by Dylan Ogline, founder of Ogline Digital
In our productivity-focused society, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming every hour of your day needs to be filled with actionable items. Many people approach the day with a general plan to be productive, but then they don’t end up getting as much done as they needed to because they’re overwhelmed with tasks. Failing to plan appropriately can quickly become a plan for failure. That’s why minimizing distractions is more important than maximizing the number of items on your to do list each day.
It sounds counter-productive, but you don’t need to stay busy for the sake of being busy. You need to tackle the important things and strike a balance that allows you to accomplish your most important tasks and keep work flowing at a steady pace. This keeps you from working seemingly endless hours and only accomplishing minimal tasks. Wouldn’t you rather get what you need to get done and have all that wasted time back? It’s possible with the right plan.
Create a Simplified To Do List.
When you’re setting yourself up for the day, create a to-do list of items you want to accomplish. You might already do this, but maybe you’re not prioritizing your list for the best results. To maximize your time and minimize wasted energy, aim to only add one big thing to your to-do list each day. You might have smaller items or tasks that lend to this larger action item, but make an effort to keep it simple. Only include one major accomplishment on your list for the day. One actionable task that takes an hour or two and will move your business forward in a concrete way, one way or another.
When it comes to planning your day, planning one major goal ensures that you will accomplish forward momentum. If you plan ten things, you might be lucky to get one of those things done, leaving nine other glaring tasks that you may have started and left unfinished for the next day. This becomes a waste of time and energy, and lends to context switching which can hinder your overall productivity. This is why you should pick one single goal for the day and pour your effort and energy into making sure that task is accomplished.
Batch Your Work to Optimize Time.
When the days are completely filled with menial tasks like catching up on emails, it leaves most people feeling like they’re constantly playing catch up. Lots of entrepreneurs check their email ten or more times per day. Whenever they get an alert on their phone, they check it and try to formulate their answer or response right then. This approach leaves you constantly feeling like you’re behind, and you’ll never truly catch up, because you’ll always be triggered to respond to the next notification that comes through. The solution to this endless cycle lies in batching.
Instead of playing an endless game of catchup, you can batch your responses and only answer emails on a specified cadence. You might choose to answer emails once per day at a designated time, or even every other day. The less frequent, the better. You wouldn’t do your laundry every time you change your socks, right? You likely do it once a week. This is the same idea behind batching — it allows you to optimize the time you have to spend on a designated task and helps you reduce wasted efforts and energy.
Take it Day by Day.
While you may have calls or appointments booked out at various times ahead of schedule, consider taking a moment to plan each day the night before. This gives you a chance to evaluate any new priorities that have come up, select your main daily goals, and ensure you’re on track. If you’ve got appointments or meetings to set with other people, you can use a solution like Calendly to immediately share your availability with colleagues and clients and allow them to select a time without back-and-forth emails. You can block off time for specific tasks each day and include digital notes on your calendar as well to keep you on track, just don’t over-complicate it or over-clutter it with to do items. Keep it simple, and select a single main goal for each day.
Check items off of your to do list using a notebook or digital tracking tool to help hold yourself accountable and ensure you maintain working balance. This helps you stay on-task each day and keeps your main priority top of mind so you won’t get distracted or try to work on too many things at once. The mistake many of us often make is that we try to maximize the day when instead we should be focusing on simply minimizing distractions. That’s where the real work is accomplished. Using these methods, you’ll find you get far more work done in less time, so you can use that time for other valuable things. Keep working smarter—not harder.
Dylan Ogline, founder of Ogline Digital, believes that anybody can start and build their own digital agency, creating a life with more freedom, purpose and meaning. Dylan’s training program is designed to take the guesswork out of building an agency and remove all of the unknowns that stop so many people from starting their own business, all in just six weeks.