I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to believe it’s nearly 2016. Not so long ago—or so it seems—the Year 2000 was the epitome of the future, a delightful and distant date that seemed extraordinarily meaningful, since we were transitioning from one millennium to the next. And like everyone else, when I was a kid, I did the arithmetic and was shocked at how old I would be when the calendar flipped over to all those zeros.
Now here it is, almost 16 wonderful years past that fateful date; and as it has for the past 25 years in business, my mind has turned toward how I might make this year my most productive ever. As always, my goal is to help you achieve your personal best, too. So let’s look at some ways you can pump up your productivity for Y2.016K.
Set Your 2016 Goals Early
Take a long look at your performance in 2015. What did you accomplish? What were your strengths and weaknesses? Where do you need to improve? Now look forward into the coming year, and decide what you want to accomplish and how.How can you bump up your productivity even higher in 2016? (<–Click to Tweet.) Is there anything you can do that will inflate your team’s productivity as well? The holiday season is the ideal time to reflect on the past year and where you want to go next year—assuming you can carve out a little time to yourself between cooking, decorating, and writing holiday cards.
In today’s electronic society, I recommend you look to your technology right away. If you haven’t updated essential programs, apps, and hardware in a while, the New Year offers a good excuse to do so. You probably know computing power tends to double every 18 months or so, as noted in Moore’s Law; so your current laptop or workstation has probably already gone out of date. Is it time for a faster model that can speed up your productivity, even a little? If you’re a PC user, how about upgrading to the Microsoft 10 operating system, or to Microsoft Office 365? Both can make it easier to do your work.
Think about whether it’s time to replace your smartphone. One of my team members recently had no choice but to upgrade to a smartphone as his cell network went to 4G, and he can now do text messaging about ten times faster than before.
Sure, you face a learning curve with any technological upgrade, but it needn’t take long to get up to speed. Most modern business machines, apps, and programs are quite user-friendly.
Effective communication saves a lot of time; my team member’s increased texting rate serves as a minor example. More important is the effort to make your messages clear and easy to understand, just to avoid confusion. Resolve not only to do this, but also to find the best method for communicating with your manager and each teammate, if you don’t already know. One person may prefer voicemail, another email, a third a quick face-to-face meeting. Even saving a few minutes a day on your communications can really add up over the average work year.
And then there’s email. I’ve probably said it a thousand times, but I can’t say it enough: don’t answer your email as it arrives, unless your job requires you to. Wait until specific times of the day to answer your email, and try to handle each message no more than once while you clear your inbox.
Spend a little time before leaving for the day preparing for the next day’s work. Consider all your active projects and tasks, and know where they stand. What’s the game plan for tomorrow? Visualize your prefect productive day. Next, prepare your to-do list, and have any materials you need—for example, for a meeting—ready to go. If you have time, declutter your workspace so it’s easier to find things, and nothing blocks you from launching into your day the moment you sit down.
Keep Priorities in Mind
Always know which of the tasks on your plate are most important to you and your manager, and put them at the top of your to-do lists. Remember: priorities are flexible, and may change throughout the day or week. Most people find it easiest to do their high priority tasks early in the morning, but some of us have energy peaks later in the day. If necessary, wait until your energy peak to put the hammer down on your top priorities, and take advantage of those peaks as long as they last.
Easing into the New Year
There’s no magic wand you can wave to ensure you have a productive new year. Just resolve to do it—and, unlike your resolution to stop eating so many Mallomars, stick to it. The most effective tool for increasing personal and team productivity is your brain. None of the methods listed above (representing just the tip of the iceberg) will work if you don’t couple decision and willpower with the determination to stay on track and use them consistently. Productivity is a conscious decision, and you can always find new ways to try to increase it—if you care enough to do so.
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