Let’s say it’s a workday and you want to make the most of it. Here are a series of steps to support productivity, and a KanbanFlow example for both routine and project tasks.
View from Coyote Creek Trail
Start the Night Before. Get enough sleep. If you struggle with this, which I do sometimes, learn about sleeping. Develop good nighttime habits. If you consistently have trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, or sleeping until morning, consider visiting a sleep doctor. Your health, productivity, and relationships will improve with enough good sleep. According to the CDC, most adults need 7 to 8 hours, but many get considerably less.
Establish a Morning Routine. Many folks are pretty groggy when they first get up. In that state it’s easy to “accidentally” spend a couple of hours reading the Internet for no apparent reason. Half the morning, or 5% of a 40-hour week—gone. A set of steps that you design for yourself can steer you straight toward productivity.
Quickly Check Email. If, like me, you communicate with people who live three time zones to the east, then it makes sense to glance at email in the morning. If they asked you for something at 7:00 a.m. their time (4:00 a.m. for you), they might be frustrated if you answer after lunch (4:00 p.m. their time). I try to reserve mornings for my ONE Thing, but I can quickly answer an easy question or say that I received something and when I’ll give a longer response.
Some people recommend not looking at email until after noon, but I don’t want to miss something that requires immediate attention. Besides, I can’t stand the suspense.
Also review your list of things to do today (which you updated at the end of the last workday). Make any adjustments. If you haven’t already, schedule appointments with yourself, on your calendar, to get things done.
This early “warm up” helps start out with those things you decided to do firmly in mind (to lessen the potential for losing time).
Project One. After looking at a great Productivity Schedule from Donald Miller of Storyline Blog, I adopted his Project One-Project Two-Project Three approach. It’s entirely compatible with the ONE Thing in that it suggests working on your most important (or demanding) task first, while you’re still mentally fresh. Here’s one way that can look in KanbanFlow:
In this example, repeating tasks are listed on the left, with work and other tasks on the right. Some of the morning routine subtasks are already checked off on the left (most of the unchecked subtasks are for later in the day). Projects One, Two, and Three have their own spaces on the right.
Little Tasks are those that can be done between other things. For example, if you use the Pomodoro Technique, you can set a timer to work on something for 45 minutes, with a 15-minute break. During the break you can get a cup of coffee and tackle a little task, too. When you dive into your next 45 minutes, you’ll likely have a boost in productivity because of your little shift in focus. Also, you’ll have finished something, which you can move over to the “Done” column, which is motivating in itself.
If your days are like mine, some Project One tasks can take a day or longer. That’s okay. It’s helpful (more motivating) to break that project into smaller chunks. Other times, you may have a series of shorter tasks that you can group together as part of, for example, Project Three. You can finish them off in a batch.
Another Word About Breaks. I try to stand up and move around at least once an hour. It’s not really that good to sit in a chair for hours on end. Also, breaks are a great way to give yourself a little reward for being productive.
Repeat as Necessary. Work through your lists. Make adjustments for whatever takes more or less time than expected. Add new tasks, as needed.
Set Yourself Up for a Productive Tomorrow. At the end of your workday, review your goals and tasks again. Make sure you’ve dragged your completed tasks over to “Done.” Set up your Today lists for the next day so that you’ll be ready for your “Warm Up” in the morning. Celebrate having tasks in the “Done” column.
Today’s productivity starts yesterday. Plan the day. Get enough sleep.
In the morning, use easy routines to point yourself in the right direction. Use breaks, little changes in focus, and the motivation of completing tasks to keep going through the day.
And don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for all the things you got done.
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