Let’s get right to it today. Do you want to be more productive? Or, do you need to be more productive? These 20 tips will help.
1. Plan for your day before it starts
If you don’t have a plan for your day, it’s going to get away from you. Start by creating a morning routine for yourself. There is no right or wrong to what you include, you just have to find what works the best for you.
However, I recommend that you avoid jumping on your phone to check your email when you first wake up. Instead, take some time to do things that are good for your physical or mental health. Focus on yourself first instead of diving right into work.
2. Batch your work
It takes time to switch from one task to the next, so whenever you can, batch like work together.
Here’s an example of what this looks like with creating social media posts. You can set aside a few hours once a month to plan all of your scheduled Facebook posts. Start by doing your research to see what you should be posting about for the month. Then move on to writing out all your posts on a calendar at once. I like to use Airtable, but choose what works best for you. Then, create all the graphics that you need at one time. You can jump on Canva and get to work using their templates. Finally, put them into a scheduler like Hootsuite, or in the example of Facebook, they have their own scheduling tool you can use right on the platform. Then, you don’t have to think about creating Facebook posts for the rest of the month. Doing the process like this is going to save you a lot of time instead of writing the content, creating a graphic, and sharing it each day.
This doesn’t just work for social media, you can use it for many different business tasks like sales calls, emails, writing bids, etc. And, you can use it to make your personal life easier to with things like meal planning for the week or entire month at once.
3. Start with your most important task first thing in the morning
If there’s a task on your list that will make the biggest impact on your business, start working on it first thing. This can give you a quick win early in your day which can motivate you to power through the rest of your tasks.
4. Do the thing you want to do the least first thing in the morning
It’s easy to procrastinate on tasks that you don’t want to do. This is a huge time-waster for your day and killer of productivity. If you want to be productive then get that task off your list first thing in the morning. You’ll be thankful you did when you can move on to the tasks that you’d rather be doing.
5. Disconnect while you work
You may not be able to disconnect throughout your entire workday, but if you have a task that really needs to be completed, shut everything else down. Turn your phone off, or at least silence it and put it where you won’t look at it, shut down your email, and block your social media accounts.
There are even extensions you can use on your laptop so you can block websites for certain periods of time. This stops you from checking social media, looking at the latest scores on ESPN, or looking up the price of flights for your dream vacation.
When you do this, it forces you to focus on the work at hand.
6. Give yourself a break
Try the Pomodoro strategy. This is where you plan on working for a set period of time without distraction and then you provide yourself a short break before getting to work again.
The true Pomodoro timer strategy is to work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. Once you’ve worked through four of these cycles you take a longer break, usually 15-30 minutes. However, you can adjust these times to what works best for you. And, there are plenty of apps that you can use that will track the time for you.
There’s something about knowing that you have a short break coming up that can help you to stay focused during your dedicated work time.
7. Prioritize your health
Being mentally and physically healthy is good for you in every way including your productivity. Exercising and eating right impacts your mood and energy levels. If you’re too tired and in the habit of grabbing fast food as you run from one meeting to the next, it’s going to take a toll on you.
Try to get a little exercise each day even if it’s just going for a walk. Getting fresh air is great for your physical and mental health as well. Make sure you spend time doing things that rejuvenate you each day.
8. Cross it off your list
There are some things that don’t really need to be done at all. Work on setting priorities and then cross off the things that no longer fit in with your plan. It’s OK to change your mind and decide that something doesn’t really need your attention.
9. Delegate it
What could be more productive than assigning a task on your list to someone else? Delegating is a great way to increase your productivity. If there’s something that you can pay someone else to do, do it. If you’re already paying employees, make sure you aren’t still doing the tasks that fall under their responsibilities.
But remember to learn how to delegate. If you aren’t familiar with how to delegate a task, you might just end up creating more work for yourself in the end.
10. Keep your work area clean
How much time do you waste looking for things when you’re working? Get rid of the physical clutter that you have around you and get organized. Live by the motto “a place for everything and everything in its place”. If you know where your files are, the stapler, and those important notes you took during the meeting, you’re going to save yourself a lot of time.
And, you can do the same thing with your digital space. It’s easy to let your digital files get out of control. And, if you don’t have a system for how you’re naming files then you can spend a lot of time trying to remember the right word to search for in order to find it.
11. Learn how to say “No”
If you want to be productive then you need to start being more selective. Don’t take on tasks that you don’t really have time for. Don’t take on headache clients. You know, the ones that want to negotiate on budget while asking for the world.
If you want to boost your productivity, learn to say “No” and stop taking on things that you shouldn’t.
12. Learn to automate
It’s 2020, people. There are plenty of tasks that we don’t need to do manually anymore. Look for any task that you can automate and do it unless there’s a darn good reason not to. On a personal level, you can automate your bills, your savings, buying the groceries you use on a regular basis, just to name a few.
