Less Busy-ness, More Business: 5 Steps to More Meaningful Productivity
I'll be the first to admit that claiming that we're busy all the time makes us feel like we're being more productive when we actually may be doing a whole lotta nothing.
I started to realize back when I was in college how common it was for people around me to brag (yes, brag) about how much they had to do and how stressed they were and how there just isn't enough time in the day, yada yada yada.
But then when pulled up a chair and sat down with my popcorn, I really started to observe some of these same people, and I realized they really weren't doing much of anything because they weren't being productive.
After a marathon talking-my-ear-off session about how much work one girl had, and how she didn't know how she was possibly going to get it all done, I watched as she plopped into a big chair and started scrolling through Instagram.
Or, how one friend complained to me about the crushing demands of deadlines for work and assignments for courses, and then proceeded to head out to a bar and drink the night away.
This is an example of people who side-step their priorities and who eventually never really get anywhere. Almost like a crab walking side-to-side instead of in a direct, forward motion - we sometimes forget our main, forward-progressing tasks and take on our less significant busy-body activities.
Here are some tips to really go all in to actually get productive and start seeing some true progress with what you've set out to do.
1. Focus on targeted priorities each day.
When we're busy with things to do, we may feel that we need to keep adding more tasks on to our to-do list, when we should actually be focusing on targeted priorities each day that will move us closer to our goal.
Let's face it: checking things off those good ol' to-do lists is satisfying beyond belief. But do we really need to be adding some of those really minor things (i.e. brush teeth, make the bed, etc.) just to feel that rush of excitement we get when we can put pen to paper for that big check swoosh?!
I try to have a maximum of four (yes, four!) big-ticket items that will really move me forward with my tasks. They may be a little bit more difficult, but if I can complete them during the day or week, I know that after that, I will be on to the next chapter of that project instead of endlessly dancing around certain tasks that never really get me anywhere.
2. Ask yourself one question:
"Ask yourself if what you're doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow."
Just asking ourselves this question will help to focus our minds instead of constantly running around ticking things off the to-do list. Have you been avoiding certain tasks because you don't know what will happen after that? Because you may get a negative answer or rejection to something? Are you getting too comfortable with running around doing a little bit of everything that you're a bit nervous to face that bit of discomfort from not knowing a certain specific outcome?
Think about these questions and decide to go forth anyway with your goals and priorities. You're not going to grow if you're stuck running around in the stuff you've been running around in for the past months (or even years).
3. Visualize your perfect, most-productive next-day.
Starting the night before, I like to try to imagine my best and most productive next-day. If it's Monday night, how will I envision my Tuesday to look so that I'll be on track with my current goals?
What would you do? How would you do it?
Be realistic, but don't sell yourself short. As I said, I like to write down around four specific goals for the day as well as the smaller, more actionable steps it would take to achieve those goals.
4. Go easy on yourself.
Don't be too hard on yourself when it comes to hitting all the goals or checking off all the to-do boxes! If you don't get around to something one day, don't let yourself fall off the productivity band-wagon! Just try adding it to your next day's four top priorities.
After about a week of this, check in with yourself to see how you feel. Maybe you feel a little more grounded and less all-over-the-place. Maybe you could get used to something like this in your everyday life!
5. Automate those pesky but necessary everyday items.
Automation really helps with avoiding the, what I call, productivity side-step. If you're too focused on writing that day's blog post or sprucing up your social media profiles with no real strategy in place, chances are you're not going to be getting down to the nitty-gritty good stuff of your business.
Ideas of things to start batching for later, automatic publication include things like blog posts, social media posts, email marketing newsletters, email in general (by only checking email once of twice a day à la Tim Ferriss), the list goes on...
It can be a lot of work at first to get into the habit of automating your to-do tasks, but once you've found a system that works for you, it is soooo worth it!!
Thanks for reading, friends! I hope these tips help you move forward more productively rather than running around in circles of stressed busy-ness!
Stay cool, stay creative!