When we look at successful people, the first thing we notice is their accomplishments. We see the amazing projects they have realized and how business magazines such as Forbes publish data about their net worth. Not everyone takes into account, though, how much work has been done to make all that real. People tend to only pay attention to results and disregard all the actions that led to those results. But these actions are, in fact, the key to success.
It’s all about daily discipline and following the right routine. It’s highly likely that you have some large goals in mind — something that the very thought of energizes you. But weeks and months go by, and you notice with regret that these goals aren’t accomplished or progress toward them is very slow. So, what are some steps that can help to make your big, amazing plans a reality?
Take daily action
Working on a project in a hyper-productive mode and finishing it in a short amount of time is more of an exception than a rule. Yes, in some situations, it can be the case — for example, some amazing features in Wrike were born overnight during hackathons. But usually, projects take time — a lot of it. And to make them a reality, you need to consciously decide to dedicate time to working on these projects every day. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about work-related activities or something you’re doing as a hobby — taking action every day leads to amazing results over time.
I can name numerous examples of how this approach worked for me, from mastering webinars and going from a complete newbie level to being able to conduct them in my sleep to studying languages and painting miniatures. A common mistake here is to decide to work on a project daily but then think, “OK, I don’t have the energy to do it today, but I’ll block three hours for it on Friday.” It doesn’t work like that.
Firstly, it’s hard to concentrate on a certain activity for several hours in a row, and even if you have an iron discipline, you will not work at your highest level of productivity all the time. Secondly, taking action every day builds a sense of accomplishment. You take the daily step, mark it as done, and feel energized. It’s important to learn to enjoy this feeling!
Prioritize and deprioritize
When a project involves multiple activities, do not try to jump at them all at once. When you’re working on several things simultaneously, you will not see much progress in any of them. One skill that it’s very important to develop is the ability to prioritize.
You need to define the most critical areas of the project that will drive it forward and concentrate your actions on these areas. It often seems that everything is important and must be prioritized. Regardless of whether this is actually the case, it’s not possible to effectively work on everything. So a sister skill here is being able to deprioritize work or, in other words, make a decision on which balls it’s okay to drop.
When everything seems business-critical, think about which action items would have the least impact on the project's success should they be dropped. In our busy business lives, where everything is moving ultra-fast, you may need to be ready to make such decisions every day.
Block time on your calendar
One of the most common sources for lack of progress in your projects is not reserving the time for them. When your approach is, “I’ll finish all my operational tasks and then use the remaining time to work on the project,” you will rarely have the time to focus on what’s important to you. There will always be something that will stand in your way — new problems, new challenges, new situations that emerge unexpectedly. The only way is to proactively block the time on your calendar.
By doing so, you create time to focus on your projects. But there’s more to it — you need to establish blockers and also be protective about them. Believe me, I’ve been there: Every time you put a “focus time” blocker on the calendar, there’s always someone who asks to set up a meeting at that time. You need to stand firm and allow yourself to use that blocker fully (or partially, but only in case of a true emergency).
Start the day with a plan
When you have a clear to-do list in front of you at the beginning of the working day, you have a clear understanding of what you need to focus on. You also have the opportunity to cross out your tasks whenever you finish working on them. Should you choose to just go with the flow, you will probably make some progress here and there, but you risk scattering your focus across too many different activities. At the end of the day or week, when you ask yourself, ”What did I manage to finish?” the results may be disappointing.
If an action item in your plan can be accomplished in one day, cross it off your list once you’re done with it. If a certain initiative requires you to work on it every day, after you’re finished with today’s portion, immediately add the same item to tomorrow’s list so that it’s already a part of your plan. Writing down a plan also helps you see which items are most important and which could be deprioritized should a need arise.
Be realistic when writing your plan for the day. If you’ve already added eight items, each of which would take an hour or more, do not continue adding the tasks for the day — reschedule them for later. It’s not only about common sense but also about motivation. When, at the end of the day, you see that you only managed to accomplish a third of all the things you planned, it may lead to disappointment.
This is very common advice, but I still consider it extremely important to highlight. You need to remove all distractions that stand in the way of productivity. When people think about potential distractions, social media often pops up as an example. While it is true that checking your Facebook feed or reading the news several times an hour steals a lot of time you could potentially use for important activities, I’m also talking about work-related distractions.
You need to get rid of the habit of instantly responding to all the emails, Slack messages, and other notifications you receive. If you don’t do so, you’re basically stating that these communication tools have more control over your day than you have yourself. You can have certain exceptions if needed — for example, you may disable all notifications except those from a certain group of people.
Get visibility into your progress and review it daily
A critical aspect of working on major projects is being able to see your progress, ideally in real time. You get a sense of how much you have accomplished and how much work still needs to be done. It’s important not only from a planning and execution perspective but also from a motivational one.
Small actions that you perform daily may not often lead to immediate results, and you may feel that you’re stuck and not progressing. But when you have visibility into the larger picture, you can see how each action you perform contributes to the major goal. And on the days when you don’t feel very motivated and energized (we all tend to have those days every now and then), this understanding keeps you going.
How Wrike can help you maximize your productivity
Wrike can dramatically enhance both personal and team productivity by establishing a single source of truth for all work. Each team member gets a clear to-do list for every working day, leading to much less time spent on daily planning and more on actual work. Powerful monitoring tools such as dashboards provide visibility — both high-level and granular — into the work you’re focused on and allow you to check your progress with just a few clicks. See all this in action today with a free two-week trial.