How to be Your Most Productive Self During the Workday

Taylor

This post has some great tips to help get you back in control of your to-do lists and help you become the best and most productive version of yourself.

Not too long ago I came across this company Shine. They send “a morning self-care text to help you run the day.” I had my reservations — did I actually need self-care texts? I’m running my days just fine on my own. Did I really need another subscription to something I’ll read the first couple of days and then start overlooking? Were the daily texts even going to be worth my time or would they contain fluffy, useless content? So, I read some reviews and checked out their social feeds and ultimately decided they had me at least semi-convinced to give it a try.

After signing up for the daily texts, the follow-up message said,

*Crushes it one day*
*Needs a pep talk the next*
Yup, that’s why we created Shine.
We’ll send you a text M-F.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself (and if you think I was sold then, just wait; it gets even better). The next morning I received my Shine text. It read,

“One thing you *don’t* need to feel bad about today: procrastinating. 95% of us do it. Try the OHIO method.”

Now I was hooked, some days I feel like I’m a professional procrastinator (and I’m sure it’d be safe to say we all feel that way some weeks).

In fact, there’s even a running joke on how the creative process gets done. It looks something like this:

CreativeProcess

Sure, this idea is funny and a great way to poke fun at ourselves, but it’s also a scary truth.

We all get busy, and with the holiday season just around the corner, that reality seems even more apparent. There are a million things to do. There’s finding time to spend with all your family and friends and making sure all your projects get wrapped up before everyone is out of the office. You need to find the time to squeeze in carving a pumpkin or wrapping a Christmas gift. Not to mention figuring out a way to make the three meetings you were scheduled to be in at the same time. It’s easy to start pushing off the tasks that seem a little intimidating.

But there’s a better way. The article from my Shine text makes the perfect point:

“Procrastination = a gap between our intention + action. We delay an important task — then feel guilty, making it even harder to start. The fix: Making get-it-done our default.”

*Mic drop*

So at this point, you may be thinking — yeah okay, this all sounds great but what can I actually do about it? Well, I’m glad you asked! We’ve put together some great tips to help get you back in control of your to-do lists and help you become the best and most productive version of yourself.

Follow the OHIO Rule

No, not the state. OHIO stands for Only Handle It Once. This idea was presented in the Shine article and outlined by an MIT efficient expert in the book Extreme Productivity.

We all think we’re doing ourselves a favor by putting off that one minor client edit or not responding to an email right away. But that’s not always true. We like to think we can simply push it off our plate for now. But the reality is that when we push it off, it immediately lands in a mental list containing hundreds of things we still need to do.

Bob Pozen, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, suggests, “If you receive an email you need to respond to, reply to it immediately and be done with it. If you need to wait a few days to gather information, put a reminder in your calendar to respond to the request on a specific date in the future.” This allows you to be done with the email immediately and helps you avoid forgetting to address a critical issue or respond to something important later on.

Now you might be thinking; you’re crazy. If I respond to every email right away, I’ll spend the entire day responding to emails. But this is where some self-control can be a huge benefit. Instead of checking your email every other minute, give yourself larger time gaps between peeking at your inbox. Not only does it give you more productive time to tackle your emails but also allows you to provide your other projects the time and focus they deserve. 

Stop Multitasking

I sometimes will catch myself telling people, “I’m such a great multi-tasker.” Which is a great trait to have when you’re trying to catch up on the latest show on Netflix, painting your nails, and getting up to date on all your friend’s Twitter posts all at the same time. But it turns out it’s not such a great trait when it comes to managing your workday. Studies show that multitasking is actually less productive than focusing on one item at a time.

We all have a limited number of thoughts and memories we can hold in our brain at a time. Your mind may trick you into thinking you’re able to tackle all these tasks at once but in reality, you’re just switching your focus back and forth between them. The result is less efficient and less accurate work.

You’re better off taking a more monotask approach. Focus on completing one task at a time (heck, you can even use the OHIO rule again), and you will find that you will get all the tasks you were initially trying to multi-task done way faster and with way fewer mistakes.

It’s easy to see how we got here. In a world full of smartwatches, smartphones, and push notifications, we are constantly bombarded with information and distractions. But what seems like a convenience is actually hindering our ability to accomplish things.

