Back in the day, productivity is usually defined by working long hours and completing more tasks. But this definition is no longer relevant in today's world. Since more and more of our jobs are automated by softwares (and in some countries, robots), we cannot afford to be mindless and inefficient. The more automation there is, the more mindful we need to be of our day-to-day output. This being said, we must become more intentional as to what quality of work we want to produce and whether it is important.
It is sometimes ironic that we lose ourselves in the flow of work and forget to stop and reflect on our effectiveness, especially when it’s really important in today’s economy. If you look back to what you achieved last month at work, are they filled with unnecessary meetings, emails, and lots of the ‘little’ things like surfing the internet? If you’re one of those people whose day is filled with many meetings and idling, you’re definitely not alone.
We interviewed 45 knowledge workers in 39 companies across eight industries in the United States and Europe to see how they spent their days. We found that even the most dedicated and impressive performers devoted large amounts of time to tedious, non-value-added activities such as desk work and “managing across” the organization (for example, meetings with people in other departments). These are tasks that the knowledge workers themselves rated as offering little personal utility and low value to the company. Source: HBR Article - "Make Time For The Work That Matters"
To help you get better, I have come up with some tips on how to plan for better productivity and get the right work done. Those tips are all from my experience using planners, bullet journals, google calendars, notebooks, and finally Bloo.
- Define direction and quarterly goals
- Set monthly focus
- Write weekly goals and daily todos
- Tips for planning your daily todos
1). Define Direction & Quarterly Goals
Every tool that I use is simply a tool to keep all my plans in place, but I still have to set a direction for myself. I suggest that you start by defining your ‘direction’ or ‘plans’ for the upcoming year. As a company, it’s important that you do it together so everyone is on the same page.
Now you may ask, how specific should I be? My thoughts are that, in this rapidly changing world, you do not want to be too fixed on your direction/goal in the upcoming year. It’s important that you are ready for change when the time comes. However, you may want to answer basic questions like:
- How do we want to grow that we would move the market forward?
- What opportunities can we tap into?
- How do we serve our customers better based on their needs?
Once you have some answers to those questions, you and your team can decide on which direction to go. After that, based on the direction you wish to go, create quarterly goals for yourself and team. Those are the activities or what you want happen within 3 months. You do not have to define goals for the whole year, but it’s a must that the first quarter’s goals are clear.
2). Set Monthly Focus
Now, this is when I use Bloo to help with monthly planning. I simply create a project called “Weekly Schedule” and treat it as my day-to-day work goals. On Boards, I first define “Monthly Goals”. So your monthly goals should reflect on your quarterly goals.
3). Write Weekly Goals and Daily Todos
After having my monthly goals, I create another todo list called “Week’s Goals”. In this list, I write all the todos I want to complete this week so I achieve my monthly goals.
From here on, the other todo titles are days of the week, from Monday to Friday, (or Saturday, if you wish). On each day, I write the todos I need to complete.
What To Keep In Mind When Planning Your Daily Todos?
- Be realistic with the amount of work you can complete in one day
- Be aware of downtimes (the times of day you are less productive)
- Check pre-scheduled meetings (you are less likely to do more work that day)
- Take into account the type of task that needs more or less focus.
On the last point, I find that I get very hyped up from Monday to Wednesday, and I am more likely able to focus on complex tasks, so I schedule most important and deep-focus work on those days. On Thursday and Friday, I usually do laid-back and casual work that don't require much focus.
Final Key Takeaway.
While I’m writing this, I notice limitations in my experience. The type of environment I work in gives me so much freedom to experiment and plan my day, whereas other environments may be more chaotic and require work to be done urgently. I schedule Mondays to deliberately plan my week and Friday to reflect on progress and wrap up results. This way, I gain a lot of autonomy over my work experience.
Depending on your circumstances, do what works for you. The most important takeaway from this is that you should take some undistracted time and reflect on your progress and effectiveness at work. You may not enjoy planning everything out like I do, but you could always reflect and do better. Just like everyone else, I am still learning from my own productivity framework and I will continue improving as I go.