If you’re searching for the perfect to-do list app or calendar plug-in to make you more productive, I’m sorry to say you won’t find it here. Sure apps and software can help you be more efficient and get things done more quickly, but that does not necessarily lead to greater productivity. Being productive is about achieving your goals in a timely manner with minimal stress. Getting there takes awareness of your current behavior(s) and making small changes to do things differently than you have in the past.

Minutes Matter

– When you look at all you need to do versus the time you have available it can be overwhelming. If you really want to get things done, start to be very aware of minutes. According to 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin Kruse, time is something you can never recapture, yet we give it away so easily. How often do you hear, “Got a minute,” or “This will only take a minute”? You then readily stop whatever you’re doing to devote yourself to the priorities of others. You can’t get those minutes back! Rather than freely giving away your time, be aware of how you spend it. This mind shift can greatly change your productivity. When you start to savior your minutes you’ll be surprised at how much more time you have to devote to your priorities versus the priorities of others.

Theme Blocks of Time

– Batching your your tasks is a known productivity hack. When you perform like actions together you’ll get them done quicker than switching from one type of task to another. For example, if you have an hour between meetings, making a bunch of phone calls in a row is much more efficient then making a call, then working on email, then making another call or doing something else. This methodology can be applied on a broader scale to your own life by creating themed blocks of time or themed days. In my business I allocate Monday mornings to admin tasks, Tuesday evenings to read and review, and every other Friday afternoon to writing. Corporate types might have theme days like internal meeting day, NO internal meeting day (so you can actually get things done), admin day, etc. Personally you can theme an errand day, meal prep day, cleaning day, etc. Theme days allow you to know that the tasks you might naturally put off, in favor of easy and quick task, will actually get done.

Think Energy, Not Time

– You know life is a marathon, not a sprint. Yet when life gets particularly hectic we tend to think we can sprint to the finish if we just keep going. The result, burnout, exhaustion, mistakes, and a lack of satisfaction when a project or task is completed. Tony Schwartz, author of The Power of Full Engagement, recommends that we manage our energy not our time. There are always going to be sprints – a big work project you’re pouring your heart and soul into or a family event that takes months to plan, but you need to build in an equal amount of recovery. Recovery can be in the form of getting up from your desk and taking a walk, doing 10 jumping jacks to get your blood flowing, or do a power pose for 2 minutes to increase your self confidence and decrease your stress.

Capture Everything & Use Your Calendar

– Get all your to-do’s out of your head and into a trusted system that you review regularly to decide your weekly and daily priorities. Whether it’s an electronic app or a plain old moleskine notebook does not matter, it’s not about the tool. The act of capturing everything in one place will allow you to set and know your priorities upfront so you are not easily sucked into the priorities of others, thus derailing your own productivity. Whatever tool you choose, you’re best source to keep you on track is your calendar. Rather than relying on to-do lists or apps, putting tasks into your calendar keeps you accountable to a time you’ll actually get them done. That said, you’ll need to honor your commitments to yourself in the same way you honor commitments to others.

Stop looking for the perfect tool to help you get more done. Start changing your behavior to better manage your priorities and watch your productivity soar!

Photo Credit: Phil (some modification made)