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Guest Post: 5 Simple Productivity Tips Everyone Should Know

[Credit: Aimee Sicuro]
Productivity isn't rocket science.

I've enjoyed some success in my professional life but while I won't claim expert status in my field of work just yet, I would consider myself to be highly productive.

I've read several books on the topic, and there really are no secrets or magical apps that will make you magically more productive. Put simply, to me productivity is about action, which starts with doing something and then is sustained by doing more of it. The opposite of productivity is inactivity, and that's usually fostered by making excuses. So, as a follow up to my post about Positive Psychology and Flow I have decided to share my approach to being productive. None of these are groundbreaking, but sometimes a reminder of the obvious is needed.

Productivity is about action, 
which starts with doing something 
and then is sustained by doing more of it.
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1. Stick to your routines.

For me this starts with getting to the office every day at 7am. I'm always the first one in the office, but if I arrive at 7:05 then I am late even though no one is there watching. What happens once I arrive is generally very chaotic with many projects always going on, so taking a break from work, getting up from my desk to walk around, getting coffee and browsing the internet for five minutes is routinized to provide me with a sense of normalcy each day regardless of how crazy the days can get. 

Routines do not have to be at odds with having variety in life but instead the consistency to my days allow me to budget time properly and ensure that I have the proper energy before I start various tasks.

2. Leave notes for yourself. 

I always seem to have too much on my mind and I have realized is that if I don't write it down, I will not remember to do it. Before I go to bed at night you might find a note at my door that says something that would otherwise be obvious like don't forget to wear a suit for the meeting or bring this letter to the mailbox. 

I don't trust myself to remember everything, so I only have to remember to 'write it down' as soon as it comes up. The notes from my past self have helped me out time and time again. That guy always has my back!

3. Make lists.

Once I get to work, I go through my entire inbox and begin flagging each email that requires my attention. Generally I will not respond to anything at first, but simply mark items to follow up. After all my important emails are flagged, it gives me a good sense of how I will be spending my time that day. As emails come in throughout the day, I flag them immediately as I determine it requires a response. What I also find helpful is emailing myself to remind me to do something. My flagged emails serve as the single source for pretty much everything I need to remember to do whether it is work related or not.

If emails are not your thing, a good alternative is to write down a to-do list on your phone or paper.

4. Prioritize your day.

By keeping to-do lists and flagging emails I know exactly what tasks I need to complete during the day. Seeing everything lined up,  I identify a few of the easiest tasks and complete them first to get some early wins in the morning. Afterwards I pick the one or two most important items and start working on those. As I cross items off and new items come across my desk I continue to re-prioritize my remaining tasks. 

Regardless of what I'm working on, after about an hour I will take a quick break because I (like most people) can really only sustain a singular focus for about 60 minutes before needing to break and recharge (refer back to #1).

5. Be proactive. 

This one may sound the most obvious when talking about productivity but its importance cannot be understated. I will admit though that when I stare down email lists 20 items deep every day it never gets less intimidating. After having identified what I need to do that day and having flagged emails, I allow myself about two minutes to freak out and wonder how on earth I'll get through everything but after that I know the only way to get through the day is to actually start working, since I only need to get through about an hour before I take a break. 

The way I see it, with a never ending stream of work the only way to keep up is to stay organized and keep pace with items as they come my way.

[Credit: Aimee Sicuro]
Since I always seem to be working, some people might get the impression that I love work. While there is a great deal to be said about taking delight in the opportunity to do honorable work, if I'm going to be honest that is not always the most natural feeling for me. I do however enjoy being extremely productive.

Of course everyone's situation is different and perhaps your professional or personal situation isn't tied to many individual tasks that can be tracked via email, but I hope I have given you some useful tips. Are you as organized as you should be? Do you have routines, make lists and prioritize your responsibilities? Most importantly, are you about action and completing your goals, both professional and personal? 

If you haven't given serious thought to your productivity, 
your future self will thank you very much if you do. 
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Andrew is a born-and-bred New Yorker and has been working in the finance sector for over a decade. He enjoys travelling the world with his wife and spending time with his family. 

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