This article describes 5 steps that can be taken to prepare for a productive workday.
For many, the success of a workday is measured by how productive it was. Highly productive days are important in the busy world of business, and they don’t happen by accident. While some may think a productive day is getting a lot done, what it really comes down to is getting the important tasks, the priorities, done. Lack of effective preparation tends to be the main struggle for people to have consistent productivity throughout their work week. There are relatively simple steps that can be taken on a daily basis to help set yourself up for a highly productive day. In this article we discuss 5 steps to help you prepare for a productive day.
5 Steps to Prepare for a Productive Day
1. Reflect on the Previous Day
This is easily one of the most overlooked steps as many people avoid looking at their actions, behaviours, and progress. Reflecting on your day at its close is a great way to increase productivity for the day to come. To get different results, we need to have different actions. It is beneficial to reflect on the day and identify the actions, behaviours, and strategies that we both want and don’t want to continue with tomorrow.
Here are some great questions to ask at the end of a day:
- What activities, products, people, or actions contributed to the majority of my results and success today?
- What efforts or activities consumed my time and energy yet didn’t lead to many (or any) results?
- What could I have done to be more focused and productive today?
- What habits are contributing to my energy, productivity, and focus?
- What blind spots or unforeseen events happened, and what can I learn from them?
2. Set Daily Goals
Another great way to prepare for a highly productive day is to set 1-3 goals for the day. This is most effective when you set goals the day before to make sure you are ready for the day ahead. Daily goals (these could also be called intentions or targets) are essential in making consistent progress towards the achievement of bigger goals. We often know what we are aiming to achieve in the distant future, however we can fail in making meaningful progress due to a lack of clarity in what we should be doing today. This lack of clarity can lead to being overwhelmed, and can result in wasting time rather than continuing progress towards the big goal.
Here are 2 BIG questions to help with setting daily goals:
- What tasks, if achieved, would lead to me considering this day a total success?
- What tasks, if achieved, would lead to significant progress towards my bigger goals? (Weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly goals)
3. Prioritize Tasks
A key component of preparing for a productive day is to prioritize our tasks. While a to-do list is important, it won’t be as effective if we don’t clearly identify what our priorities are. Without priorities, we will naturally be pulled towards doing the easier (and usually less important) tasks first, while postponing the challenging tasks that are most likely more important to our goals. This is known as productive procrastination. Our brains will automatically try to preserve energy and avoid uncomfortable situations, so without prioritization we are at the mercy of our automatic choices. The night before, clarify which tasks are absolute priority as they will be the most impactful and lead to significant progress towards the bigger goal.
A popular method of prioritizing tasks is called the ABCDE method:
- A – Highest priority tasks
- B – Medium priority tasks
- C – Lowest priority tasks
- D – Tasks that can be delegated
- E – Tasks that can be eliminated as they truly don’t matter
4. Schedule Your Day
Once we have established our daily goals and priorities, the next step is to schedule our day. Scheduling the workday removes any question of when to work on which tasks. When we don’t have the clarity of knowing when we should be working on specific tasks or what to do next, our inner resistance tends to come into play, which will often lead to procrastination. By scheduling out our days we can easily remove that resistance. Having a set schedule also eliminates moments of inaction and indecision where we are thinking about what to work on next.
Some people can schedule their day out to the minute and may need to as there are that many priorities to complete, however others may have a “looser” schedule that allows for some wiggle room. It is important to schedule high priority tasks first to avoid procrastination. Plus, the rest of the day will generally be easier once the more challenging tasks are done and accomplished.
5. Organize the Night Before
The final step in preparing for a highly productive day is to organize the night before by accomplishing as many small tasks as possible for the day ahead. The goal of this step is to remove as many little decisions as we can from our morning/day, so we aren’t using up more of our valuable time and energy. Organizing the night before sets us up for a day that has more focus and goes as smoothly as possible. This could start at work before going home by making sure our workspace is clean, organized, fully stocked, and ready for us to get straight to task the next day.
This could also involve preparation such as choosing our clothing for the next day, packing our lunch, preparing our gym bag, programming the coffeemaker to turn on when we wake up – anything that will allow for us to have a much calmer morning.
Preparation for Productivity
While productivity can be seen as daunting and hard to achieve, there are simple steps to be taken in preparing for a highly productive day. Reflecting on actions, strategies and results, setting daily goals, prioritizing and scheduling tasks, as well as organizing the night before are all actions that will contribute to productive workdays. After reading this article, it may be a good time to reflect and consider if any of these steps are currently part of your daily routine, or if there is more that could be planned to contribute to more productive workdays.
Download this resource Preparing for a Productive Day.