Buying a crisp, new planner from your local office supply store won’t automatically make you productive. Productivity is the result of effective planning and a planner is simply a tool for documenting and managing your plan.
Whether you’re trying to be more productive with your academic studies or at work, here are 7 strategies that will help you achieve that goal:
1. Define your goals every day
It’s crucial to define your goals for each day. Once you’ve defined your goals, you’ll know what tasks need to be completed to achieve those goals. Then you can enter those tasks into your planner or calendar app.
Clearly defined goals drive productivity. Productivity is measured by efficient output. Defining your daily goals keeps you on track with performing the tasks that matter.
Goals can be simple
Goals don’t need to be complex – they just need to be specific. For example, when studying, your goal could be attaining a thorough understanding of one specific chapter in your textbook. At work, your goal might be to get clarification around an expectation your boss has for you that you’ve been unsure about for a while.
Your goals determine necessary tasks. Completing necessary tasks results in productivity. If you don’t set goals, you won’t know when you’re being productive.
2. Use a calendar app that syncs across all devices
Scheduling tasks and deadlines in multiple places will tank your productivity. For instance, say you have a paper desk calendar at work and you schedule a few conference calls on that calendar. Now you’ve got to transfer those calls to your smartphone’s calendar app or you might forget about them.
If you prefer using a paper calendar or planner, stick to that as your only planning tool. If you prefer the simplicity of smartphone apps, stick with your app of choice for scheduling all of your tasks. If you use Apple products, you have an advantage over other devices. Scheduling apps built for iOS like Apple Calendar are powerful and easy to use and they’ll sync up with your phone and laptop.
3. Schedule every task with an alarm
Schedule every task with an alarm that rings fifteen minutes prior to allow time to transition from one task to the next. For instance, if you schedule a call with a client for 1pm, your alarm should go off at 12:45pm. When the alarm rings, you’ll know you’ve got fifteen minutes to finish whatever you’re working on and prepare for your call.
Productivity takes a hit when you rely on memory for meetings, phone calls, and other tasks. Forgetting about tasks that involve other people can seriously disrupt your day. You may need to postpone or cancel meetings, or shuffle around your daily personal plans to accommodate for what you’ve forgotten.
4. Schedule downtime
Scheduling downtime is essential for recharging your focus. Schedule breaks throughout the day to engage in activities where you don’t need to use your brain. Schedule time for walking or meditation to take your mind off work. You’ll feel refreshed when you re-engage in your tasks.
5. Schedule breakdown time between tasks
Scheduling tasks back-to-back is a bad idea; you’ll never realistically stay on track. For instance, say you schedule a business call from 1-2pm and invite a client over for an in-person meeting from 2-3pm. If your first call goes over time, your client will be waiting for you to finish the call. If your client is paying you for an hour of your time, they’ll either be cut short or you’ll have to extend your meeting time, which will cut into your next scheduled task.
It’s best to pad your schedule with at least 15-30 minutes between each task to accommodate potential breakdowns.
6. Get tasks done early
No matter what’s on your plate for the following day, get your tasks done early. If you’ve got several hours to kill, get ahead of the game. Start studying or get a jump on your workload for the next day. Take some of the pressure off for meeting your deadlines. You’ll think more clearly and you may even do a better job since you won’t be under so much pressure.
7. Schedule your to-do list items
A to-do list is a wonderful tool, but it’s not effective by itself. A list of tasks without a deadline attached to each task provides no certainty around when those tasks will be done. If the tasks aren’t important, then it doesn’t matter much. However, if the tasks on your to-do list have a deadline in the real world, then you need to attach a deadline to them.
Instead of making a plain list, use a to-do list app that allows you to set an alarm for each item on your list. An app like Wunderlist makes it easy to schedule to-do list items and set reminders so you don’t lose track of your deadlines.
Productivity is all about planning
Productivity is a direct result of proper planning. When you’re willing to do the work, organizational apps will help you achieve maximum productivity.