Many of us have come home after work and have made a simple pronouncement: “I really had a productive day.” Or sometimes: “Wow, it feels like I got nothing done.” What’s the difference?
It might seem like the answer to this question would be a complex mix of productivity techniques, time management tactics, and business jargon. But really, there’s a simple, two-part test to figure out if you are going to have a productive day:
- Did you start with clearly defined, reasonable objectives for the day?
- Did you keep focused on finishing those tasks?
That’s it. If you start the day by deciding what you want to accomplish, and confirming that your goal is actually feasible, you’re halfway there. Then all you need do is merely finish the work, and when you head home you’ll probably feel pretty fantastic.
The challenge to setting goals and meeting goals is in the details. Sometimes we establish a priority without really knowing how long it will take. Furthermore, our time is not our own. Interruptions will undoubtedly occur. You must answer the phone, you must check email, and it’s hard to ignore the colleague standing at your cubicle talking about last night’s big game. That said, with clearly defined goals, you can find ways to make sure every step you take is going to lead you toward completing what you set out to.
Are you supposed to have a meeting that really doesn’t apply to you? See if you can turn that meeting into an e-mail discussion instead. Are phone calls disrupting your workflow? Maybe put your phone on silent for a few hours.
Of course, focusing on goals doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t set realistic and productive goals. Depending on your organization, saying your goal is to make an extra million dollars of revenue today probably isn’t very realistic. But saying that you want to clean out your email inbox and schedule three sales meetings for the next month could definitely be done. You may have heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals before, but it never hurts to review that process! You want to be sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-sensitive. The part that seems most important here is the attainable section. Here’s some thoughts on that from mindtools.com:
Make sure that it’s possible to achieve the goals you set. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving, you will only demoralize yourself and erode your confidence.
However, resist the urge to set goals that are too easy. Accomplishing a goal that you didn’t have to work hard for can be anticlimactic at best, and can also make you fear setting future goals that carry a risk of non-achievement. By setting realistic yet challenging goals, you hit the balance you need. These are the types of goals that require you to “raise the bar” and they bring the greatest personal satisfaction.
The more you practice this method of planning your days, the better you’re going to get at finding out what goals are actually attainable and what goals are too easy. That sweet spot is where you’re going to have excellent days and feel like you’ve accomplished something worthwhile.
In order to have more days where you feel productive, try to build these habits into your process. Write down your goals. Confirm they are reasonable. Check them off as they are completed. You’ll feel better and be more productive! For more information on bringing this to your life, don’t hesitate to contact the business improvement consultants here at AccelaWork!