I’ve been reading 99U’s book Managing Your Day-to-Day, which has gotten me think more about my own productivity habits, both good and bad. Usually I avoid productivity-focused books and blogs, because I find peak productivity people super annoying. My idea of a good life is not to be productive 24/7, and I tend to think entrepreneurs and gurus who espouse that are, well, kind of sad. That said, *because* I don’t want to work constantly, I do want to make the most of the time I am working.
Mornings Are Key
Almost without fail, my best work happens early in the morning. I tend to get up between 6-6:30 in the morning, and after my first cup of coffee, I’m generally ready to work. Many people seem to like to meditate and/or exercise before anything else, but I’m wasting my most valuable time if I do that first.
My biggest morning temptations are newspapers, social media, and email. As Mark McGuinness says in Managing Your Day-to-Day, it’s very tempting to clear the deck before you start working. “When you’re up-to-date, you tell yourself, it will be easier to focus.”
For most people this is probably the opposite of true. You start reading the news, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and answering emails… before you know it, your most productive time is over and the day feels shot. On my most productive days, I get up knowing what my most important tasks for the day are, I’ve thought about how to achieve them, and I can dive right in.
Establish a Routine and Frequency
Especially for business owners and work-from-home sorts, establishing a routine is a key to productivity. If I didn’t have a solid routine to aspire to, I’d be reading the internet and playing video games all day! Instead, I have a picture in my head of an ideal working day.
From 7-10am I work on my most important tasks, and when my creative energy starts to flag I try to get my butt to the gym. When I get back I find I’ve got a second wind on creative tasks, so I work hard to capitalize on it.
Those are the basics of my routine, but Managing Your Day-to-Day has also taught me that it’s important to maintain frequency. The more often I write, the easier it gets. The more often I design, the easier it gets. It works for less-tangible tasks too – the more outreach calls I do, the easier they are.
Don’t Aim for Perfection
Personally, I don’t believe in perfection, so I try to avoid aiming for it. I do try to get a little better each day, but I also know that some days will be more productive than others. That’s ok. There’s always tomorrow.