Productivity is an imperfect science.
At least it is for me.
Some days, I leave the office on a high, ticking off task after task I’ve accomplished during the day on my fingers like someone you’d never want to stand next to in an elevator.
Other days, nine or so hours at work blur into a single memory, and there’s no highlight reel.
In the past few weeks, however, I’ve had multiple coworkers ask me the exact same question: How do you structure your workday? So I gave it some thought, perhaps for the first time ever, and boiled my best days down to two questions.
I can’t promise these questions will work for you — I can’t even guarantee they’ll continue to work for me — but they’re what’s working right now.
This is my driving question. Like anyone, I could easily while away the hours at work without accomplishing the thing that matters most — and that thing constantly changes. Right now, is it most important that I:
These are all important things. They’ll all need to get done. But asking myself what’s most important right now helps me decide which comes first. Is there a deadline? Has someone been waiting? When will I see the return on my effort?
Rather than mosey through task after task, technically eroding my to-do list but setting myself up for a blur of a day, I try to make a splash.
“Finishing the book I started on the train” and “going to the beach” aren’t acceptable answers. I suppose a more accurate question is “What work do I feel like doing?”
But in the absence of a clear what’s-most-important answer, asking myself this question helps me be more productive by working with my momentum instead of against it. It helps me work in what I call “batches.”
That means when I’m on a roll with one type of work, I take full advantage. Instead of hopping back and forth between different types of tasks, I lean into one, and get as much done as I can before I come up for air.
For instance, I batch:
When I run out of steam with one batch, there’s always another ready and waiting.
As I said before: I can’t promise these questions will work for you. But they could be a good place to start.
Originally published at www.businessinsider.com