On a business level, you can automate social media posts, pulling the same reports each day, appointment scheduling, emails, and so much more. When someone fills out the contact form on your website they can receive an email letting them know the next steps. This triggers a response to you so you know to contact them personally while also adding them to your CRM. And, this is just the beginning phases of how you can automate something like a contact form and response.
13. Put systems in place
Putting systems in place is a game-changer in business. When you have systems and processes in place it makes your work more efficient. When your systems are written out then anyone that’s working in your business could go step by step and accomplish the same results.
Think through every situation that regularly happens within your business and build a system around it. Everyone on your team will thank you and your customers will too because it’s going to help them to get the same results every time regardless of the employee they speak with.
14. Stop multitasking
Again, it’s 2020, just stop multitasking already. I know you were probably trained to say that this is something that you’re skilled in from the early days of applying for jobs, but the good employers know this isn’t actually a good thing. Time and time again studies have proven that multitasking is ineffective. It leads to more errors and wasted time.
Your brain doesn’t want to keep switching back and forth from one task to the next. Your best work will be done when you are staying focused on one task at a time. This is another area where using the Pomodoro technique can help. Set the time and focus on one thing. When the timer goes off then you get a short break and can decide to change tasks if you want. Or, if you finish that task during your work-time you can move on to something else.
15. Limit your email access
Email used to be a problem for me. I would check it a hundred times a day. It’s a huge time waste. If something I was working on got a little hard then I’d just check my email for a second. It took me away from the work I needed to do. And, if there was something interesting that came in I would take time to respond to it and it shifted my focus yet again.
Now, I use Boomerang to block my incoming emails temporarily. After I check my email for the first time in the morning, I set my emails to be paused until the early afternoon. Then I check my email at that time to see if there’s anything pressing that I need to address. When I’m done, I pause my email again for several hours. This removes the temptation to check my email.
I can still send emails out when I need to and I still have access to my email if I need to look for something to work on a task, but I’m not distracted by new ones coming in.
16. Reduce time spent in meetings
Many meetings are a complete waste of time and even the ones that need to happen really should be shorter than they usually are. Unnecessary meetings cause everyone in the meeting to be unproductive. Next time you’re holding a meeting with your staff, look around the room and think about how much money you’re spending by having each of those people attend that meeting. Money talks and this is a good way to think about if it’s the best use of your resources.
If you want to know how to have more productive meetings check out our blog post about 15-minute meetings.
17. Don’t use “research” as an excuse
You can only research a topic for so long before you need to take action. There’s a proper amount of research that needs to be done before making some decisions, but there are plenty of unproductive people that are stuck in the “researching” stage.
If this is you, ask yourself, “What else do I need to know before I can move forward?”. Make a list of whatever that is and then work through each item one by one. When you’ve done them all, your research is complete and it’s time to take action.
18. Accept that you can’t do it all… today
Feeling overwhelmed robs us of being able to be productive. Instead of crossing things off our list, we spend time stressing about how we’re going to “get it all in” today.
Here’s the secret—you’re probably not. If you overbooked your day, some things are going to have to wait until tomorrow. This is something that I learned when I started using the SPEARity app. At first, it drove me crazy that I only had six spots on my daily list. I had about 25 things I was trying to do and I wanted to be able to put them all there. But, when I accepted the way the app worked I chose my 6 most important things and put them on the list. And you know what? I quickly learned to love it.
Honestly, I wasn’t going to get to all 25 things on my list that day. And, by putting them all on my list every day I felt like I failed at doing the things that I needed to. But, by being forced to limit my daily list to my 6 most important things, I was able to focus on the things that made the biggest impact in my work. And, there’s still another place to list all those other items that I need to get done.
Some days, I’m able to blow through my six tasks and knock some of the other things off the list as well. And, some days, I can’t get through all six of my tasks. See, the app helps me to prioritize my task, but it still allows me to be flexible when I need to because life happens.
19. Take advantage of the small chunks of time
How many times have you spent 5 minutes on social media or talking to someone about the Netflix series you’re binging because you were killing time until the next thing on your calendar? While it can be good to take little breaks as the Pomodoro technique suggests, it’s also important to realize how much you can get done in small little chunks of time.
You can even keep a list of all the quick tasks you need to do that will take you 10 minutes or less to complete. Then, when you find yourself with a few extra minutes on your hand you can send out that quick email or do something productive.
20. Use the SPEARity app
I mentioned using the app above, but want to touch on it again. When you use the app correctly it can do a lot for your productivity levels. You can see what you need to be working on when and make sure your tasks are aligning with your goals. This is the best way to assure you’re working on the right tasks at the right time.
If you struggle with getting done the things you need to each day, it might be time to work with one of our SPEARity business coaches in Milwaukee, WI. Set up a call today. to explore your options We are SPEARity, a local Milwaukee leadership coaching firm that specializes in business coaching, executive coaching, and leadership development training.