So often, we think of productivity as an accumulation of accomplishments: How many things did my team get done today? How many items can I cross off my to-do list?
But the correlation between the number of boxes you check and how much important work you actually did can be tenuous.
Maybe it’s time to reconsider what productivity really means. Rather than thinking about how tightly we can pack our day, what can we cut from our schedules? How do we boil things down to the essential?
What if we were to set a daily goal of completing just three important things? We’d have to be selective, but in the long run, we might end up accomplishing more. At least of what really matters.
To start simplifying, try the following ideas:
Skip the tedious jobs
A classic technique for prioritizing compares the importance of a task against the time required to complete it. Urgent matters that take a short amount of time should be the first to be dispatched. But for this exercise, try postponing the least important tasks for another day, however urgent they may seem. And make sure to define urgency for yourself instead of rushing to meet others’ expectations.
Pare down commitments
Try declining a request or dropping a regular commitment. It can be awkward at first, but it gets easier with practice. Make sure to acknowledge the value of the undertaking to whoever’s asking, then explain your goal of simplifying. Many people will appreciate that you take your and your teams’ time seriously. It’s likely something they would like to do better themselves. For others, it will be something new to consider, perhaps with some disappointment. But they’ll get over it.
Cut, cut, cut
Challenge yourself to cut your own to-do list in half. Then try axing it further. Eliminate the tasks that have been lingering for weeks. On others, ask for help. Like saying no, requesting help can be difficult, but lending a hand can be satisfying for others, and you might be surprised by the will to cooperate all around you. Organizations are all working toward the same goal. Appeal to a sense of common purpose.
Simplify your objectives
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by ambitious goals. Break big jobs into smaller pieces to make them more manageable. Then break those smaller pieces down again, and accomplish just that first step. Innovation requires vision. But in keeping your eyes on what’s ahead, you also need to address what’s right in front of you.