Today, productivity is a challenge. We have more choices and interruptions than ever before. Stressing about your productivity can cause exhaustion and burnout. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
The choices we make each day — negative or positive — impact our productivity. But, what positive choices can we make to improve productivity? How do we conquer our tasks, instead of letting them conquer us?
I learned all of this at a recent course, which covered Franklin Covey’s 5 choices for extraordinary productivity.
Here are the 5 choices:
1. Act on the important
The first choice of your day is the most significant. Identify tasks that will make you feel highly productive and focus on completing them.
How do you know what tasks are important? Use the Time Matrix (see chart).
Concentrate your energy on Q2. Q2 tasks are important but not urgent, and the return is greater than the time spent.
How should you allocate your energy to quadrants 1, 2 and 3? Q1 tasks will occasionally occur but, after a while, can lead to burnout. Focus your efforts on Q2 to alleviate some of the Q1 scenarios. Q3 is where you’ll find yourself busy but unfulfilled. Do your best to minimize Q3 by empowering your teammates. And eliminate Q4 tasks, typically occurring out of boredom or procrastination.
2. Go for extraordinary
Everyone can do extraordinary things, but it’s essential to have a good understanding of your role and goal(s) to do so.
You hold numerous work and life roles. A few examples include: parent, spouse, manager, teammate, writer/editor and friend. Identify the five to seven work and life roles you hold to help define your goals.
Once you have your roles identified, craft a role statement. Use the template below:
As [Role Title], I will [Extraordinary Outcomes] through [Activities].
Next, set your goals with the template below:
From [X] to [Y] by [When].
Roles, role descriptions and goals may change over time, but should give you a balanced perspective of your life and help you prioritize tasks to be highly productive.
3. Schedule the big rocks
Covey’s third choice is about taking control of your task list, scheduling the important projects or “rocks” and filling the remaining time with less important projects or “gravel.”
Taking control of your task list requires daily and weekly planning. Devoting a few minutes to planning can completely transform your week and keep you focused on what’s important.
Each week, take at least 30 minutes to:
- Connect with your roles and goals
- Schedule big Q2 rocks
- Organize the rest
Each day, take at least 10 minutes to:
- Close out the day
- Identify the few must-dos
- Organize the rest
Use the 30/10 rule — 30 minutes each week, 10 minutes each day — to transform your week.
4. Rule your technology
Technology should support what you do. It shouldn’t rule your life. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a jellybean scenario wondering where all your time went.
Ruling your technology starts with ruling your inbox. Decide what’s important and what’s not important when it enters your inbox. Your next action can make or break your productivity.
If it is important, decide what action you need to take. Do you need to set an appointment? Execute a task? File a contact, notes or documents?
If it’s not important, try to minimize time spent. It may be as simple as declining a meeting, empowering someone else to complete the task or clicking “delete.”
Do a gut check every so often to identify if the system is working or broken. A broken system will reduce your productivity.
5. Fuel your fire
Choice 5 is about consciously deciding to move, eat, sleep, relax and connect because we all need time to restore and replenish.
Here are some examples:
- Move: Get up from your desk every 90 minutes, consider a stand-up desk or have standing/walking meetings.
- Eat: Drink water, reduce caffeine consumption, swap a bag of chips for fruit or focus on a nutritious breakfast.
- Sleep: Don’t take your phone to bed, take a short nap or use a sleep app if you have trouble falling asleep.
- Relax: Read, watch TV or cook.
- Connect: Chat with a friend or take time to get to know a work colleague better.
Be self-aware of your energy and mood, then make decisions to impact them positively.