The Keys to Improving Productivity

productivityThe New Year has come and gone, and for many folks mid-January brings the promise of a stagnant feeling. The more and more people that I talk to, the more I hear: "I just feel like I am in a rut." Well that's no surprise since the winter months tend to throw a dark cloud over many of us with cold temps and a lack of sunlight. This gray combination does not always inspire people, but instead tends to make people want to curl up inside by a nice fireplace with a hot dish of steamy pasta.

Now that we have identified the culprit of our motivation during the winter months, and the demise of our New Year's resolutions, the question is how do we take the necessary steps for improving productivity beyond the New Year?

I talked to some of the most productive people around and discovered their secrets to keeping their focus on their goals during these cold and dreary months and this is what I found out.

The Keys to Improving Productivity

1. Block Time

Pam O'Bryant, Team Leader at the Keller Williams Realty Office in Arlington, Virginia, swears by the importance of block time. This is a technique that Pam employs, and has for years, where she plans out her weeks with the help of a color-coded block schedule. Each task is allocated a block of time on Pam's schedule, and to provide clarity as she looks at her calendar, Pam uses certain colors to denote certain tasks. For example, Pam may block off an hour for each coaching session that she has with one of the agents in her office. All of these blocks on her calendar receive the same color code and same time block (time frame), so that anytime Pam looks at her schedule and sees a red block, she knows it is for an hour- long coaching session with one of her agents.

By implementing block time onto her calendar, Pam has been able to successfully stick to her plans more often, in turn making her a more efficient worker and capable of remaining focused and productive. According to Pam, "We've heard it over and over again, but blocking and planning your time, and working your plan is a tried and true method for success."

2. Sleep Enough, Eat Well and Exercise

When I asked Christine Clapp, President and Founder of Spoken With Authority, a consulting firm providing interactive workshops and intensive coaching sessions that give young professionals confidence as speakers, about what her recommendations were for remaining productive beyond the New Year, she stressed the importance of remaining physically and mentally alert in order to achieve optimal performance. Clapp advocates getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising in order to be more productive in 2010, "because you can't expect peak performance if you are not taking care of yourself physically and mentally." Since the New Year, Clapp has seen an increase in the number of new clients that she has had because many people are really trying to not only make New Year's resolutions, but are trying to honor and stick to those resolutions as well.

Regardless of what your productivity goals are for 2010, you have to find support and have some fun along the way, says Clapp, or else you won't stick with your resolutions, and you won't be able to find joy in what you're doing unless you have people to encourage you along the way. "I've run five marathons in the last five years and know I would not have run five miles in that time if not for the amazing group of friends I run with three times a week." It seems basic and obvious, but it is always easier said than done, making resolutions to be more productive is the easy part, but sticking to them is always more challenging to do. By putting yourself first, and your basic needs (food, water, sleep, health etc.) first, you can arm yourself with the tools and resolve necessary to carry out those hard tasks.

3. Don't Reinvent the Wheel -- Look to Learn From Others

To stay motivated and focused throughout the winter months and into the spring, do not try to accomplish it all and do not try to reinvent the wheel. There are a lot of successful people who have already tapped into some of the most effective methods of time management and productivity, so study their methods and implement their techniques whenever possible because you know that what they are doing is already working. It is best to look at successful people with effective methods and learn from them instead of learning on your own through trial and error, which can be both frustrating and discouraging.

There are a lot of people out there with wonderful things to teach you, and the sooner you look to learn from others, the more open your mind will become, exposing you to all sorts of new people, things and experiences. Productivity is possible, you just have to know where to look.

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