The Productivity Problem
“I just don’t have the time.”
“There are too many things to do each day.”
“I feel overwhelmed.”
Welcome to the 21st Century where opportunities abound and time seems to evaporate. Depending on your situation, your time each day is limited, at best and productivity could fall by the wayside. How can you achieve your goals without overworking yourself and burning out? It’s all about organizing and maximizing the time you do have. Here are 6 distinctive ideas you might have missed for boosting your productivity.
Develop a Plan Before you Start
Before you engage in your first battle, determine if you want to win a war. Having a game plan is essential in so many areas of life: family, finances, business, even a workout program. I can’t emphasize this point enough. You must know why you are doing something if you ever expect to succeed at it. So, before you dive into a new activity or project, give yourself time to think, plan and determine what your end objective is. Write down the key points. This practice really allows you to dig to the heart of the matter before you get embroiled in the details. It’s best to determine the “Why” before you get too worried about the “How”.
Use a Mega-Batch Mentality
Here’s a great tip from Michael Hyatt, the majorly successful Leadership Mentor: Group similar types of work into the same day. Here’s an example: You need to interview 7 potential candidates for an open position. Instead of scheduling 2 conversations on Monday, 3 on Tuesday, and 2 more on Thursday, why not push to set up all 7 of the interviews on Wednesday? The desired result of this “mega-batch” mentality is more than just simplicity. When you switch back and forth between multiple and different categories of work, your having to switch between different contexts. You inevitably use extra time and energy to make these transitions. Grouping requires less of that time and energy because you keep your transitions to a minimum. Giving yourself one category of work to focus on for an extended period of time enables you to maximize your thinking power on that subject and allows you to focus on a different category tomorrow.
Segment your Time into Smaller Portions
Having a big chunk of time to devote to your project is a great way to start the day. Things look bright, your energy level is high and you’re ready to get things done. The next thing you know you’re staring a deadline in the face. How did it happen? With the security of extended time comes the risk of wasting it, but have you ever considered turning the tables on your deadline? Here’s how you do it: Take the total amount of time available for your project. Then, instead of viewing the entirety of the timeframe as your work space, divide it into smaller increments of time like 10, 20, 0r 30 minute segments. Focus on one chunk of time and see how productive you can be. Then take a deep breath, and move on to the next segment while trying to maintain your intensity. You might be surprised at how much you are able to accomplish is just an hour.
Choose to be Accountable to Someone
Comradery is good for the soul, especially when it keeps you accountable in an area of personal weakness. An ancient proverb puts it this way: “Iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another.” Some of us need some sharpening when it comes to our work habits. Say you set the goal of writing 100 pages/week in order to finish your book by the end of summer. Go ahead and tell a friend, colleague, or family member about your plan and invite them to check your progress periodically. Maybe they would even agree to read through your work on the weekend and offer some feedback. The key here is helping you become efficient and consistent in your work. A firm reminder, or someone looking over your shoulder, can prove to be a powerful catalyst to helping you stay productive.
Take Breaks to Recharge
When you get in your groove, interruptions and distractions can hijack your productivity. Nobody likes that. The trick is realizing when you’ve slipped out of your groove. Are you overwhelmed with the number of emails that need responses? Do you find yourself obsessing over which prepositional phrase to use in your concluding sentence? Have you just spent the last 30 minutes deciding which color scheme to use for the bathroom remodel your designing? It’s time to regroup. Taking a quick walk, doing a few jumping jacks, stretching your sore muscles, or just stepping outside for some fresh air can all provide the same result: a brief chance to recharge. This ability to unplug, shift your focus for a few minutes and then dive back in, will add durability to your productivity. Try it.
Prune your To-Do List
Whenever you say “Yes” to an activity you are automatically saying “No” to dozens of other options. It’s called decision-making and we all do it every day. Well, guess what? For every item on your “To- Do” list, there should be at least one on your “Stop Doing” list. This is a tip from the well-known author and management Guru, Jim Collins. What tasks give you the most return for your time? Which projects need to be accomplished immediately? Focus on these and eliminate some others. If you want to boost your productivity, finding out what you shouldn’t be doing is just as important as prioritizing what you should be doing.
Putting it into Practice
Now you’re ready to try some new approaches to organizing your work day. No matter how productive you may already be, there is always room for improvement… if you are up to the challenge. Making changes and forming new habits takes time, so be patient, and have fun streamlining your day and maximizing your time.
Ben Tejes is the Co-Founder and CEO of Ascend Finance, a platform to help people achieve self improvement in the area of personal finance. He is a writer for the Ascend Blog where he writes on topics such as debt settlement, bankruptcy, collections and creditors to help people get out of debt and experience financial freedom.
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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.