Better Living

My Simple, High-Impact Productivity Protocol

This 3-step process helps you get the big jobs done without slipping on daily responsibilities
BY Leo Babauta TIMEMarch 30, 2022 PRINT

Much of our days are spent with busywork or distractions. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, busywork and distractions can be lovely ways to spend our time. But sometimes we want to use our time powerfully and effectively.

Let’s look at ways to work with increased impact.

Imagine a protocol that you followed that would have you do less each day, but have a bigger impact. Ask yourself if you’d be willing to face some discomfort for this.

So we want to focus on doing less, but on having a higher impact. And of course, we still need to take care of the smaller things in our lives so everything doesn’t become a mess.

Here’s the simple protocol I try to follow:

  1. Choose high-impact tasks.
  2. Unlock those tasks with focus sessions.
  3. Create rituals for smaller but important things that need caring for.

This gives me more space in the day, less feeling of overwhelm, and a feeling that I’m making a meaningful impact with the time I do spend working.

Let’s look at each of the three items in the protocol.

1. Choose High Impact Tasks

This starts at the beginning of the week, and the beginning of each day. Intentionally choose the high-impact tasks before you start the week or day.

So each week, I think about what I want to accomplish. What high-impact tasks will I focus on? Then I do the same at the beginning of each day: What high-impact tasks do I want to accomplish today?

To decide if something is a high impact task, I ask myself:

  • Does this align with what I want to create long-term?
  • Will this make a big impact on my life and the lives of others?
  • Will I care about this at the end of this year? Will it move the needle in an important way?

The answer is likely to be either yes or no for all three questions. It would be rare to be a yes for one question and no for the others. But these questions help train the mind on the high-impact tasks, so after a while, you don’t even have to ask them—you can just tell.

Put one to three of these tasks at the top of your list each day (depending on how much time you have).

2. Unlock High Impact Tasks With Focus Sessions

These high-impact tasks are likely to come with resistance. So people put them off, and you’ll see them pushed back week after week.

So how do we unlock these tasks and get them done?

The way to do that is with focus sessions. I will create a focus session for myself each day where I intentionally face the discomfort of these tasks and remind myself why they matter.

Even better: If you find yourself putting off a high-impact task more than once, schedule a focus session with at least one other person. Get on a video call for an hour, tell each other what you’re going to focus on, and then go on mute. Get the task done, and report at the end of the hour how it went. This works every single time.

If you follow this part of the protocol, you’ll unlock hidden powers in your life!

3. Create Rituals to Take Care of Smaller, Important Things

Focusing on the big things is amazing, but what a lot of people find is that if you focus exclusively on the big things, the small things start to fall between the cracks. Your emails pile up, people start to get frustrated, you start to let people down.

So how do we balance the big things with the small things that need taking care of?

Rituals. Create a ritual for each type of small thing, and put it on your calendar.

For example, you might have rituals for:

  • Email and messages each day
  • Laundry, household cleaning, errands
  • Cooking dinner, meal prep, grocery shopping
  • Workouts, meditations, walks
  • Finances, taxes, administrative stuff

You could have “admin and finances Fridays” (spend the whole day, or half a day). You could have 30 minutes twice a day for emails/messages. You could have family cooking and eating hour, and morning meditations and workout.

With these rituals (and do turn them into actual rituals), the small important things get taken care of without taking time away from your high-impact tasks.

Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta is the author of six books and the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with over 2 million subscribers. Visit ZenHabits.net
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