhower Matrix. This is a matrix with four quadrants. Using these quadrants we can categorize tasks as Urgent & Important, Not Urgent but Important, Urgent but Not Important, and Neither. To make the most progress toward accomplishing your highest-priority objectives, focus your time, energy, and attention primarily on the Important tasks.
2. Time Management
As we’ve discussed before, this might better be thought of as energy management or attention management. Learning when we’re best able to focus on work that requires it, we can then allocate our time accordingly. For example, if, like many people, you’re more energetic and focused in the morning, use those hours for tasks that require energy and focus, and save the droopy afternoon hours for administrative tasks.
One tool that can help with this is The Pomodoro Technique: Work intensely for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. Repeat. Every fourth break should be longer (15 minutes).
3. Task Management
Most of us have far more things we need or want to do than we have time to do them. Managing those tasks is a primary piece of a productive life–keeping track of what needs to be done, figuring out what’s needed in order to get them done, deciding when we’ll do them, all are important. We recently talked about this in more depth in our series on the GTD Methodology (see episodes 440 – 446 for more). Some of the tools and approaches that can help us manage and accomplish tasks efficiently and effectively include:
Task Batching: Group similar tasks together to tackle them in one go, minimizing the mental load of switching tasks. Whether it’s cleaning all the bathrooms, returning phone calls, prepping all the veggies for the week’s meals, or any other group of tasks that require the same tools and attention, batching them saves time both because you’re not losing time to task-switching and because you have one set-up and clean-up rather than many.
Time Blocking: Allocate specific blocks of time in your day for specific activities or tasks. This ensures you’re dedicating undistracted time to what matters.
4. Mindset and Focus
Nothing makes a bigger difference in our productivity and our overall quality of life than our own mindset.
Mindfulness: Stay present in the task at hand. This can be cultivated through practices like meditation.
5. Automation and Delegation
Automate Repetitive Tasks: Tools like Zapier or IFTTT can help integrate different apps and automate workflows. Rules in your email provider can automatically file away less important emails like newsletters or other things that don’t need your attention. Not surprisingly, I recommend this episode’s sponsor, TextExpander, which can save you so much time typing or cutting and pasting frequently used bits of text.
Delegate: If there are tasks others can do, delegate them. This allows you to focus on your core competencies.
6. Regular Review
Weekly Review: Take time at the end of each week to review your goals, what you’ve accomplished, and what needs adjustment for the next week. Check out episodes 150 (Weekly Review), episode 445 (A Deeper Dive into GTD Reflect and Review), and others for more ideas on the process and benefits.
Deeper Review: For bonus points schedule time each quarter to do a more in-depth review of your goals, your calendar, your master project list, and your mental and physical health. Re-evaluate your goals and objectives: Are you happy with your progress? Do they still serve you, or do you want to make adjustments? We talked about Mid-Year Reviews in episode 95, episode 353, and episode 402, among others. We also considered the Year-End Wrap-Up in episode 120.
7. Self-Care and Breaks
Physical Exercise: Regularly engage in physical activities, even simple ones like walking. It boosts cognitive functions and breaks up long working periods. According to the resources I looked at, getting regular physical activity also helps with the next important component, with is rest.
Rest: Ensure you’re getting enough sleep. It’s essential for productivity and mental health. We talked about this recently in episode 451 (Productivity When You’re Exhausted) and in other episodes in the past. The CDCs (Centers for Disease Control) published a short article on Tips for Better Sleep, in which they recommend, among other things, maintaining a consistent bedtime and wake-up time; making sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and kept at a comfortable temperature; avoiding large meals and caffeine late in the day; and removing electronic devices (including smartphones and TVs) from your bedroom. Other experts, including those at the Mayo Clinic and on the Healthline website, agree.
8. Learning and Growth
Continuous Learning: Dedicate some time every week to learn something new. Platforms like Coursera or Udemy can be valuable, allowing you to learn remotely. Attending well chosen conferences or seminars might be appropriate, allowing you both to learn and to network with others in the field. Of course, you can also read, listen to audiobooks and podcasts, and search for informative YouTube videos. The point is to keep learning, whether in your professional field or just general knowledge areas that interest you.
Feedback Loop: Regularly ask for feedback on your work. It helps in identifying areas of improvement.
9. Environment Setup
Dedicated Workspace: Have a designated place to work, free from unnecessary distractions. According to an article on the Indeed website, this offers so many productivity benefits, including increased focus, improved work quality, increased output, and more. I looked at several resources about creating a productive workplace, and they offered suggestions such as:
- Make sure your desk and chair are ergonomically correct and comfortable
- Ensure good lighting
- Eliminate clutter and tidy up every day
- Add plants and other natural elements
- Organize your space so that frequently used items are easily reached
- Manage noise–using sound-canceling headphones if necessary
Tools & Apps: Invest in tools that can increase your productivity, such as note-taking apps, calendar apps, or project management software. We’ve talked about this on several past episodes, including episode 446 (Productivity Tools for Getting Things Done) and episode 315 (Favorite Productivity Tools and How I Use Them). Please let me know if you’d like me to address this again with recommendations for tools for specific types of productivity activity.
Recognize that not every day will go as planned. Adapt and adjust as necessary. This is one I really need to work on. I’m a planner. I like to know what to expect. And when things don’t go to plan, it throws me off balance.
Remember, the most crucial aspect of any productivity approach is that it should suit your personal needs, habits, and work style. It’s okay to mix and match strategies until you find what works best for you. And always be open to refining your approach as you grow and your circumstances chan
What do you think?
What tips and best practices can you share to help us all get the things done that matter most? Post your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me.
Resources and Links
- TPW90 – Doing a Mid-Year Review
- TPW150 – The Weekly Review
- TPW315 – Favorite Productivity Tools and How I Use them
- TPW353 – Mid-Year Checkin
- TPW402 – Halftime Break, Mid-year Review
- TPW445 – A Deeper Dive into GTD Reflect and Review
- TPW446 – Productivity for Getting Things Done
- TPW451 – Productivity When You’re Exhausted
- Official Eisenhower Matrix Canvas PDF
- What Is the Pomodoro Technique? (And How It Can Increase Productivity) | Indeed.com
- 8 Ways To Create a Productive Workspace (Plus Benefits) | Indeed.com
- 6 Ways to Make Your Workspace More Productive – businessnewsdaily.com
- How To Design A Productive Workspace — SIMPLE HOME | SIMPLE LIFE
- How to Create a Productivity-Boosting Workspace
- Online Courses – Learn Anything, On Your Schedule | Udemy
- Coursera | Degrees, Certificates, & Free Online Courses
- Tips for Better Sleep | CDC
- Sleep tips: 6 steps to better sleep – Mayo Clinic
- 17 Proven Tips to Sleep Better at Night
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