Charles Schulz was an extremely successful guy. Perhaps you’ve heard of his legendary comic strip, “Peanuts.” At its prime, the misadventures of Charlie Brown and his gang of misfits was published in 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries and 21 languages every day. And it spawned a franchise that’s been worth billions of dollars.
So, yes, it’s safe to say that Mr. Schulz knew a thing or two about success. He was intensely competitive and hard-working, pouring his personal triumphs and failures into a comic strip that went on to become one of the most recognized in the world.
“Life is like a ten-speed bicycle,” Schulz once observed. “Most of us have gears we never use.”
Sound familiar? It’s not like most people purposefully avoid their unused gears, but it’s often hard to consistently focus and be productive. Did you know that 10% of Americans report using stimulants like Adderall to boost their effectiveness? And 11% say they drink seven or more cups of coffee a day.
Given the challenge of using all our performance gears, here’s a handful of tips that just might improve your daily productivity:
Leverage your commute.
There are probably times when you need to simply unwind during your ride to work. But the bulk of the time, you can get ahead on your to-do list by utilizing your commute time. If you’re a passenger, you can return emails or fine-tune a project. If you’re driving, use the time to visualize your day or accomplish some brainstorming.
Take a break.
When you push yourself for too long in the same place, you begin to get diminishing returns. Avoid this by taking regular breaks. You’ll stay fresher and better able to focus. Perhaps you can go for a walk or hit the gym. If nothing else, leave the office for lunch. It’ll help you reset your batteries and prepare for the second half of your day.
While it’s nice to have open-ended projects, you’ll probably struggle to focus without a clear endpoint. So if a deadline isn’t given for something, go ahead and give it one.
Be judicious with meetings.
There are few things in life worse than an unnecessary meeting. Be your own advocate and don’t be afraid to say no to these dreaded time-wasters. When communication is needed but a meeting is overkill, handle it in the most efficient way possible (such as a quick conversation over phone or email).
Turn off your notifications.
Rather than trying to set a goal to avoid looking at your notifications, simply turn them off. That way you won’t have to exercise self control every time you notice out of the corner of your eye that you have a new email or text. Go ahead and set a couple times in the day to check in on emails and messages, then spend the rest of your time focusing on more important tasks.