Get the results you need faster, easier, more effectively
- Do you leave your office at the end of the day feeling exhausted and having accomplished nothing important?
- Are you tired of putting out fires instead of having time to work on what’s important?
- Is your business taking over your life and leaving little to no time for anything or anyone else?
If you answered yes, it’s time to take charge of your time and begin to get the results you need.
This guide will give you strategies, techniques, and tools to help you become more productive and effective.
What’s the Difference between Productive and Effective?
Productive means that you are getting things done.
Effective means that you are getting the RIGHT THINGS DONE. You are achieving the results you need.
“There’s no such thing as “time balance.” Stop thinking in “either/or” and realize there is an abundance of time. Be 100% focused on whatever you’re doing. Set distinct, definitive priorities — then never sway from them.” #AnthonyMoore
Business Is the Enemy of Effectiveness
Usually when you are “busy,” you’re dashing from one thing to another, often without finishing anything. You’re not focused on your priorities, and you’re not accomplishing anything. Instead, you’re feeling frustrated, frazzled, and exhausted by the end of the day. Too many days like this, and you’ll feel as if you’re in a deep pit with no way out.
The way out of that pit is one, small step up.
One small step may not seem like much, but many small steps in how you do things can produce big results.
You probably wouldn’t notice a single raindrop falling on your head, but being hit by 100 would make you wet. A thousand raindrops would soak you.
According to experts in time management and organization, one minute of planning saves five minutes of execution. That’s a 500% return on your effort.
If all you do is spend 15 minutes each day to plan the day, you will save 75 minutes of execution time. That’s more than 1 hour a day and 6 full hours each week. You gain almost an entire day just by investing 15 minutes a day in planning!
Take out a piece of paper and answer these questions:
- What would you do with 1 extra hour each day? Take a minute to list your ideas.
- What would you do with 6 extra hours each week? Take a minute to list your ideas.
Everything you wrote down is an area of your life or business that is crying out for your attention. The longer they are ignored or are left undone, the more they weigh you down, and the deeper you sink into the pit.
What are you going to do to address one of the important areas you noted in the first two questions?
Take just one small step today to focus on one thing that needs your attention.
“Time is the single most important resource that we have. Every single minute we lose is never coming back.” #TarunSharma
Where Is Time Slipping through Your Fingers?
Time doesn’t really fly. It just slips away like a stream of water flowing through your fingers and down the drain.
“The practice of mindfulness teaches us to become aware of our thoughts and the present moment. It is a habit we need to nurture because our natural tendency is to stray from the here and how to tomorrow, next week or next month. When we practice mindfulness we keep calling back our wandering mind to rest on the current moment.” #ClaraConlan in #Lifehack
Here are some common areas where your time might be slipping away.
Answering email as soon as it arrives. Most experts recommend turning off your email notice and checking your inbox only at set times during the day. You can use Rules to make sure important emails are handled faster than other emails.
Surfing the Internet. Using the Internet to find information is a valuable business resource; however, the temptation to follow interesting information link after link can be hard to resist. According to experts, people spend about two hours a day surfing the Web. This can hurt your ability to reach your goals. Limit surfing the Internet for necessary research. Save social surfing for non-work time.
Social media. Spending time on social media for personal reasons takes time away from your business. As with surfing the Internet, social media can be a valuable tool for business, but using it for personal reasons should be reserved for non-work time.
Multi-tasking. Time slips away when multi-tasking. American philosopher and psychologist William James once stated that the mind can hold a thought for about four seconds. Our thoughts are here, there, everywhere, jumping from thought to thought. Mindfulness is the antidote and the key to getting things done.
Mindfulness is the ability to focus on the activity at hand. It supercharges your productivity because the more you are able to focus on a task, the more effective you are. You produce results in a minimum amount of time with minimum effort.
Multitasking is serial tasking. You are transferring your attention from one task to the other so quickly that it appears you are multi-tasking when, in fact, your attention is shifting back and forth.
If you turn a light on and off quickly, you cannot illuminate a room. You must turn on the light and keep it on. It’s the same with your focus and attention. You must stay focused on one task until you complete it, so you can be productive and get things done.
