Do you want to become more productive? Who doesn’t, right?
In fact, there’s a huge industry and thousands of books written on how to become more productive. There is a problem with all of this, however. The problem my friend is that learning how to become more productive has been made too complicated. The very act of following specific lists, keeping organized plans, charts, using special programs – makes being productive a job in and of itself. 10 productivity tips that are easy to implement in your life. When I say easily that doesn’t mean change on your part isn’t required. It means they can be put into action right away and results that you can see instantly.
1. Be Specific About Email Times
Most people open their email program every few seconds anticipating the next email. Worse yet others have notifications that go off on their phone or computers to notify them of new email. This may be one of the deadliest productivity killers. Don’t do this! Instead, have set times during the day that you check and respond to email. If that’s too big of a shift to make, start by closing your email program and only opening it between finishing and starting other priority tasks. If you’re only checking email once or twice a day a great tip is to set up an autoresponder that people will get that notifies them that you check email at certain times during the day and that you’ll respond then. The autoresponder isn’t critical and it’s more for your peace of mind then for the person that emails you. Who really can’t wait 4-5 hours to get a response?
2. Quit the Phone
I’m on client calls, coaching calls and sales calls making deals almost every day. I initiate those calls and they are scheduled in advance, sometimes many weeks in advance. I don’t pick up the phone. Why? Because it’s a disruption. It takes me away from my core work, my priority, the area I can add the greatest value in. If the person calling feels it’s such an emergency to get a hold of me they’ll call again, probably repeatedly. Seriously, how often is a phone call a real emergency? You may have heard of a technology called voicemail? It’s where people can leave you a message so you can return it later. Remember that? Use it! Picking up calls every time the phone rings doesn’t help you to be more productive.
3. Don’t Get Too Cuddly With Social Media
Like checking emails many people have an obsession with social media. They check their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (fill in other social media platform) several times throughout the day. Often they do this several times an hour. And what happens when you do this? You end up reading an article, watching a video, clicking around to other sites. Unless you’re taking a break these actions aren’t helping you. When you’re ‘working’ on social media be clear that the actions you’re taking are helping you to make a sale or grow your business.
4. Focused Not Unfriendly
I’ve written about How to Get Better at Saying No and this is a skill and decision that impacts your productivity. It’s not always easy to turn down an invitation from a friend to meet for coffee. But when you know you need to get other priorities done for your business saying ‘No’ is critical. You’ll find as you become more successful more people will want access to you, they’ll want to take your time. And that’s great. Be honored and appreciate that. However, you can’t allow what others want to take you away from your goals and the achievements that you’re working towards. I remember when I was launching one of my first businesses many friends would invite me to join them for drinks or to hang out. I said ‘No’ almost every time. Not because I didn’t value them as friends but because I had set my priorities. Did they think I was crazy? Probably. Did they say I wasn’t ‘social’? I’m sure. Did I care? Not really. Once you’re clear on what you want you need to keep your head down and focus on it. That doesn’t mean you don’t socialize or have fun. Just balance your priorities so you’re not being taken off course.
5. How Clean Is Your Desk?
The more organized my desk and working environment is the more focused I feel. Nothing is grabbing my attention. Papers aren’t piled everywhere. This is an easy change to make and yet the impact can be dramatic. Look at your working environment and ask yourself ‘Is this environment helping me to be focused and productive or is it filled with distractions?’ Then deal with it accordingly.
6. Be One With the Music
I listen to music throughout the day. Music is a huge part of my life. Even as I’m writing this right now I have some chill tunes playing. Music helps you get into your flow and to concentrate on what you’re doing. But it needs to be the right kind of music. In my case I find music that has a lot of vocals tends to distract me. On the other hand listening to jazz, world music or even some deep house without a lot of vocals really helps. I’ve never been a huge classical music fan, though I’ve found that sometimes I really enjoy it and it’s great when I’m writing or concentrating on my work.
7. Keep It Moving
Some of my best ideas come to me while I’m swimming or at the gym. Exercise plays a significant role in not only physical health but also mental health. It provides clarity. Whether you get up every 40 minutes and stretch or go for a late morning or mid-afternoon walk – it doesn’t matter – as long as you’re up and moving. The health benefits are clear. But the movement and activity also gets your mind more focused and relaxed. When you come back to your work you’ll be sharper and more productive. If you’re not trying this already, be sure that you do.
8. The Secret Ingredient
One of the greatest productivity ‘secrets’ is simple to say (and to do) yet very few people do it. Here it is: tackle your #1 priority at the beginning of each day. This will have a huge benefit on your productivity. When you leave your main priorities for later in the day you often don’t get to them. Or by the time you do you feel drained and can’t do them as well as you’d like to. The solution is to start your day with a clear focus an intention on that #1 priority. Doing this 5 days a week results in 20 critical actions each month that will help you to move your consulting business forward in a meaningful way.
9. Let Go
If you want to truly become more productive you have to learn to let go. Delegating is the best way to do this. Rather than trying to hold on to everything ‘because you can do it best’ give more work away. Hire contractors or support staff that can take the routine and administrative work away from you. Why spend your time working on $10/hr work when you should be focused on higher value work that can make you thousands of dollars? Setting the right people up to help can take a few days or even weeks to get right, but once you do, you’ll never go back. You’ll be spending more of your time doing the work you enjoy and creating more value…while doing less of the work you dislike and having someone else take care of it for you.
10. Rise and Shine
Countless articles (like this one from the Guardian) show how the most successful executives get up early. Most start their day around 5 am. Does that mean you have to get up that early too? No. But realize that the earlier you get up the more you can get done before the rest of the world is moving. You’ll have fewer emails, phone calls, and other distractions trying to get your attention early in the morning. This leaves time for you to get deeply focused on your #1 priority for that day and complete it before the rest of your nation even wakes up.