Some of the leading productivity experts discuss having a system to capture your thoughts and tasks, and then scheduling those tasks accordingly in your calendar based on priority. I also include that approach (as well as other tips) in the overall framework and system I present in Optimize Your Productivity.
When this process is utilized, it is an efficient way to get things done, and it does seem to make productivity easier. The problem, however, is that this process depends on two very important conditions, otherwise it won’t work.
These conditions are:
- Having a very predictable calendar so that tasks can be scheduled
- Having sufficient health and energy to get things done.
While I worked in high-intensity environments in the past, where there could be constant interruptions (especially for crises, manufacturing issues, etc.), I felt that the productivity system described in my book would work for the most part, especially if you can account for and accept that sometimes only the highest priority items can get done.
But what if you do not have a relatively predictable calendar, or you are suffering from health issues that make your days quite uncertain? I personally experienced these issues earlier this year, especially the past seven months while I was not feeling well in my pregnancy.
As many of you know, I’m expecting a baby girl in the New Year! My pregnancy was much more difficult this time — from feeling very sick to having to limit my mobility due to back and leg issues. On top of that, I take care of my son (a toddler) most of the time, so between not feeling well and having a mostly unpredictable calendar, my own productivity systems were challenged!
The good news is, I was able to adapt my systems in the event someone has a similar situation — where days are quite unpredictable in terms of schedule or energy level. I was still able to write and publish another book, after all (my second this year!) and I had a number of clients in my online programs this year.
The following slides highlight some tips you can utilize if you are in a similar position, or you can keep reading this article to see the tips explained.
1. Use a notebook or a “non dated” productivity planner.
While I previously used a blank notebook and then scheduled my tasks, I adjusted my system to use an actual productivity planner (this is the one I bought and personally recommend). Previously, my system required a certain amount of discipline to stay on track. With the planner, I was able to use it as a tool to keep me on track for the next few steps, primarily utilizing it as a means to stay organized and monitor my progress on tasks.
2. Identify and write down the most important tasks for the week.
By prioritizing my tasks and having that identified list readily available, I was able to have tasks ready to “pick from” when the individual days would arrive (step 3). This approach ensured I minimized wasting time once an open window did present itself. Instead of jumping all over the place saying, “What should I do next?” I was ready to tackle the most important items I had identified.
3. Review tasks and identify 1-3 tasks to accomplish the next day.
Once you have your priorities written for the week, it’s a good idea to pick the most important 1-3 items to accomplish the very next day. Again, building on step 2, you will be ready once that open window of energy and time presents itself the next day. Also, starting with a realistic number of tasks will help you focus and will minimize overwhelm.
4. Review your planner in the morning and use it to track your progress.
At this point, you will not have to make any decisions. You simply need to work on the 1-3 tasks you identified the night before. This will help you be more efficient and reduce the need to spend energy on decision-making. Further, the planner is set up to focus not necessarily on calendar days, but individual days, and it presents tools to help you monitor your progress for the day.
5. Evaluate your progress at the end of each day.
At the end of each day, you can use the tools inside the planner to assess if there could have been any improvements in terms of how you managed your day.
Once you have implemented these 5 steps, you can repeat the cycle! You will get better and better about knowing yourself, what you can handle and what you can’t, and your productivity will improve, despite the challenging conditions of time or energy.
In summary, I hope this article and presentation help, especially for those who are dealing with unpredictable calendars, caring for dependents, and/or managing health issues.
If you’d like more productivity tips, claim your free Optimize Your Productivity ebook at this link: http://productivity.lisakardos.com.