Ask people what they do to stay productive and you'll get a variety of answers, because what works for some doesn't work for others. In other words, with all due respect to the folks who produce the Franklin Planner, it's not for everybody. That said, if you're the type who likes being organized, the Franklin Planner may be something you'd love.
Personally, I'm a strong advocate of Stephen Covey's recommendation for "weekly planning and daily adapting." Still, beyond those basics, many other productivity techniques exist. Recently I decided to contact some folks whom I believe to be productive and ask what they did to maximize their productivity. What follows are some of their responses. See if any of these appeal to you.
Several people stated they get more done if they can minimize workplace distractions. A woman told me she has learned to keep the door to her office closed "to keep the 'drive-bys' at bay," and also to say "I'm busy right now, when can I get back to you?" if she's in the middle of something and people invite themselves in.
One man said he gets more done if he finds a place to work that's far away from his cubicle, usually in a different department altogether. He says this technique keeps him away from the never-ending chit-chat and office politics that "hum non-stop in the cubicle farm area" and eat up valuable time.
Another woman citing the same distractions actually asked for and received permission to do her job remotely, even though she lived just a few miles from work.
This technique for better productivity is similar to what I've written about before, the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE). The idea behind ROWE is a focus on performance, not presence. As long as employees are producing the results we expect of them, what does it matter where they are when their work gets done? (For more information on this, visit gorowe.com.)
Old-Fashioned Paper and Pen
Another woman emphasized that she stayed productive by keeping her daily plan in front of her all day long. She hand writes her priorities into a journal and keeps that journal open on her desk to remind her of what she needs to get done. She says it might be old-fashioned, but she gets a lot of satisfaction by crossing things off, and that each time she does that she gets encouraged to get the next item done so she can cross that off, too.
Because moving throughout a building can eat up precious time and reduce productivity, one woman says she always checks her day's "to-do" list before leaving her desk to go someplace else in the building. "I want to see if I can combine multiple tasks into that one trip," she says.
One man who deals with scores of people each day maintains that email is a communications tool and not a filing system. To remain productive, he designates several times a day as "email time" during which he focuses only on email. For something that can't get addressed right away, he drags it to his task list. He also keeps all the email notification bells turned off at all times.
Some people are more productive in the morning, others more in the afternoon. One man who knows he's morning a person never schedules any meetings in the morning, because that's when he gets his "work" done. It's his standing policy to schedule meetings only in the afternoon.
Granted, some people don't have the luxury of making that an absolute rule, but if you know your most productive time, you can try to manage your schedule to maximize your productivity. One woman who knows she's more productive in the afternoon always blocks out at least one hour per day after lunch when she neither takes any phone calls nor schedules any meetings.
If you supervise others or manage a team, pay close attention to what you're doing that could be delegated. Several people mentioned that they are much more productive when they're delegating effectively. By the way, good delegation often requires planning (read: time), so it can seem counterintuitive that it's a time-saver. But delegation planning is something that can be done during planning time, not during the golden productivity hours.
Finally, several people mentioned that getting their minds off work was very good for their productivity. One woman said that a 30-60 minute lunch away from the office worked wonders to keep her fresh in the afternoon. Another person said he always leaves work at work; that his evenings are always devoted to spending time with his family.
No doubt there are many more tips to boost one's productivity, but if any of these sound appealing, try them and see how they work for you.