Successful People Follow These 7 Productivity Rules

While there’s no such thing as an ideal, mold-making businessperson, successful entrepreneurs and executives share certain traits in common.

Productivity is one such trait.

Productive businesswoman works in a cafe

Whether you’re doing your best to climb the corporate ladder ahead of schedule or working to turn your big idea into a big employer, you’ll find a streamlined schedule smooths the road ahead. Follow these seven productivity-boosting tips and good things might just happen.

1. Don’t Let Email Take Over Your Life

There’s an email management tip for everyone. It doesn’t really matter how you choose to manage your inbox clutter, as long as you do it well and consistently. If you’re struggling to find time to slash through the deluge, consider setting aside blocks at the beginning or end of the day, or using inbox settings to filter low-priority emails into a folder that you check less frequently.

2. Start Your Day With a Workout

Serial entrepreneur Kris Duggan starts most workdays with a workout at his gym. And, by his own admission, he’s not a morning person. Taking an hour to sweat it out at the start of the day frees up the rest of your waking hours to focus on work and family — and, if you get to the gym early enough, you might just avoid the morning rush.

3. Focus on One Task at a Time

Julie Morgenstern, a renowned productivity guru, is a proponent of “mono-tasking.” This is one of the top productivity tips she shared in this Oprah Magazine article. Her short version: don’t bother trying to squeeze three tasks into the time it takes to complete one, because you won’t do your best work and may well have to return later. That’s just bad time management.

4. Create and Follow a Centralized To-Do List

If you’re like most professionals, you have multiple to-do lists: one in your email suite, one in your phone’s notepad, perhaps a written version somewhere in a desk drawer. Next chance you get, take the time to centralize this list in a single place — preferably a physical notebook or piece of paper that allows additions and cross-offs. Nothing is more satisfying than drawing a single line through that pesky to-do you’ve finally knocked off.

5. Avoid Needless Meetings (If You Can)

And it’s certainly not a given that you can. However, if you’re the boss — or in a senior-enough position to have confidence and discretion to say “I’m going to sit this one out” — then you should absolutely avoid non-essential meetings. Substitute catch-as-catch-can pow-wows with less frequent standing meetings at which attendance is expected or even mandatory. But keep these short and to the point, and use them to focus your team’s energies on the day or week ahead.

6. Get Quick Tasks Out of the Way Now

Did it just come across your desk? Can you get it done in the next five minutes?

If the task at hand meets both these criteria, get it done now, before anything else comes up. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself with a boatload of little “someday” tasks that, realistically, you’ll never get to.

7. Use a Time Tracker, Even If You Keep It to Yourself

Even if you’re not obligated to track your time at work, use a time tracking system with reporting capabilities to get a sense of how you’re spending your working hours. Log your tasks — and wasted time — fully and honestly. Review your data periodically to determine what you’re doing well and where you might have room for improvement.

How Productive Are You?

Don’t bother reinventing the wheel. No matter how talented or driven they are, professionals who try to increase their productivity by leaps and bounds very often wind up shooting themselves in the foot. Incremental changes are more sustainable over the long term. But, like any long-term plan, fortune favors those who get a head start.

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