How to Make 2010 Your Most Productive Year Ever

Most of us begin each year by thinking about our goals, our jobs, our health—all the “new” routines and commitments we make to ourselves to make this our best year yet… but two weeks into January, all our planning and resolutions often go out the window!  You can make this your best year ever by applying some of these simple ideas. In fact, print this article, keep it handy and re-read it to keep you on track throughout the year.

Make a date. Make time in your schedule to find a quiet, comfortable location where you can plan and set your goals. For example, I spend a morning at my favorite local cafe every January so that I can review my goals and set new ones for the year ahead. 

Take five. Create five categories for which to set goals: physical, educational, spiritual, financial, and relational. By setting goals for each of these areas in your life, you are taking a balanced approach and not neglecting any important aspects of your life.

Use it or lose it! I recently read that people who spend a thousand dollars or more each year on their personal development will increase their businesses by twenty percent. Read more books, attend workshops, listen to CDs in your car, take online courses, or enroll at a college or university. Keep your brain active.

Make time.  Eliminate time-robbers from your day—make a list of all the things you do that rob you of your time, such as watching too much TV, running errands inefficiently, checking and responding to your email too often, participating in long phone calls, waiting in traffic, and even being with or talking with other people.  Focus on controlling your time, organizing your day efficiently, and getting rid of the things in your life that are not a high priority.

Out of sight, out of mind. Remove your in-tray from your desk, or get rid of it all together, if you can! Keep it out of sight so the contents don’t distract you and so that people don’t drop new items into it without you noticing.

Unplug. Schedule one TV-free night each week. Switch off the TV and instead, listen to your favorite music, play a board or card game, read a book, enjoy a quiet meal by candlelight (alone or with someone whose company you love), or go on a date in one of your local restaurants. Start being aware of your television-viewing habits, make a point of only watching programs that you truly enjoy, and stop wasting precious time in front of the TV.

Manage your reading. Create a reading file, and put it in your briefcase. Carry it with you on your way home. You can get through a surprising amount of reading while on public transport to and from work, while waiting for appointments, or while waiting in a line.

Find a mentor. When you identify the person you believe would be a suitable mentor, spend some time watching him or her in action. Ask around to find out other people’s opinions of your chosen mentor, and find out all you can about this individual’s achievements, beliefs, values, and ways of operating. This will give you insight into your potential mentor before you approach him or her about mentoring you.

Schedule email time. Email messages popping into your inbox all day long can be an enormous distraction, particularly if your email is set to alert you every time new mail arrives. To check-in on your emails and respond to them as they arrive not only distracts you from whatever tasks or projects you are working on, but it can rob you of an entire day, responding to other people’s needs while your own are neglected. Schedule a specific time or times each day to check and respond to emails rather than constantly looking-in on your inbox or being bounced there by your email program with every new message.

Your signature. Use your email program to create an email signature block that will automatically attach to all of your outgoing messages; it’s a little like an email letterhead. It saves you the effort of including your contact information every time, and it brings a professional touch to your communications. You might simply include your name, company name, contact details and website, or you might also include a sentence or two about your business, a special promotion you are running with a link to your website, or even a favorite funny or inspirational quote.

Spring clean. Schedule time to clean out your email regularly; once a month should be enough to keep you on top of it. Empty your deleted items and copies of any unnecessary items that have already been sent, and go through any completed project or task folders and ensure that anything you are keeping is essential to your records. Cleaning out your email will ensure that you are managing your email files and disk space effectively.

Set up systems. When using filing cabinets, decide how you will allocate your space to make it as easy as possible to locate your files. For example, rather than mixing all of your files together, you might decide to keep current client case files in one drawer and potential client files and marketing information in a separate drawer; or, you might choose to store current projects in one drawer and research and reference information in another; or, you might decide to file everything in alphabetical order—you get the idea. Look at the type of files you have, and decide how to logically divide them into categories. Then, label the front of each drawer with the types of files it contains.

Choose to be amazing! It’s as simple as making a commitment to yourself every morning that you will have an amazing day. Remember, life is not a dress rehearsal—we only get one performance, so let’s give it our best! 

Neen James, MBA CSP, is the President/CEO of Neen James Communications, LLC. An international productivity expert and native-born Aussie, Neen delivers engaging keynotes that have educated and entertained audiences with real-world strategies that apply to all roles, whether at work or in life. Neen also provides one-on-one consulting and mentoring to women on a variety of business issues and topics. To find out more about Neen, visit her at

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