How Do I Start Becoming More Productive?

One of the first questions I am asked is “How do I start getting more productive?” I understand that feeling of being overwhelmed by the process of getting organized and becoming productive. I will confess to you that I am a rather artistic person. By that, I mean that when I am in my groove and getting things done I would scribble notes on the corner of envelopes, the margins of my desktop calendar, and notes on the edges of other notes. Then, in order to finally make those notes productive, I would save those stacks of torn off pieces of paper and used envelopes and cross off the ones I had done so I could hang on to the ones that I still needed. Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? It WAS!!!
It dawned on me one day that in my efforts to be more productive and efficient I was actually SLOWING DOWN the process! I was doing good at making the notes but not good at using the note. I would spend countless minutes searching through scraps of paper to find the note that I needed.

Are you like that? Are you asking the question “Where do I begin?”

1. Start Where You Are – Often times we think that the newest gadget or the coolest program will make everything better but it doesn’t. Sadly, without the mindset of becoming more productive and efficient the latest program and the newest gadget will probably frustrate and even add stress when things don’t start falling into place right away.  So, start where you are.  If you are missing appointments and constantly running late, then start where you are.  Look at your calendar.  Are you putting all of your appointments in you calendar?  Why not?

2.  Don’t Do It All At Once – I started out this year with the goal of getting healthier.  Part of getting healthier was to lose some of the extra weight (ton-age) that I had been accumulating and carrying for years.  As much as I wanted to lose it all overnight, I reminded myself that I didn’t put it on overnight and it wouldn’t come off overnight.  As of this morning, I am 9 pounds away from losing 100 pounds this year!  On Jan. 1, I couldn’t imagine losing 100 pounds but now, it’s going to happen!  Same way with being productive.  It’s the little steps that get you to your goals.  Draw a line in the sand and say “Starting today, I am going to begin being more efficient”.  Choose those little things like:

  • Clearing off a spot on your desk.  What are some things that you aren’t currently using that could be put away?  Do you need those books sitting on the corner of your desk or could you have a list of books that you would like to read saved on your computer or smartphone?
  • Handle the mail ONCE – When I go through the mail in my office, 75-80% is considered junk mail.  Give it a quick glance and decide if you are REALLY going to use it or not.  Yes, that coupon to save $5 on a case of paper would come in handy, but they want me to spend $200 to save that $5.  If that isn’t in your budget, then you don’t need that coupon.  Throw it away.  If the piece of mail is something you CAN use, then do something with it.  If its a reminder to go to a meeting or conference then put it on your calendar and save all relevant info off of it then throw it away.  Once the info is filed/saved, the mail no longer serves a purpose.
  • Make a To-Do List – If you don’t know where you are headed, how will you know when you get there?  Make a list of the things that you need to get done today, put everything on it.  Now prioritize it.  What is a “Have To” and what is a “Want To”?  The things you have to get done are your first priority.  Step up and knock them out.

A big stumbling block to becoming productive is what I call “The paralysis of analysis”…getting overwhelmed by the large task and not getting started.  Start small.  In the movie The Great Outdoors, how did John Candy eat “The Ole 96er”? One bite at a time.  You CAN do this! I’m pulling for you!

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