In my last post, I shared some tricks that I use to find greater focus in our tech-permeated, hyper-distracted world. Now I’d like to expand on the topic by giving you some tips I’ve found to increase my productivity through better organization.
Before we get going, let me confess that I’m not the most naturally organized person in the world! However, I’ve managed to watch some TED talks, read some articles and get some handy hints from friends that have helped my workday to become less fragmented and cluttered. And the best part is that they’re easy for anyone to implement, even if you don’t consider yourself a natural organizer.
1) Give Your Inbox a Makeover
I don’t know exactly how many emails you get a day, but I bet it’s a lot. If you try to manage these just through your main inbox, it quickly becomes a big, chaotic mess that slows you down and stresses you out. That’s what happened to me, and though I started to play around with using folders and tabs, I couldn’t quite find a system I liked. That was until I stumbled across this article from Hubspot, which gave me a systematized, step-by-step approach for decluttering my inbox and better organizing my messages. Check it out and see if the tips work for you, too.
2) Save Small Tasks for Travel
When you’re facing a big to-do list, it can be tempting to take on the smallest tasks first. But while this can give you the satisfaction of getting some easy wins early in the day, it also can mean that you put off bigger, more meaningful tasks. When you eventually get to them, you’ve already depleted your energy and worn your brain out—lacking the fresh enthusiasm that’s needed to be at your best. That’s why I try to hone in on my highest priority projects first and save the quick-hit stuff for when I’m waiting for a flight or actually on the plane.
3) Set Realistic Expectations
In our fast-paced culture, we’ve come to expect everything right now, whether that’s one-click shopping, drive-thru meals or pod coffee (don’t even get our espresso-loving marketing directors going on this last one!). It’s the same when it comes to emails, texts and IMs. We not only want other people to get back to us immediately, but we put this expectation of instantly responding on ourselves.
I pride myself on being responsive to my customers and colleagues, but have come to realize that if all I’m doing is replying to messages all day, it’s hard to finish proposals and other mission-critical tasks. The workaround I use is to be honest with people about when I can get to their need. I’ve found that when I tell someone, “Yes I can help you, but not until INSERT TIME OR DAY,” they’re usually fine with this.
That’s a lot better than either getting caught in the receipt-response loop or just letting replies fall through the cracks. The approach empowers me to be both responsive and diligent with my larger-scale projects.
Do you have other productivity tips that you’ve found beneficial? If so, please email me as I’d love to hear your feedback.