4 ways to set yourself up for a productive day

Posted by in Productivity

We’ve all been there: suddenly, you glance at the clock and discover you’ve spent the first hour or two of your day doing… everything but that which you ought to have done. A little cunning and a smidge of willpower, however, can help ensure this happens as rarely as possible: here are four practical suggestions on how to go about it.

Pick your 3 most important tasks the day before

Our willpower is a finite resource, and particularly so when making short-term decisions. Just imagine the difference in deciding whether to work out immediately, or tomorrow. It’s infinitely easier to pick tomorrow – and, oddly enough, scheduled actions are easier to go through with.

The same applies to tasks. If you end every day with picking your most important tasks for tomorrow, you don’t need to subconciously fret about having to start your day with difficult decisions or worry about what awaits you: it’s all laid out, waiting for you – and what remains is simply to execute.

Eat the frog

Now that you’ve set yourself up with a great start by choosing your three most important tasks, start by doing the most difficult one first – often referred to as eating the frog. Why? Because your energy and attention – as in, your ability to focus – operate much like a battery does, recharging through the night.

This makes executing on the task you find least enticing first a logical, if not comfortable choice. In turn, you will likely feel great about the remaining high-priority tasks, as well as the rest of your day. Just give it a try, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Don’t book morning meetings

I’m not a fan of meetings. Not all meetings are time-wasting sinkholes, void of clearly defined outcomes and fraught with an excess number of attendees – but many are. And, when you leave them, you typically have less energy and more tasks than when you enter them.

This, of course, is a particular problem when you’re setting yourself up for a productive day. Your three most important tasks should be tackled when your energy and attention levels are at a maximum, and the solution is simple: don’t book morning meetings.

Personally, I try to give myself at least one hour – preferably, two – of pure and unadulterated productivity before attending meetings.

Postpone information snacking

You know that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from taking the edge off a busy day with dipping into your e-mail, online news and social media? Don’t make it your first appointment of the day; make it your first break instead.

Information snacking is much the same as nutritional snacking: a guilty pleasure. By making it a break, you’re essentially doing the brain equivalent of eating healthy before snacking on sweets. Furthermore, if you’ve already picked your three most important tasks, both having a game plan and something to look forward to during breaks will make this easier.

Oh, and keep the following in mind: information snacking isn’t the same as taking a real break.