Projects, products and profits don’t just happen by themselves. They aren’t handed to you and they aren’t magical. They all take hard work to achieve.
To finish projects, create products and drive profits, you need to set and reach goals. They must be the right goals, though, or you’re just racing toward the finish line on a hamster wheel. Let’s work to find a way to make your days more productive. Here are three ways you can increase productivity and achieve your goals.
Set Your SMART Goals
You’ve probably heard of SMART goals, but if you haven’t, we’ll go over what they are and how to set them. If you’re already familiar with SMART goals, you still might want to review the outline below to make sure you’re setting the right goals for YOU.
A SMART goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Focused and Time-Bound.
Specific goals should clearly define what you are going to do. They should be outlined as simply as possible using clarifying words like What, Why and How.
What are you going to do?
Measurable goals are ones that you can track the results of. There should be tangible evidence that you reached your goal, that what you were trying to impact has changed in some way. Depending on your goals, there may be several metrics by which you can measure the results.
How will you know you’ve succeeded?
Achievable goals should be challenging but attainable. If your goals are unattainable, they should be broken down into parts that are either achievable or can be contracted out to someone else who can complete a task.
When will you know your task is complete?
Results-Focused goals have specific outcomes to reach, not just activities to do.
What are your expected results?
Time-Bound goals should be exactly that – limited to a timeframe to ensure they get prioritized appropriately.
What is the deadline for completing this task?
Get your free SMART Goals and Productivity workbooks:
Plan Your Day the Day Before
Getting into the habit of planning your day the day before is the hardest and yet most helpful action step you can take to having a more productive day. It also makes you demonstrably more efficient.
Without meaning to, your brain tends to remember unfinished tasks, using up valuable processing power. It causes people stress, making it difficult for them to focus on any new task, hindering their ability to work effectively. How do you put this natural tendency to good work?
It’s called the Ziegarnik effect.
Your brain absolutely loathes the idea of something left undone. Walking away from a problem or issue that you’re struggling with is one of the healthiest decisions you can make. If you’ve tried throwing every possible solution that your rational, conscious mind can come up with at it – it’s time to give up.
Don’t give up as in “I’ll never solve this,” but rather, let your subconscious mind have a go at the task.
One of the best tips I ever got was from Mel Robbins who said, “Think of your goal and have it at the forefront of your mind.” Take that a step further and intentionally think about tomorrow’s problems today. Doing so allows your brain’s natural tendencies to help you solve problems.
“Tendency to experience intrusive thoughts about an objective that was once pursued and left incomplete. The automatic system signals the conscious mind, which may be focused on new goals, that a previous activity was left incomplete. It seems to be human nature to finish what we start and, if it is not finished, we experience dissonance.” (Zeigarnik Effect Wiki)
Think of your goal before bed.
If you know what you’re going to face tomorrow – and you will, when you plan your day the night before – you can approach it with the invigorated perspective of a mind that has chewed on it all night.
So, before you go to sleep, you should think about the biggest task you’ll face tomorrow for about ten minutes. Even if you only make it 60 seconds before you’re snoring, making tomorrow’s problem your last thought before sleep is a powerful decision.
Many of us absolutely loathe getting out of bed in the morning. It’s difficult to peel your eyes open. It’s a struggle to even set one foot on the ground. Perhaps you hit the snooze button at least 12 times. I know I’m guilty of hitting it at least a few times on occasion!
Make it easier on yourself: plan your tomorrow, today.
You don’t have to plan absolutely everything. Things come up, something doesn’t go as planned – you name it. But if you can get a jump-start on your day by planning to do a couple of things, you’re already ahead of where you were yesterday.
My favorite way to do this is by using the 1-3-9 Method.
Use the 1-3-9 Productivity Method
You’ve got your goals, now what?
Crossing the finish line of any race is merely a process of taking one step after another, regardless of the distance. You can be running a marathon or just a one-mile fun run, but the whole way, you’re putting one foot in front of the other.
You can approach your goals in the same way. I use the 1-3-9 Productivity Method for my Daily Goals in particular.
1-3-9 Productivity Method – Daily Goals
I have been using the 1-3-9 Productivity Method for my Daily Goals for several months now, and I can say that it’s the most useful productivity ‘tool’ I’ve ever used. It works for me because I’m the kind of person that loves to cross things off a checklist.
Most of the time, when you are using the 1-3-9 Productivity Method, you’ll want to start by making a huge Master To-Do List. However, when you’re like me, and making lists isn’t a chore, it tends to get distracting.
Instead, make a priority list of things you need to do tomorrow. If you have a large assignment you need to work on, make sure to break it down into smaller, manageable, action-based items.
Organize your list into three levels, based on importance and level of priority.
Create your 1-3-9 Productivity List for tomorrow:
( 1 ) very important task
( 3 ) somewhat important tasks
( 9 ) smaller, less important tasks
Once you’ve sorted out tomorrow’s tasks into these levels: Stick To It.
Here’s the important bit:
Start with the ( 1 ) very important task. Don’t move on to any other task on the list until you’ve finished that one very important task. This accomplishes two things:
First, it sets your priorities for the day. You chose this task to be the most important, and now it’s completely within your power to make it happen. If your task is too big to be completed in one day, break it down into pieces. Then prioritize your day.
Second, choosing to work on that ( 1 ) very important task first front-loads your day. Everything else will seem like a cake walk once you finish your most difficult task!
Once you’ve finished your most important task for the day, work on one of your three somewhat important tasks.
It’s really important to remember that your tasks should be individual, accomplishable items – not general projects. Your number one task shouldn’t be ‘Set up a website.’ For instance, if your goal is to set up a website, there are a lot of small tasks that go into it:
- Determine what hosting I will use for my website
- Check availability of my preferred domain name and standard alternates.
- Check for existing trademarks and established, competing companies.
- Purchase domain.
- Choose style of website hosting to use.
- Set up website hosting (WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, etc.)
- Write copy for landing page.
- Select images for landing page.
- Set up email address.
Which of these should happen first?
That’s the first thing that should be on your list, no matter how insignificant or small it feels. Don’t move on to the rest of your list until you’ve completed this task. This ensure that, at the very least, you’ll get the most important thing on your list done for the day. #winning
After the first item on your list, work your way through the ( 3 ) somewhat important tasks that come next. You should work your way through this level of tasks before you move on to the third level.
Keep working your way through the list until you’ve exhausted the list or you’re exhausted. Just kidding, stop when you feel like you’re ready to end the day.
This process for prioritizing your workload forces you to finish the most important tasks before you move on to the next. Doing so maximizes your cognitive capacity and helps create a momentum to stay motivated through the rest of your day!
It also creates a positive feedback cycle which is self-perpetuating. Completing a task makes you more likely to complete the next task. It keeps you pushing forward, wanting more success.
I know if you are reading this, you want to be successful. You’re likely a planner, who enjoys making lists and crossing items off them. Are you ready to take your work to the next level of productivity?