Ever feel like you’re not making as much progress on your to-do list as you’d like? Truth be told, there are plenty of distractions that sabotage your good intentions and keep you from being as productive as you’d like. The good news is you have a lot more control over these distractions than you may think.
Here are a few tips on how to be more proactive and intentional with your time to help increase productivity and make progress on the things that matter most to you.
Plan and Block Your Time – Strategizing and creating annual goals, with related projects and deadlines, is the first step in completing your highest priorities. Once you’ve outlined these bigger items, break them into more bite-size goals by quarter and by month. Your next step will be to back-fill your calendar with tasks you, and your team, will need to do in a given week and in a given month to chip away at those bigger goals.
Each week review the upcoming week’s calendar to ensure you are blocking time on your calendar to do the most critical items first. These are those needle moving activities that will push a goal-related project forward. Lastly, schedule time at the end of each day to list your top three priorities for the next day, so when you walk in each morning you’ll know exactly what your action items are for the day.
Schedule Demanding Tasks When You Have the Most Energy – Once you have your priorities outlined, move the more mentally challenging and demanding tasks to a time of day when you typically have the most energy. For some this may be first thing in the morning or if you’re more of an afternoon/evening person, you may catch your stride when the office is quieter and there are fewer interruptions. Certain days of the week may also be better to block this time. Some firms have even designated Fridays as their no client meeting day to work “in” and/or “on” their businesses.
Limit Interruptions – It is difficult to turn people away, especially for those “quick” questions. However, allowing those interruptions to creep in at unexpected times, wreaks havoc with your productive “flow” states. Keep in mind, if you are answering those quick questions whenever they pop up, you are training your team to continue that unproductive habit. So instead of allowing others to side-track you when you are making progress on an essential item, you can strategically schedule two or three 15-minute meetings each day to knock out your team’s questions so they can move forward with their activities.
Stop Multi-Tasking – While on the surface, juggling several tasks at a time may feel like you’re getting a lot of things done at a fairly fast clip, it actually has the opposite effect. According to the American Psychological Association, multi-tasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%. That’s 16 hours we are losing every week! You can tackle this efficiency killer by time-blocking certain tasks at specific times of the day or certain days of the week. If you have a larger project to work on, schedule 90-minute segments to power through the heavy lifting thinking or writing. For more information on 90-minute work intervals, check out the Inc. article on Why Working in 90-Minute Intervals is Powerful for Your Body and Job.
Turn Off Notifications – Alerts for email, calendar reminders, texts and the garden variety of push notifications going off in the background every few minutes or so – these innocuous alerts chip away at our focus and productivity. A study from the University of California Irvine, found that once distracted, your brain needs an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus on the task at hand. So the notifications we think are helping us stay on track and informed, are in fact robbing us of getting the very things done that they are reminding us to do! Take back your time and turn off those vibration and sound notifications, except for your calendar reminders. Then schedule specific times of the day to check your reminders and respond to email, like morning, mid-day and mid-afternoon.
Scale Back Your To-Do List – Instead of trying to get 15 things done by the end of the day, focus instead on your top three priorities that will have the greatest impact on your pocketbook or a larger project goal. Having too many tasks on your list only lends itself to over-promising what realistically cannot be done in that time-frame. It can also pull you down those non-productive rabbit holes of multi-tasking not to mention the added stress it can cause. Whittling your list down to the essential few allows you to truly focus and realistically accomplish or make significant progress on your tasks.
With a proactive approach to your time management and eliminating the multitude of distractions that are woven into the fabric of your everyday life, you can indeed accomplish more in the time you set aside!
Director of Member Services
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128