Maximize Productivity in the New Year by Aligning Time Around Priorities

By Sarah Krivel

The New Year represents a time for setting goals, aligning priorities and establishing good habits for the year ahead. There's no better way to reach goals than by finding ways to do more with your working hours. Simple changes can go a long way to reducing stress and achieving more. Here are three practices to get into right away to maximize productivity by using your time in the best way possible.



In order to make wise decisions about how you use our time, you must be crystal clear on your priorities. Whether these are personal or organizational, the first step is to know what you’re working toward in as specific terms as possible. The importance of this step cannot be overstated, because it is the foundation from which all time decisions stem. Say for example your organization is prioritizing funding diversity in the coming year. More specifically: to increase individual giving by 25% from last year and to secure $100,000 in grants from at least two foundations. Once your priorities are clear, you have a yardstick against which to measure each decision related to your use of time. “Does pursuing x activity get you closer to reaching my priority?” If the answer is yes, do it. If it is no, don’t. Now of course not all decisions are as cut-and-dry as that. Sometimes you don’t know if x or y will get you closer to accomplishing what you set out to accomplish. Taking the time to stop to evaluate and make a decision based on the information available at the time is the best thing you can do.



Sometimes priorities are so overwhelming and the path from where you are today to where you’re hoping to end up is anything by clear. So instead of being overwhelmed by the unknown, focus instead, each step of the way, on asking just one question: “What's the immediate next action I need to take?” Continue asking yourself this question until you arrive at an answer that seems so simple and obvious to act on that there's no reason why you wouldn't do it. Using the example above, your thinking may go something like this:


  • What's the immediate next action I need to take?
  • Review reports of individual donor giving from the past three years.
  • To do that, what's the immediate next action I need to take?
  • Get the research report from the Development Director.
  • To do that, what's the immediate next action I need to take?
  • Email the Development Director for the reports.


And suddenly, you have something simple to act on. All you need to do right now, at this moment, is to send an email. Do it, and then ask yourself the question again. And again. And again. You'll be amazed at how things that once felt overwhelming and scary feel doable and exhilarating. You're continually moving forward by taking action to get closer and closer to the finish line. Don’t think about everything it will take to get from here to there. Ride the wave of momentum you gather by pursuing the immediate next action every step of the way.



Jumbled thoughts can distract you when you’re not at work and keep you up at night. Maintain one running list of action items/takeaways/to-dos. Rather than scattering these items throughout a notebook or electronic device, keep them in one place. As much as possible, include due dates.

Every day before you power down, review this master list and identify three, and only three, goals you have for the next day. Write these three items on a daily to-do list with checkboxes beside each. Reserve time on your calendar daily to work on your three items. A study out of UC Irvine showed that the typical office worker is interrupted or switches tasks on average every three minutes and five seconds and that it can take 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to where they left off. So shut off your email, put your phone away, close your door, whatever is necessary to focus on those items and avoid distraction. Tackle these tasks early in the day when you are fresh and do not let small, simpler tasks get in the way of crossing the three items off your list.


There’s nothing like knowing that your time is being used in the best way possible to get you to where you’re going. Dedicate yourself to practicing these three tips each and every day until they become a habit and feel your productivity soar, ultimately accomplishing your priorities.


About Sarah Krivel, Professional Organizer at Simpler Surroundings

Simpler Surroundings Productivity Consultants partner with small businesses and nonprofits to maximize success by improving processes and efficiency. Organized and streamlined operations lead to success in achieving goals and freeing up time and energy for what matters most. We're passionate about working with small business owners and nonprofit executive directors to tackle productivity challenges, reaching your potential and accomplishing your goals. Call 720-480-4272 for a free phone consultation.

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