“Before you start working, take your journal (physical or digital tools like Evernote) and dump all your thoughts and to-dos on paper. Write down everything on your mind and do it as long as you need to in order to clear your head. Once you are done, reflect and decide on your most important task for the day.” #LizHuber
Take time over the next two weeks to pay attention to where time is slipped away and take action to plug the leaks.
Use Action Management to Improve Productivity and Effectiveness
You meet your important goals by taking action steps each day that are focused on those goals and that move you toward them. This is Action Management.
Here’s how you do it:
Before each week begins, determine the Top 5 Weekly Action Steps that you need to take for the upcoming week —the activities that contribute the most to your goals. Limit your action steps to the five most important ones since they probably will require the most focus and work to accomplish. Being too ambitious can sabotage your efforts.
Go to your calendar and set aside time for your #1 Action Step just as if it was a meeting or an appointment with an important customer. Then, schedule time in your calendar to work on your #2 to #5 Action Steps. Honor the times you have set aside for your Top 5 Action Steps. When it comes time to work on one of them, let phone calls go to voicemail, turn off the “You’ve-Got-Mail” notice, and charge ahead to make progress.
Avoid scheduling all your time! Leave open time for emergencies, routine tasks, and networking with colleagues, and down time.
Schedule creative or challenging activities for your peak hours. If you are a lark or morning person, your best times are early in the day, so schedule your most important and creative activities before 2 pm. If you are an owl, afternoons and evenings are your best times.
“Whatever you do, it’s important to find your ideal creative time and stick to it. Do your creative and meaningful work at your peak times when your energy is high and distractions are minimal.” #ThomasOppong
Post your list where you can see it every day. It will help you prioritize, make decisions, and ensure that you take your most important action steps that week. If you complete an action step, another action step is added.
Planning for an entire week gives you flexibility. If one day falls apart, you have the rest of the week to recover. However, if too many days in a row fall apart, you need to figure out what is going on. Are you allowing too many things to get in the way of your Top 5 Action Steps? Are you fully committed to them? Do you have the wrong steps? Whatever the reason, it’s time for some serious thinking about what’s getting in the way.
Before ending your workday, review your accomplishments for the day, look over your action steps for the next day, and prepare any information or resources you will need in the morning.
“Productivity isn’t about time management. It’s about action management. #AdamGrant
Daily Habits Increase Productivity and Effectiveness
Keep your work area clear and uncluttered. According to organizedworld.com, the average worker loses 1.5 hours a day looking for things. Don’t be one of them.
Eliminate inbox congestion. Take every document you touch as far as you can before stopping. Do it, delegate it, pend it for follow up, file it, or trash it. You lose time when you must sort through documents you have already read.
Learn to ignore email. According to a study from the University of British Columbia, people check emails an average of 15 times per day. Time management and organization experts generally advise people to turn off their “You’ve-got -mail” notification. Set times throughout the day to check and respond to emails. Use filters and rules to organize incoming emails that require prompt attention.
Stop being interrupted. It can take up to 20 minutes to regain focus when you are interrupted. The good news: You can stop the interruptions. Be assertive about your time. When someone tries to interrupt you, explain that you are on a deadline and will get back to them at a specified time. Make sure you follow up when you say you will.
“Not my circus, not my monkey.” Polish proverb
When someone interrupts you, they are lobbing a monkey at you. It might be a small monkey like needing the answer to a question, a big monkey like a complicated problem that needs a solution, or a family monkey in the form of a “small favor.”
Regardless of the size and effort involved, it’s interrupting your day and stealing your time.
Be assertive and learn to say no in the right way. Tell people that you are on a deadline and will get with them as soon as you finish what’s in front of you. Then, make sure you follow up as promised. Often, they find a way to handle their monkey themselves or lob it off to someone less assertive.
If you decide you need to deal with it, you’re accepting their monkey. This will cost you valuable time, so make sure taking their monkey has a decent return on the investment of your time. Here are some examples:
It’s a major client with a monkey, and they can’t wait until tomorrow for you to do it. (Remember, always counter offer a deadline for returning the completed monkey.)
It’s someone whose good will you want, such as a person you hope will become a repeat client. In cases like this, taking the monkey is good business.
It’s a friend and colleague who always takes your monkey when you need help. Reciprocity keeps business relationships running smoothly.
