Productivity. Productivity. Productivity. It’s the curse that plagues us all. When we’re unproductive, we’re stressed. When we’re stressed, we’re unhappy. This takes a toll on you and those around you. But what’s the answer?

Several productivity tools will have you believe it’s that you’re using the wrong products. The truth is that it doesn’t matter what product you use. Yes, more complex projects will require tools with a little more oomph. On a day to day basis though — you just need to be smarter with your productivity, remember your goal, and throw in a little happiness for good measure.

Why You’re Not Productive

Before I go into how you can become happier through productivity, let’s start with what you’re doing wrong.

You’re making a list and checking it twice. But hell, you’re not Santa Claus are you? Lists are great for noting everything you need to get done, but doesn’t help you reach your goal. 

Why? Because you’ll move down the list checking each item off, regardless of context. What about assigning point values to each item on the list? It’s great, but can create a huge clusterF… 

Should I try a different task list tool? You can. But you’ll waste more time adding your to-do list and learning the app, then you would just using the system you’re familiar with. 

Breaking Bad Habits – How to Become More Productive

To finally become productive you have to break one major bad habit — stop thinking in terms of checklists. 

Did that? Good.

Goal Setting

Start with your goal. What is the overall goal you’re working towards? It’s a pretty simple question right?  We’re all working towards something, but we can lose sight of that through all of the hustle and bustle. 

It may seem a bit old school, but use a pen and notebook for this because 1) Writing helps you remember better 2) It will give you a greater sense of accomplishment to be able to look and see what you completed each day. 

For the sake of this example, let’s say my goal is to bring in 10 new customers at the end of the month. 

Supporting Tasks to Reach Goals

So my goal is to bring in 10 new customers, what’s next? Now, we start to build out our supporting tasks. These are the 3-5 things you need to do today to take you closer to your goal. Make sure to get detailed about this specific tasks. These are the must do things that you have to get done each day. I normally create 5 tasks for myself that help me reach my goal, but you may find that it’s too many to start with. The key is to start transforming the way you think about your day, so make sure you’re able to accomplish and adopt this methodology.

The reason I stick to 3-5 tasks is because in a typical work day, you won’t have enough time to do more. Crazy, but true. I used to work within a never-ending task list, and all it got me was a constant state of stress and unrest. The list was never done and I always felt I was never accomplishing anything. This wreaked havoc on my ego and confidence. 

By converting yourself to this style of task management, you’ll strike the right work/life balance and even start to feel good about how hard you’re actually working. It also helps you work smarter.

You’re bringing in the focus on what really matters to hit your goal, and shelving all the minor tasks aside (temporarily). 

For my goal of 10 New Clients I would use High Priority Tasks such as these:

1. Make 10 Outbound Sales Calls

2. Create Email Marketing Campaign to Target Niche

3. Write SEO optimized Content to Post and Publish

4. Create Concept for Paid Ad

5. Email 2 Colleagues asking for Referrals

The Other Crap

I thought about naming this section something else, like sub tasks, minor tasks, etc. But it didn’t have the same ring to it. And “Other Crap” just sounds right. Here is where it’s OK to list out all the “Other Crap” you have to do. Some of it might be related to your Goal, some may not. If it’s related to your goal you can move it over to your High Priority Task List the next day. 

The other reason we call this “Other Crap” is because it diminishes the value of the items under it. If you think of it in terms of “tasks”, then you’ll be driven to get it done. If it’s just “other crap”, then you do it if you have time, but if you don’t stress about it if you don’t. It’s not a high priority item. This section is also where you can find areas for automation or outsourcing. If it’s not a high priority for you, but it needs to get done, then figure out a way to have someone else do it, or outsource the task. 

Under “Other Crap” I would have items such as:

• Pick up mail

• Set up demo of new Sales software

• Read article about new best practices in Content marketing

• Design Paid Ad

• Update website with new imagery

• Do laundry

• Find contact information for target prospects

• Etc

• Etc


Did you accomplish your High Priority Tasks Yes/No?

Well did you? Hopefully your answer is YES, and now that it’s 5PM you can relax or leisurely take care of other crap (if you want to). If your answer was NO, then take some time to reflect on why you didn’t accomplish your tasks.

Was 5 too many? Were there too many dependencies on these tasks? This is where you begin to find out the level of complication, and maybe you decrease the number of High Priority tasks because one is trickier than the rest. Also, look at breaking down that big task into several smaller ones to complete over a couple of days. 

What Are You Thankful For?

Yes, this sounds cheesy, but after reflecting on how well your high priority tasks went, then take a minute to think about the good in your life.  Write down 3 things that you’re thankful for.

I can’t even explain how much this changed my life. At the end of a stressful day, nothing feels better than thinking about the good in your life and putting positivity back in. 

This isn’t the cure-all for stress by the way. There are a number of other factors that will contribute to stress, but managing your tasks this way will massively cut down on productivity related stress, and help you establish a better work/life balance.