Are you having a productive day?

It’s one thing to be busy for an entire day. And it’s something entirely different to be productive. You can judge how your day went by when it ends and you’re at home. If you feel tired and drained, you’ve been busy being busy. If you feel elevated and relaxed, you’ve had a productive day. Sounds odd, I know. But being busy doesn’t mean being productive.

You have to work on a variety of things at work that differ in nature. There are plenty of to-do’s and lots of projects. The former includes for example paying bills, making collection calls, filing documents, and what have you. These will keep you quite busy, but you’re not really being productive. You will feel accomplished and productive when you write a great proposal and submit it to a prospect, because now you’re actively generating business. Or you finish that business plan for your client and close a project.

To be productive yet efficient, you need to balance your daily work schedule so you spend adequate time on both types. Paying bills is not fun, but needs to get done nonetheless. On the other hand, there are some days when your creative juices simply refuse to flow. This is when the routine tasks come in handy because you can still get a lot done.

Here are some tips you can apply so you’re productive and efficient:

Use different tools to manage all the things you have to do so you stay organized. A Personal Information Manager (PIM) such as Microsoft’s Outlook works great to schedule tasks for different due dates and mark some as recurring so you won’t keep forgetting them. To manage your work for projects, you need something more sophisticated such as Microsoft Project or one of the online tools such as Zoho Projects. These tools let you plan out your project phases, group them by milestones, and assign tasks to different resources if you have a team.

Distribute your chores reasonably. Not everything has to be done today. If you use “today” as your default due date, you’ll end up having one of those busy non-productive days, or you suffer a shock when you look at the list in the morning and see tens of to do’s that are all due today. If a task can wait until the end I the month, assign a suitable due date and let it sit there until then.

Delegate. Assess each tasks to determine whether it can’t be done by someone else. If you have a receptionist for example, there’s no reason why he/she can’t make those collection calls once or twice a week. This will spare you a lot of aggregation which affects the quality of your productive work.

Review and update your projects-related tasks on a daily basis. Now that you’ve got all work phases and tasks organized in your project management tool, you need to keep it updated to make sure you detect potential delays and to clear out tasks that you finished. (And it feels great to mark tasks as “completed”).

Sometimes it’s okay to procrastinate. If you’re having one of those days when you simply can’t focus on your projects, let go and tackle some of the chores that are due tomorrow or the day after. You can catch up on the former work as you will have more time tomorrow. So when you must procrastinate, use the time by doing routine work that doesn’t need much thinking power.

Don’t work during weekends. Those are meant to give you a break so you can recharge your batteries. If you work through your weekend, you’ll feel tired and drained come Sunday morning is here