It means more money with an additional paid assignment. Decide if it’s worth the effort.
Take regular breaks, According to studies by University of Illinois psychology professor Dr. Alejandro Lleras, the brain becomes weary and begins to lose focus after concentrated activity. The more you try to push through, the less you accomplish. The solution is taking regular, short breaks about every 45–50 minutes. You will return to the task refreshed and ready to forge ahead.
The harder you work, the more stress you have. The more stress you experience, the less productive and effective you are. This creates more stress. You are trapped in a Moebius loop of stress that feeds on itself.
According to Harvard Psychologist #ElleKaplan, “We know that stress is bad for us, and that it causes everything from health problems to lost productivity. That’s why new research suggests that much of that stress we encounter can actually be harnessed in positive ways and turned into productivity.”
- Get up and do some easy stretches.
- Walk around and go outside if you can.
- Practice deep breathing.
- Have a healthy snack or drink a glass of cool water to rev up your energy.
- Take a break from all things electronic. Create pockets of silent or quiet time when you refuse to look at email, answer the phone, check social media, watch television, listen to music, and so on.
- Just do nothing.
- Stop thinking about everything you’re not doing, need to do, don’t want to do, and so on.
- Go to the gym and exercise if that’s your thing. Play tennis, badminton, or squash. Swim. Hike. Walk the dog.
- Do a few chores.
Not sure what’s best for you? Haven’t done any physical activity in a while? Check with your primary care physician for advice about how to start. You don’t have to work on becoming an athlete. You just need to move more.
Stop Doing Everything Yourself
If you are to succeed and stay sane, you cannot do everything yourself. You must learn to hire help and rely on experts who can handle routine activities or activities that you either don’t now how to do or don’t want to do.
You need to free you time to work on your business, not in it, and delegating to others lets you do what only you can do.
When you delegate, you hand over a task or project to someone else to perform. Many entrepreneurs are not comfortable with this, and it can be hard if you are reluctant to release control. However, trying to do everything yourself is an invitation to fail.
As an entrepreneur, you already wear too many hats, You need to hand some of them off to others who can focus on giving you the results you need.
Checklist for Successful Delegation
Identify all the tasks and projects you need to do.
List all non-essential tasks like filing, office management, running errands, housekeeping, updating your contact list, and so on. You want to spend time on activities that only you can perform and that require your skills and knowledge.
List all essential tasks that require specialized knowledge that you do not have. This could include writing, editing, graphic design, social media and website management, taxes, accounting, legal matters — you need experts in these areas if you lack the necessary knowledge.
Identify the tasks that only you can perform and decide to delegate everything else you can afford to pass off to someone else.
Define the results you want. Problems can arise if people do not have a clear understanding of what you expect them to deliver.
Carefully select the person you will delegate to. You may need more than one person if you have tasks that require a range of skills and expertise.
When hiring outside help ask, you are not limited to people who are local. You can find qualified candidates from all over the world on sites like Upwork.com. Check or ask for references and follow up on them, require samples of their work, find out how they work with their clients, and interview them.
Describe how you will evaluate their work, provide detailed directions and instructions, and make sure they understand and agree to meet all deadlines.
If working directly with independent contractors, clarify all fees and how they are to be paid. Make sure you have a termination agreement if the assignment is unsuccessful.
Communicate how much decision-making authority they have and when they need to pass things by you. Make sure any others that they work with understand this, too.
Assign the work and request regular feedback on how things are progressing. However, avoid micromanaging the work.
Set routine check-in times to make sure things are on track, but give the person the necessary freedom to handle the task.
Be available to answer questions.
If anything needs attention or if the progression of the work is not up to your standards, provide immediate feedback.
When the assignment is completed, have a debrief meeting to go over what worked and what didn’t work.
Why spend hours of your time doing something you can easily have someone else do? Delegation allows you to leverage your efforts while decreasing your workload. Get out of your own way and get help.
“When it comes to productivity, you will likely eventually fail, and you will need to restart. I am on my third or fourth round of intense focus on staying productive and each time, I pick it up faster and better than the time before. Don’t beat yourself up if you have multi-month (or perhaps even multi-year) periods where you just can’t seem to keep it together.” $JoshuaFritsch in #AsianEfficiency