Want to Be More Productive? Do This Throughout Your Day
Part of mastering productivity is mastering time management. What are you doing when? The other part of mastering productivity is analyzing how time spent doing X affects you.
Thus, being productive is the art of knowing what you're doing when, how that's affecting you, and then making any appropriate changes. Simple enough, right?
There's a lot you'll have to take into consideration - how this task affects the rest of your day, or how that environment affects your creativity, or when you should exercise, or whatever.
But something that's really easy to analyze is where you're wasting time. When and where are you doing things that provide no value for anyone?
How long did it really take you to "just check Facebook (or LinkedIn) real quick"? How long are you actually spending on emails? How many of those meetings added any value to the group? Could they have been summed up in one text or short email? And do you really need to know every little thing Lisa's kids did over the weekend?
You need to know where you're spending your time. You need to do this throughout your day: keep track, keeps tabs on how you spend every minute. I promise you this is easier than it sounds. And here's an example to prove its worth.
One of my college classes was Behavioral Psychology, in which we we had an assignment to track how we spent our days.
I created a 24hr. spreadsheet, divided it into 30-minute blocks, and kept track of how I spent the majority (20+min.) of each 30-minute block. I tracked how much I slept, how much I studied, and how much I socialized.
As the semester wore on, as I kept track of how I was spending my time, I began to spend more time engrossed in the books, and less time socializing. I still had a good social life, but I was able to see when I was intentionally being social, and when I was using people as distractions from getting things done.
At the start, I was spending about 2 hours a day actively studying. By the end, I was spending about 5 hours a day actively studying.
Over a 4-month period, that's a wonderful amount of time to gain everyday! The project worked so well, in fact, that I kept doing it the following semester.
That turned out to be the best semester of my college experience. I was taking 20 credit hours, president of two campus organizations, had a very active social life, was in the best shape I've ever been in, was getting more sleep than I had any other semester, and had my best grades of undergrad.
All of this happened because I was keeping a very close watch on how I spent every 30-minute block of my day.
It forced me to pay attention. Time became something tangible, something I could see. And I could see how much of it I was wasting. Keeping track of how much time you waste is the number 1 way to use it better.
Doing this also created accountability. That spreadsheet can be very judgmental! Especially when you see you've been working for two hours and socializing for seven.
Keeping close track of your time enables you to focus on what you're doing when, and how that's affecting you. It creates a continual reward system. You do more so it looks better to your accountabilibuddy (the spreadsheet), and then that work produces better results in real life, which encourages you to keep improving.
If you want to be more productive, actively track how you're spending your time. It will change your life! And I don't say that lightly.