First, let's acknowledge that most of us don't automatically think "email" when we're thinking of ways to be more productive. In fact, the constant stream of email has destroyed many good work days. But this email is different because it's one you send yourself.
At the beginning of every day, send yourself an email with your list of what you plan to accomplish that day. Then, set it to snooze so you'll be reminded of it at the end of the day. Even better, download a plugin like Boomerang for Gmail and set the email to send at whatever time you'll be finishing up that day's work.
That way, the message you wrote will show up at the top of your inbox as you're wrapping up what is hopefully the last of your todos.
It doesn't have to be complicated, in fact, simple is usually better. Mine starts out "Today I'm going to accomplish," and then I list the three to five major tasks or projects I plan to tackle. The idea is that I want to be able to articulate what I am going to be working on, and give myself a reference point at the end of the day to evaluate my productivity.
Here's why sending this one email will make you more productive:
1. Writing it down helps you think through what's important.
There is something about writing out what you want to accomplish that helps you filter out what isn't important and figure out what's actually realistic. Your brain also prioritizes things as you write, which creates a sense of commitment to your daily agenda. This is why people make todo lists. They work.
It's why paper planners and calendars are a $400 million industry, and that's not even counting the $2 billion worth of Post-Its and other sticky notes sold every year. Save yourself some money and write your list in an email instead.
2. Knowing it's coming back makes you accountable.
When you know someone is going to ask you if you accomplished a goal, you're much more likely to actually get it done. That makes sense--no one wants to have to admit they didn't do what they said they were going to do.
Even if that someone asking is your inbox, the fact that you know you'll be looking at a list of the things you said you were going to get done, means it's way more likely that you actually will.
3. It gives you a way to review what you accomplished.
Not only does it help you stay accountable, it gives you a natural prompt to stop and evaluate what you actually got done. This helps you celebrate the small victories of crossing things off your list, (I know I'm to the only one that does a little dance).
It's also a great time to evaluate whether you were realistic about your goals, and how you can reprioritize things that kept you from being as productive as you planned. If the worst thing that can happen is you got nothing done, the best thing you could do is figure out why, and plan differently next time.