We exist in a time pressured generation where it’s not unusual to have multiple overlapping commitments that all call for immediate attention. As people climb the corporate ladder, they attract more and more tasks to do and to delegate now. So how can one manage the overwhelming flow of responsibilities, maintain an excellent work and a sound frame of mind?
The best way to increase productivity without getting drained is to create a not-to-do list. To stimulate your own thinking, here is a Not To-Do list made up of common habits that entrepreneurs and office workers should strive to get rid of.
Start or end your day with emails. Email after you have done or figured out a way to accomplish at least one of your most crucial tasks for the day. The latter will just hinder your sleep – nobody would email you a task that has to be accomplished now.
Checking e-mails constantly and touching them more than once. Check emails 2 – 3 times a day and check at set times only. Send an email to everyone or set an auto-reply letting them know what time you respond to emails. When you open a new message you could scan it and decide to read it or act on it now or later. Decide right away. The idea is to only hold each email once as if you were reading letters piling up your desk.
Meetings without an agenda. Know the purpose in advance so you “can best prepare and make the best use of your time. Meetings are meant to initiate actions. When you’re ready to meet, think about the goals you planned to achieve.
Tasks you can delegate to somebody else. If something can be handed off to somebody else you can trust, keep for yourself the most crucial ones.
Spend time with people you can’t rely on. If you assign a task to someone, but can’t be sure if they’ll follow through, you might be wasting your time.
Answering calls from unrecognized phone numbers. It will just result in unnecessary distraction hindering your focus. No one is going to call with an emergency and not leave a message. Since it is your phone and it is for your convenience, you can chose when you answer it and when you don’t.
Letting people speak to without getting to the point. Some people like to talk a lot, some people have hard time getting straightforward, some people like to switch from topic to topic forgetting where was the point in the first place. When someone calls you, instead of saying “how are you?” ask “what can I do for you?” or tell them you are in middle of something so if they can keep it short, you don’t mind taking the call right now.
Multitasking. It’s not really multitasking but rather task-switching. Whatever you’re working on is takes up the majority of your attention and there’s almost not a lot left over for other things. Moving back and forth between several tasks actually wastes productivity because your attention is expended on the act of switching gears—plus, you never get fully “in the zone” for either activity
Stephen Covey’s time management grid in the book “7 Habbits of Highly Effective People” can help you to manage your available time more efficiently. The grid below shows organized by urgency and importance.
To sum up: Do Important things First. How and where you choose to spend your time is the lifeline or your productivity. Knowing what not to do is often times more important than knowing what to do.