Productivity isn’t always a straight line — it’s a lot more like a huge maze that can make you question your resolve and confidence. But getting out of those twists and turns and back to peak performance depends a lot on your routine. These are three of the most powerful behaviors that can help you get more done.
1. Create a battle plan for the day.
A daily battle plan, or BP, is defined as “the plan for accomplishing a goal or dealing with a problem or difficult situation.” It consists of short-range objectives that move your overarching strategy forward or tackle a barrier to implementation — your strategic plan is what drives it. The items on your BP should coincide closely with upcoming deadlines or what will have the biggest influence on your other activities and decisions.
Once you know what your main priorities are, break each one down into the steps that are necessary to accomplish the job. Work out the exact actions you have to do to accomplish each step. This might include determining who you need to contact and what you need to ask. Work in time allowances to get each step done and allow for breaks to recharge and process the information you’ve gained.
Having this battle plan is critical for productivity first because it eliminates much of the stress that comes with unpredictability — it gives you a feeling that things are more under control. It also gives you something to fall back on: when people interrupt or approach you for other things, you can ask yourself if their requests or needs support your original goals so you don’t get sidetracked.
2. Compartmentalize your time for dedicated tasks.
Compartmentalizing your time according to your now-created BP — for example, checking email happens from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. daily — ensures that you can get into an efficient rhythm and flow with your work. It also trains you to hunker down and put your energy and attention into one activity, rather than hopping from thing to thing and never completing any of what’s on your plate. Plus, you have to be honest with yourself about how long everything takes, which helps you stay realistic about how much you take on.
A final benefit of compartmentalizing is that you can show everyone what you’re doing via your daily calendar. It’s easy for people to know when to come to you without interrupting something critical, and they’ll have a better sense of what you’re trying to deal with for them or on behalf of the company.
3. Skip using your inbox as your to-do list.
This goes hand in hand with following your BP and compartmentalizing your time — good leaders want to respond to as many messages as well as they can, not only because they want to have good relationships, but also because they don’t want to feel like they’ve missed something important.
The trouble is, email never stops coming. If you give into the temptation to see your inbox as a to-do list, you’ll never have a break, and you can start to feel overwhelmed. Plus, if you’re focused on email, you’re allowing others to direct your day, rather than directing your own time.
Instead, scan your inbox at scheduled points in the day — as mentioned above — and click into only those messages that relate to your original battle plan. Answer whatever is left at the end of the day or whenever you get a minute.
Productivity isn’t something that comes just from the skill sets or experience you have. It’s the result of defining your goals clearly and controlling your skill sets and experience in purposeful ways that bring those goals closer. By forming a better routine that keeps you in the driver’s seat, you’ll naturally see the uptick in results you’re after.