Time is a finite resource that you can never get back. Everyone has the same 24 hours but some people can do twice as much as a less organised person who doesn’t use their time wisely. If there are not enough hours in the day to complete your projects maybe you need to apply a few of the following productivity tricks.
1. Set clear goals
Getting more done doesn’t mean you are productive if what you have done isn’t really as important to finish as the tasks you have put off. Productivity is about getting the most important tasks done first, so the most effective productivity booster is to have and set clear goals. These can be Yearly, Monthly and Weekly but planning your working days allows you to prioritise the most important tasks and not wasting time on unnecessary tasks.
2. Apply the 80/20 rule (Pareto principle)
It is an Axiom of Business that 80% of sales come from 20% of customers. This rule has been corroborated in Software (bugs), Wealth (20% have 80% in a country), Health Hazards (80% accidents are caused by 20% of the same hazards), Sports training (exercises and effects) and many more areas. When it comes to productivity, it is very likely that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your activities. If you can find that 20% and put your focus on those activities, not only will you be more productive but much more effective.
3.Start with the “Real” work
Talking about what happened on the TV, checking Twitter and Facebook, looking through and “organising” unimportant emails are time-consuming and will have a limited impact on your business. You can leave those for lunch or while watching the TV at night. At work focus on the bigger activities on your to-do list (you did set goals didn’t you?). You will more likely find that those tasks will be in the 20% of the activities that the Pareto Principle suggests will impact your business the most. When you have finished your important tasks go onto the less important tasks – but do you really need facebook and twitter at work? By all means, check your email and deal with emails that affect your business, leave the “news” and “Love Island” for after-work or next day while having your morning brew.
4. Don’t kick the can down the road
One of the biggest time-wasting activities is starting something, not finishing it then putting it aside only to start it again and again during the day. Instead, when you check emails use the FAST system. Decide if you will F)ile It, A)ssign it (to someone), S)tore it or T)rash it. If you haven’t got the information to hand, send an acknowledgement saying that you will get the information as soon as you have finished an important job. People will appreciate that you are busy and are less likely to badger you.
A good leader always delegates. Dealing with every little job is a waste of your time. Henry Ford delegated so he could do the thinking – why should s/he/you do stuff that others could do better and faster. Take stock of recurring weekly activities and ask if you are the best person to do it or can it be delegated. Hiring a part-time PA (personal assistant) for a few hours a month can let you get on with the less mundane stuff.
6. Have a rest period when you can
Stand up and look out of the window, take deep breaths while looking away from the computer screen. Sit back and relax for a few minutes every hour or so. These little habits can really recharge your batteries and make you more productive. Don’t think about what you were doing, your subconscious will be working in the background and when you get back to the job in a few minutes, you will get a “flash of inspiration” – it’s your subconscious passing, it results to your conscious mind. It really does work.
On the weekend try NOT to think about work for the same reason. You will get that AHA! moment sometimes when you are totally focussed on one thing you won’t “see the Wood for the Trees” – clear your mind and the solution will come.
7. Email, email everywhere…
Try to look and clean your email at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day, not every 5 minutes. If something is that important they will contact you by text or phone. If you check every couple of hours you shouldn’t miss anything that is “life and death”.
8. Fleeting meetings
Meetings can really take a lot of your productivity a day. If you can schedule a meeting to last 30 minutes not the standard calendar default of 1 hour. While you’re at it try to have at least 1 day a week where you don’t have a meeting. Finally, if someone is meeting you – schedule a meeting when it won’t impact your day.
9. Look after yourself
Good nutrition, enough sleep and regular exercise – even if it is walking up a few flights of stairs can go a long way to making you more productive – and living longer. Remember you are the main business asset. If you go, so does your business. Don’t burn the candle at both ends and balance home life with business life – you know it makes sense.
10. Go paperless
If at all possible either with a scanner or with a smartphone try to digitize your paperwork and store and organize it in the cloud (and locally). If it is done properly you and your staff should be able to find anything quickly without needing to take long hikes into the storage room.