Six years ago, I was working 12-hour days. Wanting to get more done in less time, I started studying productivity principles. Now I never work more than 6 hours a day but I manage to get more done than before! Here are the tips that more than doubled my productivity and cut my work day in half.
Do the Important Before the Urgent
Let’s say you’re working on a very important proposal that is due in a week and you also need to return a DVD today. Finish the proposal and pay the late fee for the DVD. Remember: do what’s important first.
Do ONLY What’s Really Important
Ask yourself, “what is my main goal?” At any given moment there are two or three things that will get you closer to that goal. Those are your priorities. That’s what you should work on. Go back through your to-do list and eliminate all the items that aren’t very important (i.e. Organizing your music files). You can put all the irrelevant items on a separate list; I call this list “Maybe One Day”.
Also learn to say NO. Most people; myself included- want to please everyone. Don’t do it. Say no more often.
Now that you know what your top priority is, work on that and don’t let anything else interrupt you. I let calls go to voicemail, I asked my co-workers not to send me text messages or instant messages and I disabled email notifications. I start doing something and I don’t do anything else until I’m done.
Don’t multi-task; “single-task” instead.
Good Enough Is Good Enough
Most things don’t need to be perfect. If the letter you just printed doesn’t have symmetric margins, don’t print it again. Use the one you have and move on. If your website color isn’t the right one, who cares? Leave it as it is and focus on bringing in more clients. Good enough is good enough. Get things done fast and move on. You can always correct or improve something if necessary.
Use Parkinson’s Law to Your Benefit
Parkinson’s law says that things take as much time as you have available. If your boss asks you for a report by next Friday, you’ll have it done by then. If she asks you for the same report by tomorrow, you’ll finish it by tomorrow. Having limited time to do something is a good thing. It means that we stick to the very crucial and don’t worry about irrelevant details. Give yourself deadlines and meet them. For example, I have a limit of one hour per day answering email. That forces me to answer the very important email and I can use the rest of my day to create value for my clients. If I were to answer every email I get, I’d spend 6-8 hours per day just doing that.
Break It Down
Almost every time you find yourself in front of a project you don’t know what to do about, it’s because you haven’t broken down the project into smaller pieces. Let’s say you need to find vendors for your new business. That’s overwhelming! Let’s break it down:
1. Do a Google search for “wholesale chocolate supplier”.
2. Find 50 companies and gather their email addresses.
3. Make a list of things I want to ask them.
4. Write a template email.
5. Send the email to the 50 companies.
The 5 tasks above are really easy to do. Remember the old saying, “the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”
Process Tasks in Batches
When you group similar tasks together, you save a lot of time. Make all your phone calls all at once, process your emails together and run all your errands at once.
Learn From Your Mistakes
When you find yourself wasting time, stop for a second and think about why you’re doing it and how you can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Set Realistic Goals
There’s no bigger morale killer than never achieving your goals. Set realistic goals and celebrate when you finish each day’s to-do lists.
In order to chop down a lot of trees, you need a sharp axe. Spend some time sharpening your axe. Rest every time you need it, re-charge your energy levels and go back to work.
When you are blocked and can’t get anything done, just do something. Do a small thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s something important. Just do it. That will get your juices flowing. Don’t worry if you do something wrong; you can always correct it later. “Every journey begins with the first step”. The best way to stop procrastinating is to do something.