You’ll find lots of productivity advice on the Internet, much of it contradictory. In actuality, maintaining productivity doesn’t require anything fancier than a notebook and a calendar. Here are three strategies for using them that will increase your success:
Write everything down
I don’t believe anyone who says that they don’t need to write things down because they have a superior memory. No one’s memory is that good. Compare your mind to an overstuffed file cabinet – even if you could keep everything in your head, you wouldn’t be able to access it easily. Instead, dedicate one notebook to capturing all your ideas, conversations, observations and commitments. Promise to call someone back with an answer tomorrow? Write it in your notebook. Want to investigate sources of funding? Write it in your notebook. Need to remember to make a doctor’s appointment? Yes, put that in your notebook, too. You can’t start a new task every time a random thought goes through your mind, but you can write it down to take care of later. Of course, you need to refer back to your notes so you can accomplish the activities.
Schedule your critical work
It doesn’t matter whether you dedicate the first two hours of your day to essential projects or you close your door from 2-4 pm to focus on priorities. Maybe you prefer to come in before everyone else so you can dedicate energy to significant work. Figure out the time when you are best able to focus and when others can work best without your supervision. Mark the times in your calendar and treat them like appointments with your most important client. Make sure that people understand you are not to be disturbed during those times.
Finish what you start
You can’t always finish a project entirely in one sitting, but you can avoid interruptions that make you lose your train of thought. Answering the phone or reading a text while you’re trying to concentrate on a project causes you to refocus, which is a waste of time. You lose momentum while your brain “reboots” to return to the task. When you stop working on a project, make a note to indicate where you left off, along with any ideas that you were contemplating. When you return during your next scheduled session, it will be easier to get back into the job.
Use your notebook and your calendar to keep your mind clear and your projects flowing smoothly.