Habits for High Productivity Days

The first thing you need to know about having a high productivity day tomorrow is that it starts with the last thing you do today.

Habit 1: End your day with a plan for the next day.

One of the biggest pits I see busy managers and leaders fall into is that they work to exhaustion and leave the office without setting a plan for what they need to get done the next day.

Starting the day with a plan for what you have to achieve is key to having a highly productive day. That plan can and should be crafted in advance so you can:

  • put your best morning energy to good use right away
  • work more proactively than reactively from the get go
  • close out your day with confidence about what you will be able to achieve the next day, so things aren’t gnawing at you, infiltrating your sleep and compromising your ability to rest and recover.

Habit 2: Write reasonable work plans.

If your to-do list is too long and too daunting you’ll ditch it and work off the cuff. If you are going to take the time to craft a plan, craft one you can do well.

At the end of the day today, ask yourself – if you had to accomplish three things tomorrow what are the three most critical?

Now here’s the thing. Don’t just identify the three biggest fires you have to put out.

One of the biggest benefits of crafting work plans is getting in the habit of carving time on a regular basis to address the bigger, longer-term goals. Here’s a trick I use. Imagine a day without emails, phone calls, meetings or demands. What big project would you sink your teeth into? Write it down.

Keep the following in mind:

  • Look at your schedule and carve out 90 – 120 minute slots to dive deep into your top priorities. Literally schedule them in.
  • Carve the rest of your day into 60 – 90 minute slots.
  • Allow for breaks.
  • Do not plan back to back meetings.
  • Schedule yourself to do lighter work when your energy dips in the afternoon.
  • Plan no more that 75% of your day so you have space and time to respond to people and issues as things come up.

Habit 3: Spend your first hour on a top priority.

News flash. That’s not email. If you start your day checking email – that’s your first fatal error of the day. You’ll use your best energy bouncing from one thought to another and your focus will be shot.

Your first hour sets the stage. For most people, it’s your strongest hour. Dive into something meaty.

And don’t schedule meetings for your first hour. Don’t start your day on someone else’s agenda and don’t make your team start on yours. Teach your team to protect their first hour for their top priority work.

Habit 4: Check voicemail and email 3 – 4 times a day MAXIMUM.

People resist this all the time, but the people who do it know that it works – schedule a time to check email and only do it 3 or 4 times a day instead of snacking on emails all day.

Habit 5: Use the 4 D’s to burn through emails and messages.

When you do check in, do it strategically. Set a time limit. And use the 4 D’s:

  • Do it – if it’s a 2 minute thing, just do it and move on.
  • Delete it – if it isn’t relevant, don’t let it linger in your inbox. Be ruthless. Dump it right away.
  • Delegate it – if there is someone on your team who could respond for you, forward it right away.
  • Defer it – if it will take time to respond or if your response requires larger action or consultation, defer acting on it to a later date or time. Create a task in Outlook or write a note in your day timer right away to carve out the time it will take to do the related work.

Habit 6: Make time for people.

If you get into the habit of cranking through tasks, you can get through a whole day without making real human contact.

Make sure you have at least one meaningful face to face contact with a client, colleague, or direct report every day. It’s good for you and good for your team.

Habit 7:  Say No.

Things come up. You want to be available for urgent issues. But you also have to be able to say no to impromptu requests.

The more you defend your time and protect it the more people will respect it.

Habit 8: Take breaks.

Don’t push through. You need rest and recovery every 90 – 120 minutes to perform well.

Get fresh air. If you can’t go outside, do some deep breathing at your desk or close your eyes for 10 minutes.

Move! If you can get out of the office to do a workout, great. If you can’t, walk a flight of stairs to stretch your legs or keep a yoga mat in your office for stretching.

Habit 9: Limit your working hours.

When people have less hours they accomplish more – they have a sense of urgency and they waste less time.

Try being hard-lined about when you leave work. Make commitments outside of work so you have to leave.

But before you go, make sure you take 15 minutes to practice your 1st habit. Write a plan to have another high productivity day tomorrow.

Category: All, Energy at work, Good Management Habits, Manage your Energy, Manage your People, The Leader's Toolkit
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