It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind at work: We ignore the things that will improve our productivity in the long term and neglect ourselves and others in favor of getting what is most urgent done now. Have you ever thought about how things might be different if you actually attended to those important but not urgent things you’ve been putting off?
Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People defines Quadrant II activities as important activities that don’t need to happen right away. Often, Quadrant II activities are the ones that lay the groundwork for extra productivity later, like learning new skills and setting up systems. Here are six things you can invest a little time in today to set you up for future success:
1. Physically clean your office.
A mess makes things hard to find. Being neat saves time. Use today to do a no-holds-barred cleanup, by using something called “delete then rescue.” Pile everything on your desk you don’t want into a “delete” pile. Everything in the delete pile is going to the trash. Next, rescue what you really want. You’ll end up with only a few key items, and you’ll probably find your keys too! If you really want to rescue something that doesn’t really have a place on your desk, resist and let it go.
2. Organize your computer files.
If you just drop documents wherever they end up on your computer, take some time to organize your files. You did it for your physical desktop, now do it for your virtual desktop. Organize your files by project, team member or date. Just get them into a system that helps you find things when you need them, and—more importantly—file them when you create them.
3. Play politics.
A lot of people hate playing politics, and then they are embittered that no one does what they want. Don’t be that person. Make sure you’re fostering and nurturing the relationships at work that help get things done. Find time in your day to make friends with the people who can help you get ahead. Ask to learn more about their job, their hobbies and their passions.
4. Unsubscribe from email lists.
Does reading email take a lot of time each day? Even the act of scanning your inbox uses energy and requires decision-making. One less email to scan in your inbox is one less brain cell sacrificed to the gods. If you’re on email lists you no longer read, unsubscribe. Empty your inbox and you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted.
5. Figure out your retirement plan.
Yeah, I’m serious. Most people spend almost no time evaluating the retirement plans offered by their employers. If you haven’t given this some thought, make an effort to understand the investment and matching options for your company’s 401(k), and make sure you’re selecting an option that makes sense for you.
6. Clean up social media.
You might have a billion accounts you’re signed up for, and a billion pictures on each account you don’t want your grandma to see. Or your next employer. And do you really use that third Tumblr just devoted to burger memes? No. Delete old accounts, pare down the pictures you have online and feel good about keeping the stuff you want private, actually private. Plus, having fewer accounts means fewer passwords to remember.
If you have a habit of managing crises and more urgent to do items than you can count, put on blinders for one day and do what’s not so urgent but so very important. Your future self will thank you.
Aside from being a serial entrepreneur and the man behind the Get-It-Done-Guy podcast, Stever Robbins writes for eBay about the intersection of productivity and electronics. When it comes to gadgets, choosing lightly used options online is great way to go.