Do you have trouble sticking to your plans? Do you procrastinate a lot? Then you should try the following exercise to overcome your problems and double your productivity.
It’s an exercise I regularly suggest to the people I coach to help them improve their goal setting, stick to their plans, and stop procrastinating.
Step 1: Fold a Sheet
In the evening, when you finish your workday, take out a sheet of paper, fold it in the middle, and then unfold it again. You can now see a straight fold dividing the paper.
Step 2: Write a To-Do List
To the left of the fold, make a list of all the tasks that you want to complete the following day.
Step 3: Track Your Success
The following day, every time you finish a task, cross it off your to-do list. If you finish a task that was not on the list, add it to the list and cross it out.
As an additional tracking device, you may also decide to write the time spent on each task next to the task when you cross it out.
The left-hand side of your sheet now acts as a goal-tracking device and a diary of all your productive activities at the same time.
Step 4: Catch the Time Wasters
Let’s now turn to the part of the sheet that’s to the right of the fold.
Every time you catch yourself wasting time, turn to your sheet’s right-hand column and write down what you were doing. Include an estimate of how much time you spent on this unproductive activity. Then get back to work.
You don’t have to write down your lunch break, the five-minute coffee breaks you enjoy, or every walk you take. These are not time wasters: You need these breaks.
But when you are surfing the web to procrastinate over work, or when your five-minute coffee break reaches its twentieth minute, then you should make use of your sheet’s right-hand side.
Step 5: Evaluate Your Productivity
In the evening, before you write your to-do list for the following day, look at the day’s sheet and evaluate your productivity.
On a perfect day, there won’t be any text on the sheet that’s not crossed out. Everything on the left-hand side will be crossed out because you finished all of your planned tasks, and the right-hand side will be empty because you didn’t pursue any time wasting activities.
Try to get as close to the perfect day as you can. Engage in a competition with yourself: How productive can you get?
Do this exercise every day for a couple of weeks, and watch your productivity skyrocket.
Want to take productivity even one step further?
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Go back to the Scheduling & Workflow Management 101 series.