Do you remember the most productive day of your life --- a day when all the pieces fit together perfectly, just like a jigsaw puzzle? You checked things off your to-do list in a fury, focusing on each task until it was complete, moving swiftly to the next task on your list. Ever had a day like that? If so, you’re either a masterful time manager or you were getting ready to go on vacation!

The most productive day in my life was just like that. I was excited and enthusiastic, even though my to-do list had over twenty-one items on it. I was motivated and focused, even though all twenty-one plus items had to get done that day. I had a clear non-negotiable deadline --- the plane was leaving at 8:30 AM the next day whether I was on board or not. And I had the ultimate reward for getting it all done --- a four day get-away to Napa Valley with my dear husband. I checked more off my to-do list that day than in any other day up to then, and I’m talking about time consuming things. Take the dogs to the kennel forty-five minutes away from my home. Mow the front lawn (I did this running!) Pack -- myself and my two kids for their stay at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Plus eighteen more!

So why was this day so productive? I’ve thought long and hard about this, knowing that by creating this on a regular basis, I’d have much more checked off my to do list in a day, week and month. I’d be happier and have more time to do fun things, which in turn would make me even happier. It’s a wonderful upward spiral. You can create this, too! Read on to learn how.

Be in a Great Mood.

The day before my trip to Napa I was in a great mood. And who wouldn’t be? So be in a great mood to get more done. I know what you’re thinking, “how can I choose to be in a great mood?” I’ll admit it, some days it’s harder than others to be in a great mood. And sometimes a bit of a grumpy mood can work in our favor. But certainly, there are things you can do to be more likely to be in a good mood.

Think about days that get off on the right foot for you. What do they have in common? Maybe you feel better when you exercise in the morning. Maybe you need to start slow … with a cup of coffee and some inspirational reading or a nice conversation with a significant other. Maybe you’re in a better mood on days you meditate, do yoga, or go to Starbucks. Maybe for you, you can create a good mood simply by telling yourself “I’m in such a great mood today!” There certainly is a thing or two you do in the morning that makes you happier --- gets your day started on the right foot. Do these things more often and create a great mood.

Be Focused and Purposeful.

The day before leaving for Napa, I was very focused. If something came along that needed to get done, but didn’t move me in the direction of pulling out of the driveway and heading to the airport, it didn’t get done. There was no debate. No second thought given. If it could wait until after the trip --- it did. Easy call. Now imagine doing this everyday. You know exactly what must get done … and you do it. Something else comes along and it’s not in the plan … it gets delayed. Most certainly this is easier to pull of if you work all by yourself in complete isolation free from coworkers and bosses (or kids and spouses), telephones and email. But you get your to-dos done in the real world with all of those built in distractions. I’m right there with you.

Let me ask you this: if you’re getting ready to go on a vacation and have twenty-one things on your to do list, are your conversations with people shorter, more efficient and more focused than on regular days? Are you more likely to let voice mail pick up your calls until it’s convenient for you to talk (or to see if it’s something that can wait until you return from your vacation?) Are you less tempted to check email every single time that dinger dings? Yes, yes and yes … because pulling out of the driveway on time depends on it. So how do you create this atmosphere on a regular day?

Have a Non-negotiable Deadline and a Carrot.

Oh, I’m not talking about the orange kind of carrot. Sure a healthy snack helps keep you productive but what I’m really talking about is an incentive. Something you’ll reward yourself with only when you meet your deadline. Your carrot is something compelling, a treat. Something you wouldn’t normally do for yourself if you didn’t meet your deadline. In the case of my trip to Napa, the carrot was Napa. The deadline was the flight taking off at 8:30 in the morning. It’s completely non-negotiable. Create a firm deadline with yourself, with a clear and defined carrot that you will reward yourself with when you meet your deadline.

Here’s an example. I will send out my newsletter by 10 PM Central, June 29, 2006 at which time I will treat myself to an hour of complete relaxation doing whatever I want to do … perhaps a bubble bath, catching up on reading, maybe some T.V! Whatever I decide, it’s an hour just for me!

Gotta’ run … I have a deadline to meet!

Author's Bio: 

Aby Garvey is a professional organizer who helps clients world-wide create space in their homes and lives for the things they love and value. She is the founder of simplify 101, a columnist for Organize Magazine, and the co-author of The Organized & Inspired Scrapbooker. Visit Aby’s website for free resources to help you get organized and create space for what matters to you.