A few years ago I was the type of person to buy a planner then try to plan their day out minute by minute or hour by hour. I’m sure many of you are the same way. We all know what this planner looks like and the structure of having activities planned out in time intervals throughout the day. For many people this works but I never seemed to find it beneficial for me as the time constraints I placed never seemed to work out as I planned. I was searching for a new way to not only schedule my day, but to remain effective and efficient at accomplishing specific tasks.
One Consultant’s Advice
While I was thinking about this problem I came across a short magazine article. I don’t remember specific details such as names, the company, or even the magazine name but I remember the principle it taught. The story was about an executive at large corporation who was looking for ways to increase his efficiency throughout the day so he brought in a consultant of some type. He explained to the consultant his goals and need for a system of planning and recording his tasks throughout the day that would increase his efficiency. The consultant then told him to simply think about what tasks needed to accomplish the next day then right them all down in a list. After the list was made, the consultant then told the executive to prioritize the list putting a “1” next to the most important down to the least important. This was the plan for the next day with the instruction to simply cross items off the list when they were finished and not start the next activity until all the previous were finished. If any were left unfinished at the end of day they became the first items for the next day’s list.
To the executive this idea seemed too simple to actually be effective but agreed to give it a try. The consultant was literally in the executive’s office for 5 minutes. As the consultant left the executive asked how much he owed for his time. The consultant simply responded, “I’ll come back in three days and you tell me what you thought this advice was worth.” Such the agreement was made.
The consultant returned three days later and the executive had cut him a check for $10,000 claiming that is how much money he had earned by his increased productivity over the course of the previous two days. Not bad for five minutes of work.
So Simple It Worked
I was astounded by this story after reading it for many reasons. First, $10,000 seemed like a lot of money for five minutes and the idea seemed too easy. Needless to say, I gave it a try. Each night I began making lists of 5-10 things I wanted done during the day then prioritizing them, leaving extra items to become the top of the list for the following day. It worked wonders for me and I no longer felt constrained by my schedule.
A few benefits I saw from this approach were:
• Increased flexibility and quality
• Less self-imposed stress from time
• Not rushing when there was no need to rush
• Prioritization of projects
• The ability to focus on one thing at a time
Over time I found that even though I wasn’t multi-tasking at much, my productivity increased and more projects were
getting done throughout the day. In today’s world we become so distracted by all the tasks that we can do, distracted by emails/texts, and distracted by all possible external outlets. These lists allowed me to manage these outlets and distractions more effectively while not following a rigid schedule.
Give this simple approach a try if you looking to increase your daily productivity. Each person is different but it worked for me, and may work for you.