Convinced that the real new year for many of us is early September not January, my thoughts turn to ramping up productivity and innovation just as things get busy in the coming months.
People are literally or figuratively in “back to school” mode in early September. Many enterprises emerge after Labour Day following a summer of dealing with reduced capacity because of summer of vacations and being short staffed. Summer can be crazy busy in some workplaces but the fall often brings intense periods of activity and a hunker down mentality for what’s to come. Q4 (October-December) for many business people is often the last chance to make the year’s numbers so productivity needs to be high. Coming off the summer refresh period we need to be at our best to innovate, not just get things done.
So here are 5 tips for strengthening your already productive selves leading to great results, innovation and sanity as the weather cools off but the heat gets turned up at work.
Get an early start. Start early on projects and work tasks you dislike and try starting your entire day just a bit earlier. Fifteen minutes can be huge and it has to be easier to do now than in the drudge of winter. A former boss used to say to me “you never have to make up for an early start”.
Batch your distractions. Managing distractions is now the most critical frontier of personal productivity. Checking emails and social media constantly is proven to sap your energy, increase stress and feed your easily distracted brain with shots of dopamine that make concentrating on your task doubly difficult. Kick the habit and check your messages in batches. Try every hour or half hour, some have moved to four specific times a day. Batching enables us to dive deeply in those things that really need our attention. And remember to turn off every beep, chirp and chime that seduces you with a dopamine jolt.
Move towards your energy. If you tend towards introversion, quiet time recharges you, if you tend towards extroversion, other people recharge you. Try to shape your day and your environment so you move towards the things that energize you and fuel the worker within. The evidence based book (uncommon in time management books) 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Managemen”t by Kevin Kruse states “they (successful people) don’t think about time; they focus on energy”.
Protect your inventory. The most precious inventory item for workers and their employers is your time. Squandering time on frivolous tasks that provide little or no benefit cheats you, your employer and your clients. Pareto’s 80/20 Law applies here so get tough with your use of every minute of the day and consider logging/tracking your time use. It’s a real eye opener. Charles Duhigg in his great book “Smarter Faster Better” The Secret of Being Productive in Life and in Business makes a strong case for being absolutely dogged in the protection of your time and calendar in order to lead to productivity breakthroughs and most notably to create the space required to innovate.
Tidy up and set yourself up for tomorrow. Cleaning your workspace at the end of every day fuels your sense of accomplishment and sends the right message to your brain and everyone around you. (I heard recently of managers incorporating the clean desk/messy desk item in their recruitment strategy noting they don’t buy the “I know where everything is on my desk” from those who keep their desk looking like a bomb went off day after day.)
Taking a few minutes to identify your starting point for the next day with a list or actually prepping the materials you’ll need enables you to jump into work the next day. Forget about easing your way into the morning routine, go directly tothe task you identified the afternoon before. You’ll have to adjust with the late breaking priorities of the new day but jumping in boldly makes you hyper productive quickly and staves off procrastination…and for goodness sake don’t start with your email inbox.
Given that Christmas in July is a thing, why not Happy New Year in early September. Now get productive!