Productivity experts praise the power of organization, time blocking, and project management apps. In fact, I've written popular articles on these topics and they are all valid, worthwhile ways to improve productivity. However, for many people, becoming more organized and introducing new methods means breaking old habits and learning to be consistent with new tools and habits. It's not always easy. This is why a change in routine that's easy, yet effective, can be worth its weight in gold.
What do you do when you have between five and 15 minutes until your next event or commitment? If you're like me, you get lost in email hell without achieving much of anything. Or you spend most of these precious minutes thinking about what you should do, which keeps you from achieving anything at all.
You forgot (again) to place an online order for the ink cartridges you so desperately need. You promised a client that you'd introduce him to someone on LinkedIn days ago, or your new checking account is still not linked to QuickBooks. These are examples of small, yet imperative, tasks that pile up, causing unnecessary stress and frustration.
Here's the problem.
You may have added these small tasks to your master list, but they're sandwiched between larger ones. Naturally, as you focus your eyes on your never-ending list, it's those larger, more time-consuming tasks that jump out at you. This can have a nearly paralyzing effect on even the most productive individuals.
Every minute counts.
What do you do with the small chunks of time that fall between your scheduled obligations?
Does this scenario ring true?
Since you don't have time in the moment to begin a lengthy project, you feel the pressure build. The precious five, 10, or 15 minutes are spent feeling overwhelmed or confused, or in downright denial. You do nothing--well, nothing useful at least.
Or does this scenario more closely describe you?
You rush to check email, but don't make a dent in your overflowing inbox. Or you pop into a social media account to see what's going on and get lost in the silly videos or debates on a friend's timeline. What the heck, why not spend a few minutes catching up on Words With Friends? These activities are time suckers, all of them.
Make productivity easy.
Instead of falling into one of these traps, increase your productivity by keeping the things you can do in 15 minutes or less on a separate list--one that is always handy.
When you sort out the little stuff and avoid looking at the larger master list (make one if you don't have one), you won't get caught in a cycle of pressure and confusion. When I have a few minutes between business coaching clients, I simply glance at my list and get right to work on the next task. No time is wasted trying to remember the quick tasks I need to get out of the way. There is no temptation to waste time on social media sites or unsuccessfully attempting to catch up on emails. It's best to schedule larger chunks of time on your calendar to answer email and return phone calls.
Whether it's handwritten, on your smart phone, or on a spreadsheet, your list will keep you focused, determined, and highly productive throughout the day. The best thing about this little trick is that at the end of the day, you will feel accomplished and content. Give it a try. It may seem like a small change, but don't be fooled. It has a big impact.