Want a powerful productivity hack? Not some fad idea but something that will help you accomplish your goals?
A while back I created the Pluralsight course Prioritizing Tasks and Managing Time for Greater Productivity. That has been one of my top 10 Pluralsight courses (I currently have 36 courses). I’ve thought about productivity, prioritizing, and time management a lot since I launched that course. All that thinking has led me to sharing my #1 productivity hack.
Yesterday I was thinking about productivity, and what my #1 productivity hack would be, and one thing kept popping up:
Do the most important thing.
There are a lot of productivity tactics. Make a list… don’t make a list. Consistently work on things over time vs. just get it done now and move on to the next thing.
There are models, like the 7 Habits 4 quadrants (actually, that wasn’t a 7 Habits original idea… that came from someone else). Do you work in Quadrant I or Quadrant II (and how have you figured out how to stay out of Quadrant IV?)?
You can prioritize your tasks, delegate, cross stuff off your list, etc. These are all great tactics to help you become more productive. At the heart of the matter, though, are two things:
Focus on Productivity
Early in my career I focused on being busy. Busy = good. Busy = productive. But in reality, busy didn’t mean I was being productive.
Case in point: When I worked in one of my first professional jobs (before I got into tech) and I spent hours organizing and cleaning my files. What an utter waste of time. I didn’t really have anything else to do, so it was something, but it didn’t help me or my organization in any way.
I should have spent that time studying or working on some skills to get into a different role.
I focused on busy but I didn’t think about productivity. Of course, at that organization, productivity wasn’t really a thing. Busy was valued, productive was not.
This may mean you have to redefine what productivity is. If you think it means busy then you gotta sit down and rethink what it really means. I have spent years and years rethinking what productivity means. I’ve had to learn that being productive doesn’t mean spending 8 or 10 hours in my seat. It’s okay to actually not work all day as long as I’m productive. Being productive has allowed me to free myself from artificial measures, like how much I work, and create a better work/life balance.
This is really mind blowing, if you think about it.
#1 Productivity Hack: Do the thing!
Once you redefine productivity, and stop focusing on things like “how many files did I organize” or “how many hours was I at my desk” (even if that means you goofed off for a lot of those hours), you can start to think about what the most important things are.
Today I can think of over a hundred things I need to do. But one of them is the most important thing.
Tomorrow morning, and Friday morning, I have two very important webinars I’m delivering. No matter what else I do today, if I don’t finish preparing for those webinars, I will have failed. Just about everything else can wait until I’m done preparing. Really, they can wait until after 9am tomorrow (when I’m done with the first webinar). But I have to get that first one done.
No other productivity hack is going to ensure I get that done. I could list the 100 items (most of them are in my mind right now), I could prioritize them, I could work through them (easiest ones first, fastest ones first, etc.). But the bottom line is I have to deliver and awesome webinar tomorrow morning.
That is, really, prioritizing. Instead of 1 through 99 it’s more of a #1 and the rest don’t matter until that is done.
Sometimes my “most important thing” will be something with a super tight deadline, like tomorrow’s webinar. There are no do overs, no second chances. I have to deliver it tomorrow morning.
BUT, that is living in Quadrant 1. That is the “everything is on fire, drop everything, do this single thing or else” model. For most of us it is stressful to live here. We don’t want to live here. And it’s not very productive over the long haul.
This productivity hack I’m talking about is not leading you to live in Quadrant 1. I am simply saying to figure out the most important thing and do that thing. Maybe that is to spend time marketing your stuff, if you have a side hustle or a business. Maybe that is to spend time on the phone or prospecting people, if you are in a job search. Maybe the most important thing is to work on your personal brand, read a book, take a nap, study for a certification… I don’t know what your most important thing is.
It probably changes each day!
But you should know what your most important thing is. Sometimes it’s defined by looming deadlines. Other times it’s defined by getting yourself on another path and having long-term success. Whatever it is, this is your new #1 productivity hack: DO THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TODAY.