Being super productive is a pre-requisite these days, so why do people still struggle? It’s not a school curriculum subject or part of the company’s orientation training, it’s something that all of us have to deal with – in all different ways.
If you want to save a massive amount of time now, I’ve got 3 magic tips that have changed the way I work – forever.
Most people write task lists, it could be a simple pen and notepad or an elaborate online software program. Whatever it is, it’s usually not the tool that’s the problem; it’s the amount of things we expect to get done.
That used to be me, my lists would typically be anywhere from 10 to 20 items long with absolutely no regard for how long each item would take me to do. I didn’t think to allow for the inevitable interruptions, which would totally derail my day.
So by the end of the day when my score was 3 out of 20, how do you think I felt?
I felt every day was unproductive and I just wasn’t moving forward.
In my quest to become more productive, I tried many different techniques and software. At the end of the day it came down to 3 powerful things:
Focus – focus is everything. Focus is a skill that can be learnt but it does require some discipline. We all have a barrage of information, opportunities, entertainment, and other people’s problems coming at us from all directions all the time. We can’t possibly deal with all of this so some things; in fact most things have to give.
I always felt that I could be missing out if I overlooked an email because a golden opportunity may pass me by. But then I realised that more than half my day was spent processing everything that came into my radar, and that I spent very little time actually achieving anything. Something had to change.
So I spent an entire day getting clear on my goals and priorities. Starting from a high perspective and working down to a daily perspective, I mapped out everything I wanted to achieve in the next 1 to 3 years, and how I was going to get there. By breaking down what needed to be done into quarters, then months and then weeks, I was able to clear a path. I now had my focus.
Spending one day a year getting absolutely crystal clear on your intentions massively improves your productivity. Of course you need to review your progress and make adjustments along the way but you’ll be streets ahead as most people never do this.
With a clear focus you’ll know at any time what you should be working on, your focus becomes your filter.
To make this work for you, you’ll need to be ruthless when “stuff” starts to impede on your day. Here’re some great questions to ask yourself whenever you feel tempted to veer from your focus:
Does this “thing” move me towards my goal?
Will this “thing” make a massive difference in my life, my work, or my business?
Does this “thing” make me happy, excited, and motivated?
You might be thinking about question three. Yes, cute cat videos could make you happy and excited, but that’s not the point here.
To give you an example: Your friend invites you to a networking event for corporate office managers. Your target networking audience is women 50 plus years who want to get fit. But you feel obligated to attend. In this scenario, all three questions can be answered “no”. An easy and quick decision. Voilà.
Batching – multitasking and moving from one activity to another will not get your tasks done quicker. Let’s blow up that “multitasking is efficient” myth forever. Batching is when you group together the same or similar tasks. Batching will save you time and effort.
Take a look at some of your recurring tasks. Maybe you spend several hours a week paying bills and reconciling accounts. You may make several client phone calls during the week. Do you schedule time for these activities or do they get done randomly whenever the task presents itself? Matching the same tasks together allows you to focus on just those tasks and completing them. Switching from in-putting data to making phone calls wastes time and splits your focus, and this is how mistakes get made.
Some examples: every morning between 9am and 10am you process client emails. Tuesday mornings you work on your marketing for 3 three hours. Friday afternoons you write content for your blog. Wednesdays and Thursdays you are working with clients. Your week now has structure.
Systemise – systemise your recurring tasks. “Systemise–that takes way too much time!” is what I often hear. Let’s shoot down that myth too. Systemising is about working out the best way to do something that achieves the desired result. Documenting the systems is about having others able to achieve the same result by following the system.
Systemising and documenting does take time initially, but the pay off is mammoth.
Don’t underestimate the power of systems, from systems comes freedom.
Next time you start working on a task that repeats, take a few extra minutes to jot down the high-level steps. The next time you work on the same task start to add more detail to the steps. This is a great way to get you started with systems without feeling overwhelmed.
“Why should I write down what I do– I know what to do?” One way to manage your tasks is to delegate or outsource them, then it won’t be you doing it, it will be someone else. Many people actually put off hiring help because the thought of training them is too much. By systemising as you go, you are already ahead of the game. Not only can someone else do your tasks, they get done exactly how you want them done.
There’s hundreds of task management tips out there, and I’ve given most of them a go. But over the years, for me it all comes down to these three things; Focus, Batching and Systemising.
If you can master these three strategies you’ll look at your task list with totally different eyes; you’ll be able to clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel.