Have you ever heard the phrase “There must be something in the water”? It is something that is said often when there are a lot of people getting pregnant or having new babies. Well, right now it seems as if that water must be all around me. A lot of my clients are getting ready to have their second or third child and they are wondering how they are going to be more productive with less time. New babies tend to take us into a Bermuda Triangle that makes all of our established schedules and routines mysteriously disappear!
Being Productive vs. Being Busy
It is common that some of my client have confused the idea of being busy with the idea that they are productive. It is possible that you can run at full speed all day and fall into bed exhausted, only to look at your to-do list to realize you didn’t really accomplish much of anything. When you look around and see that being busy is such a norm in our society, you tend to take that as being an acceptable or desirable behavior. Back in my corporate days, I used to work at IBM and productivity strategy was all they ever wanted to discuss. They always wanted to find more ways that we could do more for them in less time.
When really boiled down, having a goal of being productive is really a goal of feeling fulfilled. It really feels good to check things off on a list that gets you even a little bit closer to goals that you have already established. I used to be one of those people that would write big, long, legal pad to-do lists. However I’ve found that a lot of times, it winds up just being a brain dump that doesn’t usually lend to productivity for me.
Focusing on Your Priorities
If you are going to do a to-do list, let’s start taking a look and noting which tasks on your list are your priorities. Make it a point to write down your top 3 priorities for the day or week. These top 3 should be tasks that will get you closer to accomplishing some goals that you already have in progress. Then, take these tasks and make a point to put them down officially on your calendar. It can also often help to estimate the time it will take you to complete each task, especially if it is a common recurring task.
If to-do lists or brain dumps aren’t really for you, then you should consider utilizing hit lists. Hit lists are a tool you can use to break tasks down by how much time they take you to complete. You will have a 5 minute list, 10 minute list, 1 hour, 2 hours, etc. Then, whenever you find yourself with unexpected time, you have those to refer to and can be productive. Read more about hit lists in my blog Using Hit Lists to Get Stuff Done and as usual if you could use some advice or guidance you are always welcome to contact me.