One of the biggest struggles I see daily, for both myself and those around me, is the constant bombardment of distraction which commonly prohibits productivity. Phones that have the world connected to them, offices with game rooms, online shopping, an inbox that never sits still. These are just a few of the things that fight for your attention every minute of every day.
As a manager, I frequently see the people on my teams struggle at times to do their best, most productive selves, due to distraction. It’s not that they are doing anything wrong, but they struggle to truly manage their productivity level throughout their day. Quite frankly, this a major personal struggle as well.
So I ask the question: How do I, as a leader, lead by example, and demonstrate the best ways to achieve a full, productive 8 hour work day?
For me, it comes through a balance of self-evaluation and tools to help me be productive.
PRO TIP: If you want to become a manager, you better make that 10 hours + per day.
MY “NO DUH” MOMENT
In my mid twenties, I took my first managerial role at a manufacturing plant. I was fresh out of an MBA program, very green, and certainly had no idea how to make myself an asset to the company. Despite my lack of experience, I quickly learned the power of a to-do list (duh). At that time I just used an Excel file and marked off the tasks I completed each day.
Now, only a few years later (or 7), there are tons of better tools to to help you manage your to-do lists. Honestly, I’m not convinced that there is one tool that is better than the others, although I do believe that some work better with certain personalities than others, as people thrive through various ways of organization.
Here are a few you might want to check out, for solid to-do list and task scheduling:
I’ve tried all of the apps listed above at one time or another, and like and dislike things about all of them. So, try a few, and see what works best for you.
For a long time, my go-to was Wonder List, and I still really like it. However, once I dove into the world of Apple phones, I switched to Apple Reminders, as it’s super clean, it came standard on my phone, and it was easy to share lists with my wife without having her download another app. I also work on a Mac for work, making it readily available on all of my devices immediately upon signing in. Often times, simplicity is key.
MAKING IT EFFECTIVE
One thing I noticed with having different to-do list lists (groceries, work, etc): the more lists I created, the less focused my days became. Yes, I was getting lots of little things done, but were those things the most important things for that day? Probably not.
So I decided to simplify things a bit on the daily level. I still have my big running lists, and will review those frequently to make sure things are not slipping through the cracks, but I wanted to make things really simple.
It started with a literal paper notebook, and creating a checklist of things to do each day. More recently I’ve been using Evernote, with a running “To-Do List” note. Each day I drop in the date, and list 3 to 5 things I want to accomplish that day., Undoubtedly, I complete more than the 3 to 5 items on the list each day, but these are considered my must-haves. You can see an example below.
ITERATION IS KEY
I like using Evernote because it is super easy to copy and paste items that were not completed to the next day. Before I do that though, I always ask “is this task worth doing today?” Why? Because it helps me learn to better prioritize my daily tasks.
I do not want to continually add tasks that don’t actually need to be done that day. So if it is not a priority that day, it goes back to a general to-do list. I also like using Evernote because it is really easy to scroll through all the days, and see if I notice any patterns or trends with completion or non-completion.
One important thing to note about this method: I do not create my daily list until that morning. Once in a while I’ll add a task at the end of the previous day, but this is rare. It is important for me to start fresh each and every morning, and take a fresh approach each day.
PLAY AND LEARN
You might read this and think, “Tuttle, you could do things way easier!”… and you might be right. But I like to play and try new things. I’m not saying I’ll keep my current methodology forever. Heck, I’m not convinced I’ll keep it for the next three months.
But I am convinced that this process is helping me learn how to become the best version of me. As someone who admittedly struggles with being easily distracted, the tools and methods listed above have helped me become a better producer. Being a manager in an organization that is in hyper-growth, not being the master of my time (and day) is a surefire way to not be part of the company anymore. With my role a sales manager, I preach to my reps constantly about managing their time and their book of business.
My day-to-day is no longer filled with customer calls, but I do have a book of business (my reps), and I have many responsibilities to manage. So I will! In this journey of tinkering with technologies, my goal is to find ways to make me a better manager of time and productivity. Ultimately, experimentation is part of my process. And sometimes, learning what doesn’t work for me is even better, and a more valuable lesson, than finding a new tool that just works fine and staying put.