By Peter Kozodoy, Partner/Chief Strategy Officer at GEM Advertising
Everyone wants to do more with less, especially us millennials who want to get the hard work over with so we can get to happy hour. To that end, allow me to share my favorite productivity hack with you.
Unfortunately, adopting this trick means you have to add yet another task to your already busy day. So, what kind of technique adds more to your plate but also allows you to accomplish more? It seems impossible, but it's actually an entirely logical tactic that is particularly essential for entrepreneurs.
Here's the trick: Every day, I open up an email in draft mode and write a to-do list. I number each item and then organize each in priority order -- sometimes according to what is most urgent, but most often according to what works best in which part of my day.
For instance, I had on my to-do list today to write this article. I know that I don't write articles well after 3 p.m. when I'm thinking more about happy hour than putting my mind to work sharing lessons on how to become a better leader. So, I put this article higher up on my to-do list than the other tasks I had to complete today. On the other hand, tasks like applying to speak at conferences is largely a cut-and-paste exercise, and I can do that with a glass of wine in hand, so that’s something I would put toward the bottom of my list.
Why is this tactic so important for entrepreneurs? For better or worse, we entrepreneurs have the freedom of choice. We can choose to do anything we please with our days, which is great -- until you realize that when you can do any one of a thousand things, it's extremely difficult to choose the next best thing to do.
No one is looking over your shoulder to make sure you're on track, so it's so easy to slack off, check Instagram and go to lunch a little early. That's why I devised this small trick to stay away from these proverbial sirens and keep me working diligently toward my personal and business goals.
Every single day I make a to-do list and then delete stuff as I complete tasks. (As a bonus, working in email draft mode and deleting as I go means there's no clutter -- digital or otherwise.) Based on my experience, here's what you just might see happen when you implement this trick yourself:
1. You'll get more done.
Writing a list in the first place forces you to think about all the small tasks you need to accomplish for the day. That way, come 11 a.m. when your stomach starts to remind you that you've only consumed coffee so far that morning, you don't need the added stress of guessing at what you need to do next.
2. You'll trick yourself into doing more, and faster.
I end up thinking, “Well, why not just go on to the next thing on my list? It's right there, so I might as well do it.” After several times of deciding to move on to the next task on the list, you will find that you've gotten through most of your tasks and are well ahead of schedule. Without having that next item to do, you easily might have drifted off in between tasks and wasted valuable time.
3. You'll feel awesome.
Nothing feels better than checking items off your list. I end up feeling like a productivity ninja by the end of the day, and when people ask me how my day was, I can respond cheerily, “productive AF.”
4. You'll advance your goals.
Small tasks may feel insignificant, but when added together, they form the basis of your big, long-term goals. It's easy to get so wrapped up in the day-to-day that you forget all the progress you're making. But when you work diligently and chip away at your tasks, you'll inevitably realize, “Wow, I've accomplished so much!” And that's the best feeling of all.
I know it sounds simple, but I've found that the most effective techniques are often the ones that are easiest to implement, even when it comes to productivity.
So, do yourself a favor and try it for a few days. You can use project management software, email drafts or good old-fashioned paper and pen. If you hate it, then abandon the practice. But you just might find that a simple to-do list helps keep you on track to complete your daily tasks and feel great about making progress. And what could be more productive than that?
Peter Kozodoy is an author, speaker, serial entrepreneur and the Partner/Chief Strategy Officer at GEM Advertising.