Can I be honest with you for a sec? I'm not a "hard worker."
A "good eater"? Definitely. A "hard worker"? Mehhhh.
Listen, I love working with my clients and helping them improve their businesses, but I'm not busting my ass working 16-hour days. I'm not interested in "hustling" and constantly looking for more stuff to do. I don’t think being a “hard worker” is some great virtue, and frankly, I'm tired of the whole “I’m so busy, I work so hard” culture.
I'm big on "less is more," so when I discovered a way to be more productive by doing less work, I was alllll over it. Let me just warn you though: the productivity tip I'm sharing today is deceptively simple. Like, you might read this and go, "Seriously, Elissa? That’s it? Stop wasting my time.”
You’ve probably heard it before. But the question is: are you doing it?
You can read all the “productivity hacks” in the world, but if you aren’t doing them, they're not going to help you.
So before I get into this, I want you to promise me you’ll give it a try. Deal? Ok, here we go. Here's how to be more productive with just 5 minutes a day.
1. In the morning: Plan priorities
While I’m having my morning coffee, I grab my journal and my planner. In my journal, I spend one minute writing down my to-do list for the day, which includes 2-3 professional tasks and 2-3 personal goals.
And that’s it.
Why only 2-3 professional tasks when I clearly have more to do?
Because setting limits forces you to prioritize.
When you know you can only do 3 things, you're going to make sure those 3 things are important.
So back to my journal. I write down my goals for the day, and I might also jot down what I’m worried or excited about-- whatever's on my mind. But I keep it short and focused, which is how I want my work day to be. Then I grab my planner and spend a minute scheduling when I'll do each task, with the most important priority first.
Remember that: first things first. Plan to do your most important task before anything else so that it's sure to get done.
Last, I schedule in my personal tasks: when I’m going to work out, meditate, go to the store, etc. Why? Because it’s too easy let personal priorities take a back seat to work. Don’t neglect your personal to-do list-- your personal goals are just as important as your professional ones.
2. During the day: Stay focused
Throughout my work day, I keep my planner open in front of me so that I'm reminded of my priorities. As new tasks come in, I add them to a running list next to my scheduled priorities. But-- and this is essential-- I don’t touch the new tasks until my priorities are done.
I'll admit, it's not easy. You get a million emails a day. You get texts and Facebook messages and alerts and tons of other things that demand your time. You could spend the entire day reacting to incoming requests.
But are those requests more important than your priorities?
If something does come up that's more important than one of your priorities, switch it out for the least important of your planned tasks. Notice that I didn’t say "add" it to your list of priorities. By consciously replacing one task with another, you force yourself to prioritize. Are you seeing a theme here?
Prioritization is the key to productivity.
That’s why it's critical to limit your to-do list to 2-3 items-- because shit happens. There will be urgent requests and time-sensitive projects to push forward and phone calls you didn’t expect.
And even if there aren't, you'll still have a whole list of things to handle once your priorities are done.
3. At the end of the day: Reflect on what got done
So, you set out your goals in the morning. You stayed focused on your priorities all day. You punched your to-do list in the face and are feeling like a productivity god.
Or maybe not.
Maybe you got a sidetracked. Maybe you spent too much time on social media that you never got to that client proposal. Maybe you let your email notifications distract you from the blog post you were supposed to write and got sucked into your inbox.
(Side rant: For god’s sake, turn off your f---ing email notifications. Those little dings and pop-ups murder productivity. Unless you’re a surgeon or a firefighter and are literally saving lives, you do not need to be interrupted every time someone wants something from you. Arrrrrrgg!)
Ok, rant over. And now I’m sweating.
Listen, we all do this. Even the most focused, organized business badasses get sidetracked every once and awhile. Which is why this last step is killer.
At the end of each day, I grab my journal again and reflect on the day. I look at what I wanted to accomplish and compare it with what I actually did. Did I get everything done? If so, how did I make it happen? And if not, what did I do instead?
Looking back today gives you the insight you need to be effective tomorrow.
Again, it only takes 2 minutes, but the simple act of looking back on the day and noting what worked and what didn’t makes all the difference. It keeps you accountable. It makes you recognize patterns and make changes.
It’s one thing to set goals and write to-do lists. It’s another to make time to be honest with yourself about what you need to improve.
So now it's your turn.
Are you going to keep being “SO busy,” with “SO much to do”? Are you going to keep glorifying work for work's sake? Are you going to keep "hustling"?
Or are you going to take just 5 minutes, prioritize your to-do list and get your shit done, stress-free?