Especially in the “scrappy startup” phase, business owners and high-performing leaders can’t afford to misuse their time. But sometimes the hours just get away from us.
Meetings with other people become anchors on our calendars, but the rest of our time is discretionary. Investing each minute in the most productive way can be hard. The sheer number of things we need to do can become its own distraction in that discretionary time.
Here are three tricks I use to keep myself focused and productive:
1️⃣ Tiny to-do lists. At the beginning of a week, I’ll write a short To-do list on a roughly one-inch square sticky note. Not much can fit there, so it’ll have only the very most important things I must do that week. I’ll place that sticky note on my monitor and use my discretionary time to tackle those crucial tasks.
2️⃣ Task-based appointments. As I become aware of important tasks, I’ll decide when I will work on them, and I’ll book the time on my calendar. These appointments become my commitment to use my discretionary time on things I have already decided are important.
3️⃣ Pomodoro timer. When I have large open blocks of time and long-running creative tasks to work on, I’ll use an app to guide me through the pomodoro technique. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique.) This method alternates periods of hyper focus with brief rest periods so the work time can be most productive.
After a while, though, each of these tricks can gradually stop working. I’ll start to ignore my sticky note. Meetings will get scheduled on top of task appointments. I’ll get tired of pomodoro.
But that’s why I love having all three options. When one of them stops working for me, it’s pretty easy to shift gears and reinstate one of the other tricks.
How about you? What are your techniques for staying focused and productive?