If you come to think of how much time and effort you’ve focused on things that don’t necessarily matter to you, you may feel guilty, resentful, or even angry.
Any time you find yourself pondering over everything you did during the week; you grow more and more frustrated because you didn’t make much -if any- progress on your personal goals. Your lifelong dreams and aspirations seem to remain out of reach. Between your job, daily responsibilities, distraction, and exhaustion, you’re not so sure you have the patience or determination to move forward with your ideas and bring them to life. The good news is, this does not mean you’re inadequate, incapable, or fated to remain stuck where you currently are.
Here are 4 steps you can take to increase productivity and boost project success.
Step 1: List your ideas and rank them
Finding your best work begins by evaluating all those ideas nestled in the back of your mind.
These are ideas that preoccupy your thoughts and consume your attention.
But how do you know which idea is the one to pursue, develop, and embark on bringing it to reality? The answer is quite simple; your best work occurs at the intersection of your knowledge, experience, and perspective. These three areas can help you assess which ideas are worthwhile and which ones are best left behind. To make this first step easier, start by making a list of potential projects.
Write everything down before you move on to analyzing each prospect individually. Once you do that, use the process of elimination to get rid of ideas that don’t speak to you. The list you’re left with after your brainstorming session represents ideas that matter to you the most.
You can then rank them based on the criteria that resonate with you, for instance, the idea that will positively impact your life, that you are willing to spend most of your time on, or that you simply cannot imagine pushing off any longer.
Step 2: Shape your ideas into projects and actionable goals
Charlie Gilkey explains that project planning comes down to two vital components: setting SMART goals and having an appropriate support network. You can’t turn your ideas into projects if you don’t know what steps to take, what tools to use, or how to proceed with executing those ideas in the first place.
Planning is paramount. Not only does it provide you with a tangible roadmap to help you navigate your way to success, but it also gives you a sense of clarity and purpose to drive your productivity and boost your progress.
Start by applying the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, reaslistic, timely) formula to your ideas. Once you define your ideas following this framework, you can move on to identifying the individuals who can help you turn your vision into reality. Gilkey calls this your success pack and divides it into different categories: guides for inspiration, peers for sharing ideas, supporters for offering help when needed, and the beneficiaries who will benefit from the completion of your project.
You can enlist the help of a maximum of five people for each category.
Step 3: Schedule weekly time blocks to work on your project
Time blocking has become an incredibly popular productivity tool, and it’s not hard to see why.
Breaking your day or week into specific segments boosts your efficiency and helps you accomplish more with minimal distractions. Dedicate weekly time blocks for different chunks of your project following Gilkey’s brilliant time-blocking system.
● Focus blocks 1.5 to 2 hours (individual work to make significant progress). You should aim for 3 focus blocks a week minimum if you want to build and maintain momentum.
● Social blocks 1.5 to 2 hours (interacting, communicating, and collaborating with your success pack)
● Admin blocks 30 to 60 minutes (low-level work like planning, answering emails, or making phone calls)
●Recovery blocks one for every two focus/social blocks (engaging in recharging activities to avoid burnout and maintain productivity)
Time blocking your work sessions allows you to stay on top of your tasks. When you allocate chunks of your day to a specific type of work, you’re more likely to complete everything you’ve set out to do no matter how high of a workload you’re dealing with.
To use your time more efficiently, you can also try batching and stacking tasks in addition to time blocking. Batching entails grouping similar tasks, so you work on them in one sitting, instead of spreading them out throughout the day. This way, you’re less distracted because you don’t have to switch between tasks as frequently. Stacking means combining two activities to save time. While these activities don’t have to be similar, they should still be compatible with one another -with one activity requiring less concentration than the other.
Sometimes, there will be tasks that need to get done that you’re not necessarily thrilled about completing. Not every part of your project will stimulate your brain or inspire your creativity. These tasks were described by Mark Twain as frogs when he said “If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.” The more time you spend avoiding those frogs and dreading them, the more that procrastination stresses you out. Not only that, but you also end up wasting your time and energy, making yourself miserable over a task you could potentially get done in a few hours.
With that said, not all frogs can be swallowed first thing in the morning. Increasing your productivity requires some degree of body literacy. You know when you’re more energized, focused, and creative, just as well as you know when you’re most lethargic, exhausted, and sluggish.
So, schedule your most important work when you tend to be sharper and more alert to ensure consistent progress. Another productivity hack from the book “Start Finishing” is to try and make it easier for yourself to get right back into your work by creating a crumb trail at the end of each session.
This could be a note detailing the next step to take or a simple task that doesn’t require a lot of brainpower to help you pick up where you left off.
Step 4: Review, reflect, and recover after completing a project
After finishing a project, it’s important that you take time to review, reflect, and recover.
Celebrate your success first because that sense of accomplishment is well-deserved. With that said, don’t indulge your enthusiasm and eagerness to jump right into the next project. Allow yourself a period of recovery where you get to clean up your physical and digital workspace, reflect on everything you learned while working on your project, and redirect your attention to aspects of your social life that you’ve been neglecting.
Draft an After-action review to determine what went well, what didn’t, what challenges you were confronted with, as well as the habits, routines, strategies, and events that supported your success.
In his book “Start Finishing”, Charlie Gilkey explains that you can change how you plan, how you execute, and how you show up to achieve, what he calls, your best work. Finding your best work can be inspiring, meaningful, and fulfilling. It can instill you with confidence and purpose.