Each day presents so many chances to refine your approach to maximise productivity.
Moving a regular meeting out of your most productive time of day. Being more discerning about what extra work you volunteer for so you can remain focused on your most valuable projects. Managing interruptions by working in a different part of the office.
The opportunities for tweaks and changes are endless.
One of the biggest opportunities I’ve tried recently to employ the ‘one more thing’ strategy.
Complete one more thing before your break. Finish one more task before going home.
I came across this concept in James Clear’s Atomic Habits and it’s the best productivity hack I’ve tried in a long time. It’s so easy to implement because really it’s just a mindset. Straight after reading about it, I found myself thinking ‘just one more thing’ before you go home.
If you need a little help keeping the idea front of mind, here are a few suggestions:
- Put ‘One More Thing’ on a post-it note somewhere you’ll see it every day like your planner or computer screen.
- Make a desktop background for your computer that says ‘One More Thing’.
- Set an alarm for fifteen minutes before home time and name it ‘One More Thing’.
Just because something is easy though, doesn’t make it right. There are so many benefits to this mindset.
Fully Utilise Your Time
How often do you find yourself starting to drift before lunch or clocking off time? Your focus is divided between clock watching and the task at hand, not quite making the most of those precious minutes.
It sounds trivial, quibbling over the effectiveness of mere minutes. But lost minutes every day, turn into hours over a week. When you think about it in the context of a year, this could be the biggest productivity opportunity you have.
Thinking about ‘One More Thing’ ensures you work right up to the end. It’s easy to drift or check out early. This approach gets you maximising your time. You’re filling in the edges.
Take Care of Admin
This mindset takes care of an extraordinary number of small, niggly tasks. Responding to an email. Submitting that expense. Filing away paperwork.
Squeezing in one more task at the end of the day, you’re never going to pick something big to complete. You’re always (or at least should) be selecting minor, quick things to get done.
Imagine if you ticked off three more of these tasks every day? That’s 21 a week. That’s a significant contribution to staying on top of things, without much more effort or any extra time.
Push for Completion
This is my own spin on the ‘One More Thing’ approach but I’ve found the mindset has pushed me to wrap tasks up before taking a break. Or at least keep going until I reach a natural juncture.
Instead of being about starting one more new task, it’s finishing one more subtask of whatever you’re working on.
If you (and I) stop midway through something, by the time you pick up where you left off and get back into the flow, it takes longer to finish. Essentially this about not interrupting your own momentum.
And it might just be me, but wanting to get whatever is in front of me completed so I can go for lunch definitely hones my focus and gets it done faster!
The Compound Effect
This is definitely one of those habits that positively compounds over time. At work, initially, the impact seems trivial and unlikely to ever get noticed. But you feel more organised and less stressed so you keep going.
Over time, you are more organised and more prolific. You don’t drop the ball. Your admin is always done. You deliver, in big and small ways, consistently to a high standard. You’re doing a good job without crazy hours, in a calm and capable way.
That gets you noticed. People want you on their team. People want to work for you. People want to promote you.
All from squeezing a little more out of your day than your peers.
Stay Small and Keep a List
By now I imagine you’re pretty well convinced that this is a strategy you want to try. Before you rush off though, I have a couple of tips for you.
- Keep it small. ‘One More Thing’ is all about a little bit extra, emphasis on little. Notice how all of the examples I’ve talked about are five-minute tasks. If you’re starting a new report at 5.55pm then you’re working until midnight. And we don’t want that. (Side Note: See my post on leaving work on time if this is something you struggle with.)
- Keep a list. If you have to spend five minutes figuring out how to fill the time, you’ve missed an opportunity. Have a go-to place where you keep track of all of these little tasks. Your inbox is one option. A to-do list app like, any.do is another.
This really is a case of keeping it really, really simple. Less is definitely more.
The ‘One More Thing’ approach is about marginal gains. It’s thinking, ‘how do I get a little more out of the day?’
It’s easy to make it sound like you must be a productivity robot, maximising every millisecond. But the reality is, this is a mindset to achieve quick wins. To ensure you don’t drift. To pick up the small admin tasks that can easily slip through the cracks. To maintain focus and organisation.