Habits are incredibly powerful. They are the actions we take (almost) every day without even thinking. They require no willpower; they simply get done.
You probably have dozens of habits that support you throughout the day. From showering first thing in the morning, to brushing your teeth after breakfast, to reading before bedtime and anything in between. You don’t have to think about those things, they just happen.
Some habits don’t support us, such as smoking or too much alcohol or jumping onto social media first thing in the morning. These habits are bad for our physical and/or mental health.
Of course, there are also habits that support or hinder you throughout your workday and these are the habits I would like to talk about today.
Establishing supporting habits help us to get things done. Being habits, they happen automatically so procrastination doesn’t set in; if it’s a habit, you don’t give yourself a choice. You simply do it. Finally, you can’t forget about it as it happens automatically.
So, here are my 3 habits for a more productive workday:
Put your phone away while you work
Make it a habit to switch your phone to flight mode and put in a drawer as soon as you sit down to work. Only get it out when you need to make phone calls. You could schedule ½ hour or an hour of call time during which you return phone calls that have come in and landed in your voicemail and make any outgoing calls you need to make. Then the phone can go back into the drawer.
Result: you can focus on your work; meetings can run without interruptions and you are generally more present as you are not constantly pulled away by notifications pinging in.
Block book your workday
We tend to work best when we concentrate on the work at hand, focus on one thing at a time. If you divide your day into activity blocks you can focus on one thing and stop multitasking. Here is an example of a blocked day:
9:00 – 10:30 client phone calls 10:30 – 11:30 emails 11:30 – 12:30 working on reports 12:30 – 1:00 lunch 1:00 – 1:30 emails 1:30 – 3:00 respond to voicemails 3:00 – 4:30 project work 4:30 – 5:00 wind down (final emails, planning for next day, shutdown computer, etc.)
This is just an example and, of course, needs to be adapted to your particular work requirements. But as you can see it leaves time for reactive tasks (emails, phone calls, etc.) as well as for project work and tasks that need concentration. Having a set structure in your workday eliminates the “what shall I do next?” conundrum.
Knowing that you only have a certain amount of time available will also subconsciously spur you on to get more done.
It is important to note that these structures don’t need to be set in stone. You need to stay flexible in case of emergencies or if the unexpected occurs. They work, however, brilliantly for improving your productivity on regular workdays.
Write everything down
The habit of writing things down works towards improving your productivity on a variety of levels.
Firstly, if you regularly empty your brain onto paper (or digitally into a device) has the effect that your brain is less likely to interrupt you with things you need to remember. You now don’t need to remember them as they’re written down. You can go for longer periods of time concentrating on a task.
Secondly, your brain now doesn’t have to try and keep everything stored, so it doesn’t tire as fast. Less tired brain equals staying mentally alert for longer and getting more done.
Thirdly, important things are less likely to fall through the cracks.
It is essential that you not only write things down and forget about them again, but that you deal with them. Go through your notes and sort each item into your various systems. Dates into your diary, tasks into your to-do list, items onto your shopping list/errand list/etc. Only then will writing things down truly improve your productivity.