I am a firm believer in conquering your working day early. Getting in early to finish work is life-changing and it takes me out of Cape Town traffic. My golden hours are from 7 AM to 9 AM and by the time I open my emails for the first time after 9 AM, I have already set the course for the rest of the day and I know exactly what I can control for that day. Those are the key things when it comes to taking your productivity into overdrive, be aware of what you can control and smash through those tasks right away.

What to avoid when you want to be more productive

Reading and responding to every single email as they arrive.

For a very long time I took pride in responding to email quickly. I developed this habit while working in customer support where responding within certain time frames was a KPI. You can’t do this when the nature of your work is not email SLA-based. You must also learn to archive and delete email. If it doesn’t require a response at all, archive it. If it’s retail SPAM, unsubscribe. Emails that require investigation and a response from you must go into your task list or calendar. Free applications such as Trello and Google Keep will make your life much easier. Become a champion at handling email and you’ll be far more productive.

Using a video streaming service for background music

You’re going to peek at those videos from time-to-time. Rather use a music-only application, it’s far less distracting. I’ve also opted for premium services in this regard so as to strip out all the annoying ads. The best deal on the market right now is the YouTube Premium service. You get ad-free videos to watch in your downtime and the the Youtube Music service is included all for only R72/month. It’s all you can eat and you get access to YouTube Originals.

Requesting unnecessary face-to-face meetings 

Maybe an email would do? Long meetings with no agenda are especially soul-draining. If you don’t know why you are there and what the expectations are, request to be informed. Quick stand-up type meetings are far more effective than an open-ended “brainstorm” for your new website design.

Heading home when you know traffic is bad

Just don’t do it. Stay at the office and prepare for the next day or head in the opposite direction. Swap your traffic time for productivity or self-investment.

I recently wrote about apps that can help you block distracting social media applications. Our CEO also shared this cool article with the team. Being more productive comes down to owning what’s in your control and being mentally prepared for daily challenges. Develop a pre-determined response for crisis management moments and for unreasonable requests from customers or colleagues.