I was diagnosed with ADHD at an early age, although you never fully recover, you do adapt. I have become very interested in the literature and research related to productivity. I recall countless battles with my parents around completing my homework. Now as an adult, I can struggle to focus in a world of screens, ‘likes’ and constant interruptions.
The research related to productivity is a vast one. The ultimate key to productivity or time management is to find a system that is personal and works for you. You are unique and therefore your system is unique to you.
Below you will find my Top 10 productivity tools.
1.) Write It Down – Notice I did not say type it down. If you actually write down the task, you are 33% more likely the complete the task. There are two reasons it is better to write down the task on paper vs. using electronic tools. First, paper removes the temptation to jump on Facebook or Twitter or review some random web-site. The second is that the psychology of writing activates more of your brain. There is even research to prove this theory.
Your brain was not built to be a to-do list, it was built to solve problems, do analysis and be creative. End your day with a to-do list for the next day, which also includes the things you accomplished today. The bedside table makes a great home for a blank sheet of paper to capture all the ideas that creep into your head when you wake up in the middle of the night.
2.) Bad Habits Need To Be Replaced – It is much easier to replace a habit than to stop a bad habit. The key to habit formation is motivation. Motivation is generated through choice. Consider the following example – if you just say “stop” eating ice cream – you will struggle. If you say instead, “Eat either fruit, a green smoothie or a frozen banana” – your brain likes this because you have choice.
3.) Vision Informs The Essentials – The word “Essentialism” coined by productivity expert Greg McKeown is designed to help us identify the critical items to focus on. The challenge with using the word without a strong vision is that you risk not being focused on any particular vision or trajectory. It is hard to be focused on the essential few without knowing where you are going.
4.) Progress Is Critical – One of the challenges in life is the experience that we always have so much more to accomplish. The progress principle forces you to consider the movement you are making toward your vision vs. the pain of unfinished tasks. End your day with the ‘done’ list to celebrate your accomplishments.
5.) Relationships – In our age of technology, relational connection is vital for leadership success. Leadership does not happen in a vacuum. Strong relationships improve our energy, heighten creativity and move us forward.
6.) Leaving Tomorrow – Do you notice how much you get done the day before you leave on a trip? I am much more productive for two reasons. First, I think about what it will be like when I return home, so I tend to plan ahead. I want to avoid having a long to-do list upon my return. Second, my time is limited and thus I am more focused. We struggle with time constraints by either over or under – estimating how much time a project will take to complete. When there is no flexibility with time, we tend to focus and complete the task in the allotted time.
7.) Beliefs Audit- Your beliefs impact your actions. Be mindful of your thoughts as they can lead to beliefs that are not accurate. As I have shared in previous posts, beliefs greatly influence your ability to be productive. Often the scripts that play in our head include: “You are not good enough.” “They won’t like it.” “I am not enough” – Instead, those should be replaced with “You have what it takes.” “You are more powerful than you think.” and “You are enough.”
8.) Email- The temptation to check your email first thing in the morning is like the temptation to eat ice cream after a meal. (At least that is my temptation, which is why I never have it in the house.) Create a ritual like, visualization, writing down your top 3 for the day and exercise vs. letting the email dictate your day. Also, turn off your email while you are working on a challenging project.
9.) Stuck- If you are stuck on a project or feel a lack of energy, change your physical location. I typically head to a new venue to complete my most challenging work. This could include a different office location or a different coffee shop. The change in environment activates the brain and energizes our creativity.
10.) Grouping Activities- It takes your brain about 15 minutes to switch tasks when interrupted. You want to avoid interruptions, but when you switch tasks it is much more efficient for your brain to switch activities when they are clustered into similar types of tasks. My clustered activities include: Administration, Creative / Presentation Work and Communication.
Which tool above do you think would fit your work style best?