“What you don’t do determines what you can do.” – Tim Ferriss

When you sit down to work, what do you do first? Do you open your emails, check your task manager, flip through your diary or sip on your favourite beverage whilst listening to a meditation?

How we begin our day is pretty important to how productive and joy-filled our day might be. According to some research, starting by working through our emails is the worst thing we can do. You may find it cathartic to go and delete all your spam, but if we get sucked into answering emails, we can fall into the trap of losing the distinction between urgent and important work. As a result, we can allow most of our day to pass by, having only replied to all of our emails at the expense of other urgent work that might have been needed.

In this process, we often complicate our lives further by context-switching between different business tools—chat, email, spreadsheets, and more—the average employee switches between nine tools per day. When work is scattered like this, we devour precious, non-productive work time simply toggling between tools to find the correct information. 

Finding a way to integrate all of our business tools will help us eliminate data silos, and ultimately increase workplace productivity.

Learning to say “no”, because there’s simply too much on our plate or it’s not in line with our primary income-generating tasks, is also incredibly powerful when managing our productive time better. Incidentally, saying “no” can also significantly enhance the quality and quantity of our downtime – it’s not just about being more productive at work.

What we don’t do often determines what we can do. Bringing clarity to what we are willing to do, and what we are not willing to do, helps us establish healthy boundaries and focus our energy on the work that is healthy and good for our strengths, purpose and fulfilment.

Saying “no” to new work might seem like a counterintuitive productivity tip. After all, aren’t the most productive people the ones who can do it all? Well, not really. Productive people know what their priorities are—which also means knowing what their priorities are not.

We need to clarify priorities early and often. Even if you don’t say “no,” make sure your team members and family understand the relative importance of what you’re working on. That way, you can ensure support and space for your work.

There are times in life when all of these tips can be tricky to implement because we are desperate for work opportunities or change in our lives. Remember, we’re all different and find value and meaning in unique ways. Find what feels good for you, and don’t be shy to play around with new ideas on how to engage more with your life today!

We advise, you thrive.