According to research done at Stanford University, “People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.” So the next time you sit down at your desk to tackle a bit of work try switching your phone to airplane mode and silencing your notifications. Give yourself a set period of time, like an hour or two, to focus on a task you need to complete.

Give Yourself a Break

We all fall into the trap to go, go, go. And in reality, sometimes there is no other option. But we’ve all experienced that moment where you’ve been going a million miles an hour all week and your so exhausted, but it’s also only Wednesday. We might think that working longer hours or coming in on Saturdays means we’re getting so much work done (which can be true) but only if we’re not burning ourselves out in the process.

Studies show that taking regular breaks can increase your concentration. So treat yourself to a mid-afternoon walk around the office or have a quick 15-minute sit down at the coffee shop down the street. (It’s okay to give yourself permission to take a quick break — you’ve likely earned it.) Or try going for a short run after a long day, it can help relieve some stress and clear your head.

It’s by taking these short breaks or getting some good ole fashion exercise that you can really increase your chances of staying motivated and more productive through the whole week!

Tackle Important Tasks When You’re Most Alert

I’m a morning person. I always have been, probably always will be. I find that I can get so much done if I wake up early and start tackling my day right away. But my best friend? Not even remotely close. She’s a night owl. When I’m getting ready to shut down my day, she’s often running all her errands and knocking out all her to-dos.

So, who’s more productive? (Wow, talk about a loaded question!) But the answer is: it’s not really a fair question. Neither of us is more productive based on when we rise and shine or tuck ourselves into bed. The key is we both know what works best for us.

Try tackling the most important tasks when you find you’re most alert in the day. For some it may be after lunch — you took the morning to get up to speed, and now you’re really ready to crank it up. For others, maybe it’s best for them to tackle things first thing in the morning after that piping hot cup of coffee.

No set schedule will work perfectly for everyone. But by being in tune to what time of day is best for you, you can set yourself up to get those important tasks completed when you’re most alert!

Side note: Keep this in mind when trying to get things done with co-workers or getting information from different departments. For example, I know that my boss, TANK's Co-founder & VP of Client Services, Krista Ankenman is tasked with numerous meetings and calls throughout her day, so if I need to ask her a question about a project or need client information from her, I know a great opportunity to make this happen is first thing in the morning. By being aware of what someone else's day might look like or paying attention to when they’re most responsive and alert can help create a good schedule for not only yourself but your co-workers!

Get Set Up on Auto(mation) Pilot

Many of us have routine and mundane tasks that have to get done but take precious time out of our schedule. These types of tasks can often be a pain point for sales and marketing teams as they begin to grow and gain more prospects, leads, and customers. Sometimes it feels like you can’t get it all done.

Well, luckily there may be a solution. What if you could automate some of these repetitive tasks? Guess what? You can through sales and marketing automation! Ideally, through strategic automation, the customer experiences a simpler, more consultative buyer's journey, and the sales team gets a more efficient sales process that results in qualified customers. A win-win right?

Many sales and marketing departments set up automation for repetitive tasks such as email responses, social media messages, and some website actions. But sales and marketing automation can also be a fantastic tool to help companies with lots of leads to nurture across multiple channels (not just email), then prioritize the right leads for sales to engage.

The list goes on with what you can accomplish through automation. But hopefully, you can start to see my point. If you’re someone who’s managing a lot of customers or have constant prospect interaction that is currently bogging down your day, it may be time to consider implementing some type of automation in your processes to help you improve your productivity. 

It’s Not All Fairy Dust and Unicorns

I don’t live in an imaginary world. I know that not all of these solutions will magically fix everyone's day and productivity woes. There will still be days where you have to put off responding to those 50+ emails. And there will still be days where you might need a pep talk to get you motivated again. (And that’s okay. I mean look at me, I’m still getting those self-care, pump myself up, you’ve got this, daily texts.) But if you can start implementing some of these ideas—even if it’s just one—on a day-to-day basis, you may find yourself in need of that pep talk on a less frequent basis. And in result find yourself crushing your to-do lists on a more frequent basis!

Read more articles by Taylor.

TANK New Media is an award-winning digital marketing agency in KC that offers strategic branding, web design, development, and inbound marketing solutions.

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Originally published November 7, 2018 at 8:00 AM

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