Use these productivity hacks to improve how much you get done inyour work and life.
Do you find that you don’t achieve as much as you had hoped; that you aren’t reaching your full potential?
Often small business owners end up multitasking, focusing on the wrong things and don’t make the most of their business potential.
Despite having ambitions to do more they never seem to get the right things done and build their business as they would like to. They get lost in a myriad of tasks that keep them busy but not productive.
These productivity hacks can help you improve how effective you are in your business. Try these ten productivity hacks and see how much you can improve.
To get more productive also check the post on best productivity tools.
10 POWERFUL PRODUCTIVITY HACKS
#1. DEFINE YOUR KEY TASKS
– if you know about the Pareto Curve, you will be familiar with the 80-20 rule. Often applied to sales and marketing, the Pareto rule states that 80% of your profits will come from 20% of your customers.
For productivity, the same rule can be applied. 20% of your time spent on the right tasks will yield 80% of your results. There are different names for these tasks: the most important tasks or highest leverage activities.
Brian Tracy, the author of Eat That Frog, points out that you should find the three core tasks that contribute the most value to your business or organization. Identify these tasks and do them well to improve your performance (do them better and quicker).
Remember that multitasking does not work, and most people who multitask are far less productive. Some research puts the drop in productivity when multitasking as high as 40%.
#2. REDUCE TIME ON EMAIL
– email habits for most people are bad.
In particular, if you are using a mobile and have it set, so it vibrates or has an alert sound. Using these forces you to pay email attention often at the expense of your concentration of a core task.
Controlling when and what emails you look at is vital to be more productive. The other key point is to get to the point quickly with emails.
Write emails that get to the point quickly and have no more than five sentences. Shortening emails will save time for the people who have to read it.
These tools that can help you with your email habits are:
- AwayFind – will monitor your email account for important messages and notify you via SMS, Twitter DMs…
- Unroll Me – will scan your email account and give you an overview of your existing mailing list subscriptions. Quickly unsubscribe from mailing lists with just one click.
#3. CREATE NEW HABITS
Although we are creatures of habits, breaking old habits and adopting new ones can be difficult. The first place to start is to recognise what habits are causing you to be unproductive during your day.
There are some great tools to help you get you to understand how you currently spend your time.
- Rescue time – runs in the background on your computer or mobile device and tracks minutes spent on various sites or applications.
- Timely – allows you to log how you spend your time. Although aimed at work you can also track personal time.
Create new habits and get better organised so that your productivity improves. Probably the two most important habits are to have a more focused approach to work and get more things done.
Tools like Nozebe based on the Get Things Done method of productivity can help you focus.
Other habits to adopt include the Pomodoro method of working. The “Pomodoro Technique” is a time-management technique where you work on just one activity for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break.
The second is to procrastinate less. Draw up lists of things to do that you procrastinate about and knock off those that are not high leverage tasks.
The rest focus on achieving them and keep on top of how effective you are at achieving them.
Another good tip is to work with someone else as a productivity buddy. If you to go to a gym, you will know that committing to go with someone helps.
Similarly, committing to help others be more productive can be fun and help drive you to achieve more.
Meet once a week and review each other’s progress, share tools, mistakes and what worked well.
#4. DEVELOP PATTERNS OF WORK
While individual habits can help you improve having a routine can dramatically change your working week.
Some of the most successful business people develop routines that work for them, and they use these.
The top business people like to be highly productive early in the morning, and others often have set times of the day when they assign specific tasks, e.g. deal with email.
While Sunday is a family day it often comes to a natural close when the family is asleep. With Monday only a few still a few hours away, it can be a great time to squeeze in getting some important work done.
This can make your start to Monday more focused as you are prepared for the day and week ahead.
#5. ENERGIZE YOUR LIFE
I exercise 6 days of the week and rest on Sundays. The reason is that I know it helps clear my mind and ultimately I feel more alive and have a higher energy level.
Try to set a certain time for exercise. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to be in the same place, then build up an exercise routine that can work for you, e.g. walk at a fast pace instead of catching the underground.
Go for a run before if you stay in a hotel regularly. If you schedule exercise at the end of the day even for just 1/2 hour, it will help you to be healthier and also help you sleep better.
The other piece of the jigsaw is to eat a healthy diet.
The types of food you eat affect how your brain works. If you aren’t sure how well you are eating keep a diary of your food for a week (including those late night snacks) and review it to see what you can improve.
#6. DO NOTHING
The first thing to do is to schedule your free time.
It is all too easy to push ahead and fill the week up with work. Some businesses adopt a no meetings day to help their people have a clear run on getting critical tasks done without distractions.
It is all about finding whatever day best works for your business and sticking to it.
Being creative takes time. Constantly working may seem the right way to go especially if you have a stream of deadlines.
However, working more than 40 hours a week can be counterproductive.
If you think of your brain as a muscle then constantly working it will lead to fatigue and failure.
The brain needs downtime not only to maintain a high level of productivity but also because this is often when your mind is more creative.
#7. DO MORE IN LESS TIME
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” – this is known as Parkinsons Law.
It may seem odd but the more time you give yourself to do something the more likely it is that you will fill that time to do the task.
On the other extreme some people ‘thrive’ on deadlines and so leave critical tasks until they are close to the deadline to do them.
Unfortunately, this method of working often leaves not the time for reflection and improvement. Worse still it can mean that one person’s deadline forces others to change their schedule to accommodate these ‘deadline junkies’.
Tackling tasks early and when in context of your work is a critical part of prioritising workloads.
It seems that one of the things we are not good at is estimating time.
According to Hofstadters Law we are likely to underestimate how long it takes to do some tasks. The trick to better planning is in considering the time available before the task itself.
Schedule tasks and complete the task in a time frame that is realistic but forces you to be efficient.
#8. SPEND LESS TIME ON SCREENS
– using our smartphone, tablet, or computer before we go to bed can cause us to a poor nights sleep.
The cause is the blue light these screens emit.
A much bigger topic is how you adjust your working environment to improve productivity.
The other side of being in front of screens is that you are probably more distracted. Writing in a journal can be a highly creative experience and most people can still write faster than they can type.
#9. LISTEN TO MUSIC
Random noise and office chat can cause distractions. However, research has shown that ambient music or people listening to music can lead to increased levels of productivity.
Research by Stanford Professor Clifford of Standford University shows that music is listened to by its own part of the brain, so we can listen to music while we do other things.
Clearly, some tasks will not work well with music and research shows that learning and recall can suffer from music being played. However, research does show that for repetitive tasks it can help.
A lot of small business owners try to do too much themselves. Working to a budget is one thing, but trying to constantly learn new skills and do things yourself can be destructive.
Playing to your strengths and focusing on high-value tasks is critical.
One of the biggest advantages of the internet is our ability to work with other people across the globe. This has given rise to companies that crowdsource skills and help small businesses access low-cost resources.
Virtual assistants now are a standard resource used by many highly productive people.
Outsourcing low value, time-intensive tasks can give you a really big productivity boost. You needn’t pay for a ‘whole’ virtual assistant either, although the benefits of having one person are obvious.
You can pay for a set number of hours each month and the cost will simply be based on the skill set you require.
One thing to remember with virtual assistants is that you have to be organised to get the best out of them. Much like the old saying ‘garbage in garbage out‘, focused briefings and good instructions are important to getting the results you want.
For more productivity tools see the best productivity tools.
These productivity hacks are just some of the ways you can improve how effective you are in your working week and personal life. We are all different so what you finally settle on as your recipe will depend on the type of work you do. However, the research is should give you a steer as to how to improve your performance.