There are hundreds of books and articles about personal productivity. To be honest, I may have read only a few even though I know I would benefit from them. Over the past year I have slowly improved my approach and it seems to work pretty good. Here are my personal tips:
- Set aside task time in your calendar. Many of us share our calendar views with others. In doing so, we are always at risk of someone else filling up our "empty" time slots with meetings. If we have a lot of meetings, we don't get work done. I fill up some of my calendar hours as focused work time. This prevents others from adding meetings that overtake my time to get work done.
- Assign targeted tasks that can be accomplished. I try not to lump a bunch of tasks in a day and plan on getting as far as I can. I found that when I did this I would be tired and disappointed at the end of each day. It was better to break up the tasks into the number that I know I can get done with at least 80% confidence. Finishing my day's list feels really good! We can always go for more as a bonus, but stay energized.
- Use the right technology. I religiously manage all of my tasks in the PIEmatrix To-do page. I set the view to Group by Day. This is really nice since it groups my late tasks first, then those that are due today, tomorrow, etc. There are a number of good task management options in the market, so find the one that works for you. Find something like PIEmatrix where you can manage project steps along with personal tasks.
- Keep work and personal tasks together. I use the same list when managing all of my personal and work tasks. The day has only so many hours and I tend to work on PIEmatrix tasks both at work and at home in the evening. If I don't keep track of personal to-dos, then I don't know if I have open time to do PIEmatrix work in the evening or weekends. Again, it's all about knowing what we can realistically do in a day so we feel good about accomplishments.
- Give room for the task monster. I take time at the end or beginning of the day to look at what's on my plate and rearrange target dates as needed. However, there is a task monster that lurks. Once I have my day all set up, there's this monster that creeps out from the cracks and vomits new acid tasks upon my desk. These are to-dos that are not planned, but really need to be done before they corrode my desk. So, give enough open time to manage unexpected tasks from the task monster.