We love productivity tips! We have a whole row of books on the subject in our office. We've watched so many videos and read countless articles on how to accomplish more and give our best performance. The challenge is that there are so many ideas, and only a select few make a profound impact on our ability to get things done.
We keep filtering through these tips to find a life hack or solution that makes a real difference. It's a beautiful thing when we can actually do more with less effort. Here are three core practices that the Officers at Net Friends regularly apply to help us consistently execute at our best:
Pro-Tip #1: Highlighting
Identify your "Highlight of the Day." The idea is that you select ONE task you will prioritize to accomplish in your day and make sure you get that one thing done.
I’ve heard this best described as “What would my future self be most happy about completing today?” and also as “What do I want the highlight of my day to be?”
If done effectively, you can determine whether the day is successful based on whether you are able to complete this one task. It should have a reasonably significant impact on your professional or personal life, so that it's worth prioritizing.
This is one of those priorities that doesn’t run counter to your To-Do list, but rather helps you gain control over any task-oriented agenda. It ensures that you don’t accidentally feel unaccomplished if you don’t get everything on your list checked off.
Pro-Tip #2: Time Blocking
Create time blocks on your calendar dedicated to tasks. You can use your calendar for more than meetings and appointments. If you need to put together a presentation or do research, block off time on your calendar for when you’ll do this work. Add notes and resources while it’s fresh so that when the time block arrives, you’re equipped and ready to dive in.
The intent here is to maximize your calendar and develop a reflex to put tasks and personal commitments down on your calendar with the allotted time to fully address them. Do this by degrees or only when it seems applicable, as the goal here isn’t to overdo it and get everything in your personal and professional life blocked off. Rather, this discipline ensures that you give yourself the time to honor your commitments. A few side benefits include the ability to:
- Minimize any tendency to overcommit, while eliminating less ideal uses of your time
- Cut down on procrastination with deeper, focused work
- Track your use of time more easily with better recall on how you spent your day
The biggest takeaway is that your time is a resource to allocate.
Time blocking also helps you set tasks aside and largely out of sight until it’s time to engage with them. Make sure you consider the Eisenhower Matrix first and only block off time for Important/Non-Urgent tasks.
One more related tip: if you have a reasonably large task to perform, like writing a report, give yourself about a half-hour of additional time just to get into the creative flow state. It's unlikely you'll be churning out great content in just the first few minutes – allow yourself time to begin engaging with the material when you block off time.
Pro-Tip #3: Time Batching
Batch associated tasks together and allot focused time to address them. Baking is a great metaphor for the idea of time batching. We all know it's more efficient to make things in batches. You bake a dozen muffins at once instead of baking a single muffin at a time until you have 12 of them. Everything is easier from prep to wrap-up when you can group similar tasks together and work on them all at once. You achieve a good flow-state and have an intent to move things forward to completion in a focused, deliberate manner.
If you approach time batching properly, your main goal will be to minimize distractions by staying focused on a single task. Of course, you cannot choose to only answer the phone during specific time periods, so batch things that are batch-able. To be frank, checking email or looking through open channels on Slack can really happen in bursts of focused activity. Consider batching these activities during controlled time periods in the workday without harming any workflows.
Multitasking reduces overall productivity (some estimates peg it at potentially a 40% drop in overall productivity vs. doing tasks in series) and it also greatly increases error and oversight.
Time batching takes discipline, and it’s hard to resist the dopamine hit you’ll get from multitasking and bouncing around priorities. However, the results of batching can be amazing. Focused batch work can return so many free cycles back into your work week.
At the same time, since we provide customer service, there can be a lot of urgent needs. We cannot afford for everyone to be only accessible via chat or phone during brief periods of the day. Use your discretion on what is batch-able. It's a good rule of thumb to ask: Will I revisit this task frequently in the next day(s)? If yes, can I actually knock it out and save time if I gave this my full attention for  minutes?
Go Get It!
When you combine these three productivity tips together, you’ll find that you end each workday and workweek feeling and seeing that you’ve accomplished more than you would have otherwise. You’ll produce higher quality work and in a more efficient manner. You’ll feel better about yourself. And hopefully, you’ll take that wonderful feeling into your personal time and bring positivity and engagement to your family and friends outside of work.