How to Increase Your Productivity

When I sit down to write an article, or as I’m planning an upcoming mastermind call, the topics usually come to me because of conversations I’ve had throughout that week.

On our mastermind call yesterday, one of the things we discussed was how to keep focused and work efficiently towards your goals. I received a comment from someone that said they work much more efficiently and are better at getting things done as deadlines approach. This comment reminded me of a post I had written back in April of 2013. Today, I want to share that information again.

The following is portions of my post from April 18, 2013:

Last night, my daughter, Tia, finished practicing piano and was sitting at the table looking very stressed. My wife, Tamara, asked her what was stressing her out. From there the floodgates opened up and out came all of the things she had to get done in the next few days with some tight deadlines: French test, write a paper abut her experience in Africa, create a video to use at the piano recital, prepare her presentation for the Rotary Club, basketball practice, and…

That was when Tamara stepped in. She told Tia to make a list of all the things she needed to get done and the deadline for each one. She also needed to figure out which ones she could have help on and who could help her.

This made me think about Zig Ziglar and his “Day Before Vacation” teachings, which he asks:

  1. As a general rule, on the day before you go on vacation, do you get two or three times as much work done as you normally get done in a day?
  2. If you can learn why you are that much more productive on the day before vacation, and then repeat that process on a daily basis without working any longer or harder, does it make sense that you will be more valuable to yourself, your family, your company, and society in general?
  3. On the night before the day before vacation, do you take a sheet of paper and say to yourself, “Now tomorrow I’ve got to do…,” and then make a list of things you must do?… In it’s simplest form, that’s goal setting and it’s critical. Next, did you organize your must-do list in the order of importance and accept responsibility for completing those tasks?

The day before we leave on a vacation, Tamara and I both have our to-do lists. On that day, both work related and non-work related things get completed efficiently. This all happens because we have deadlines and we need to focus to get those things done.

This is what Tia will experience over the next few days. Her French test, the Rotary presentation, piano recital and all the other things coming up are going to happen if she’s ready or not. So she needs to focus and prioritize to ensure she does well at all of them.

Going back to Zig and his day before vacation example, he says “On the way to work the next day your self-talk was upbeat and centered on what you were going to get done. You arrived at work on time so you were punctual. You immediately started to work, making you a self-starter. You were highly motivated and optimistic that you were going to finish every task you had set for yourself. You were enthusiastic about your work and decisively moved from one task to the next, making good choices as you did so, even if the next job on the list was disagreeable.”

I love this example related to unpleasant tasks. “An ol’ boy down home said it best, “Friend, if you’ve got to swallow a frog, you just don’t want to look at the sucker too long. He aint gonna get no purtier! As a matter of fact, the longer you look, the uglier he gets.” That’s the way unpleasant tasks are.”

“As you move from task to task, if someone tried to interrupt and talk about last night’s television program or last night’s game, you disciplined yourself to stay on task and not be distracted from your job… Since there was no “tomorrow” for you on each job, you persisted until you completed each one… and momentum built with the completion of each task… Perhaps the most exciting part of this vacation scenario is the fact that your co-workers instinctively picked up the pace [as well].”

If this approach works so well on the day before vacation, or the days before a test or a presentation, won’t it work just as well every day?

A big part of this is in your planning. When you plan and track things, the odds of their happening go up substantially. If we plan our months, weeks and days we will be more productive and balanced.

Tia spent the evening writing about her experiences in Africa. She made her list and prioritized it. When Tamara told her to pause and to make a list to prioritize, it relieved a lot of the stress in the situation.

Plan your time efficiently, and act upon your plans so that you don’t spend your time reacting to what is happening to you.

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