With unyielding questions from staff and customers, coupled with our own never ending To do lists, productivity is of the highest importance for many entrepreneurs. Myself included. Trying to squeeze a little bit more from each day is critical to our success and with this in mind I bring you my top 9 productivity tips. All of which I use regularly to make sure my day is utilised to its fullest.
Here are our top 9 tips for increasing productivity at work:
- Focus on one thing at a time
- Get rid of distractions
- Work on the most important things first
- Take regular breaks
- Track your time
- Use your commute to your advantage
- Become a morning person
- Change locations
- Book appointments with yourself
Focus on one thing at a time
We’ve all been there, replying to an email, the phone’s ringing and a customer or colleague walks into your office. No matter how hard you try you can’t be all things to all people. An understanding of doing one thing at a time and doing it correctly, that will bear the greatest productivity successes. This is at a micro level, but even if you expand this out into your life, you’ll see greater improvements and greater success by focusing on less rather than more.
A fantastic book on the subject entitled “The One Thing” gives a great perspective on how less distraction increases productivity and decreases stress
Get rid of distractions
In an environment where we’re instantly accessible almost everywhere on the planet and our phones are no further than 3 metres from us at any one time, distractions and interruptions are one of the most serious causes of productivity loss we face on a daily basis. A quick browse on social media at 9, 10 and 1 can quickly evolve into hours of time wasted on weekly basis. In addition to this, continuously stopping work to answer phone calls and emails, break your concentration and focus, on the project at hand. It takes twice as long to get back into the mindset we were in, before the disruption.
We recommend using an extension for Chrome that blocks social media for those users who don’t need it regularly, allowing access at certain periods of time only. When working on intensive projects, it’s always mindful to put your voicemail on, so the phone does not interrupt you constantly. As a general rule of thumb unless you are required to reply immediately to emails, set the email application to fetch new mail at most once an hour. This limits about 80% of interruptions and distractions we receive on a daily basis. The additional 20% is usually the human element stopping by your desk or office unannounced. To counteract this, you may have your own way of dispersing them politely. We also address this in tip 9.
Work on the most important things first
There are always projects in work we put off or try to put to the bottom of our to-do list. Some of the things we just dislike, others are hard to complete. Switching this mindset to focus on achieving and completing the hardest tasks first or those tasks which are most important ensures, if nothing else was completed in that day, you can still call it a success.
Take regular breaks
If you read any productivity tips online, or speak to any senior level manager that has a successful career behind them, they will be a proponent for taking regular breaks. No, that does not mean we should sit on social media or indeed standing at the water cooler having idle chit chat, but more so getting up and standing away from your desk. Taking a mental and physical break. The pomodoro technique, is one of the most recognised time management methods. It promotes taking a break after each 25 minutes of solid concentration. Personally I favour taking a five to ten minute break away from my desk each hour, when I can physically interact with my colleagues on the projects are working on. While not a true mental break from work, it’s a light relief from staring at a screen concentrating on pixels and strategy.
Track your time
One of the best tips I use for increasing productivity is tracking your time. There are many tools available online, both free and paid for, including extensions for Chrome browsers. However this process can be as simple as using a pen and paper, or using an Excel document, to record every 15 minute increments during your working day. I completed this myself early this year and it completely changed how I spend my working day. Facts and not perceptions are key. You don’t have the track every day, just a snapshot over the course of a week or month, so that you get a better understanding of where your time leaks are.
Use your commute to your advantage
For most of us we spent 40 to 60 minutes a day walking, in our cars, on our bikes or on public transport commuting to work. This time is often wasted listening to music. A productive person can utilise 3-5 hours a week learning and understanding more about their chosen field. Personally I use podcasts to further educate myself on topics of interest, many of those are directly related to the business area that we work in. Working 48 weeks a year, we have a minimum of 200 hours a year of additional learning that can help bolster our careers and increase your knowledge base. Some have described this process as having a university degree in your pocket.
Even if you decide to mix personal and business podcasts on a 50/50 basis, your understanding and knowledge will grow exponentially.
Become a morning person
In the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, he advocates starting your day extra early to get the absolute most out of it. Instead of snoozing your alarm three times, waking up groggy and rushing to get it to work, He promotes a structured morning routine that may include gym time, meditation, or just some quiet time to answer complex emails from colleagues and customers, without interruption. For me, in addition to this, it also affords the opportunity to have breakfast with the family and not feel guilty about being late for work.
Ask yourself this: What, of significant positive benefit, happens between the hours of 10 p.m. and 12 p.m. every evening? Is it another box set to finish or are you adding benefit to your life. By going to bed a little bit earlier and waking with purpose, earlier than you normally would, you will achieve more each and every day. Out of all the tips mentioned here today, this one has had the greatest impact on my own productivity levels within the past 12 months.
For business owners and managers who are what I term “The Oracle” within their business: i.e. the person with all the answers. Each and everyday can be a battle of addressing countless questions. This puts your own work to the bottom of the queue, forcing you to firefight on everyone else’s behalf. A simple change of location from your office or desk to a coffee shop or even from the home office, can afford you an uninterrupted time to get caught up on projects.
Book appointments with yourself
Our final tip is to book up your diary with appointments that render you unavailable for other appointments and meetings. By formalising these appointments in your company calendar, it will ensure everyone in your team knows you’re unavailable. And that you’re not to be disturbed unless it is critically important for the business. Just as you would in a normal meeting.
We do hope that you find all these tips useful and that they help increase your productivity with their use. We would love to hear how you get on over the next few months so tweet us, or drop us an email to let us know. If you take one thing away with you today, start focusing on how you can be productive now. Even if your goal is not to take on more work, it will greatly aid in reducing stress and managing your workload better.