Are you guilty of trying to be hyper-productive? You know, the kind of person always running around like their hair is on fire with 101 “important” things to do, but still finding the time to i.e.: check-in on Facebook and emails several times an hour, or spend 45 minutes chatting with a Time Vampire?
Can you visualise a hamster on a wheel, running faster and faster, generating a lot of noise and expending a lot of energy? Now answer me this: when the hamster tires and jumps off the wheel, where is it? Is it any further forward than it was when it jumped onto the wheel? No. So there is no point you accelerating on the hamster wheel of life and work, in the pursuit of progress then?
Here are some tips on how to work smarter, not just harder and faster...
1. COMPLETE THE IMPORTANT & URGENT RIGHT NOW
Schedule the Important but not Urgent. Delegate the Urgent but not Important. Bin the Not Urgent and Unimportant.
2. LEARN TO SAY NO
You must protect and defend your finite time resources, so you are able to complete your priorities. Identify, acknowledge and become mindful of how/when/why your time is stolen by distractions (i.e.: social media and email checking/updating), and by Time Vampires. Time Vampires are typically unfocused, unambitious wafters, who waft around killing time and are perfectly prepared to kill your time too. Remain polite and courteous, but make clear you have an agenda to complete on a tight schedule. A typical Time Vampire's modus operandi might scream: “I always arrive late for work, but I make up for it by leaving early”
3. FOCUS = Follow One Course Until Success
Whatever you're working on, focus all of your attention on it until it's complete – one thing at a time. If the task is huge and intimidating, remind yourself of this truism: how would you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time! Break tasks down into bite size and manageable chunks. Don't focus on the totality of your To Do list. Prioritise (as per point 1) and focus. If you're struggling to start a task, sneak up on yourself. Tell yourself that you will make a start and work for 30 minutes only. More often than not, starting is the hardest part and, by the time you've worked for 30 minutes, you're in the zone and happy to continue. Another trick if your task involves writing of any kind: always leave a sentence halfway through. This way it's easier to pick up from where you left off
4. NO DISTRACTIONS
Turn your phone off and allocate set times to respond to emails and attend to your social media activities. You can download blocking apps (i.e.: Chrome's StayFocused), to help limit your distractions and enhance your productivity. Remember this fact to help you: there are only two ways to complete any task; well and again. If you don't have enough time to do it right the first time round, where are you going to find the time to do it again? Stephen Covey said this: “Time management is a misnomer. The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves. The key is not to prioritise what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities".
5. DECOMPRESS, REST & RECHARGE
Spend time decompressing before bed, and then sleep well, ideally for 8+ hours. Take sleep seriously. Your brain needs to process and recharge. Your body needs to repair and rejuvenate. Denying yourself sleep is a fast track to illness, and will become the ultimate false economy. Your creativity, productivity and impetus are all vastly superior when fuelled by a healthy rest and sleep pattern.
6. JOIN THE 5am CLUB
Get up earlier! Well, if you're going to bed earlier and sleeping well (see point 5), you will be able to get up earlier and get a head start on the day. Whatever line of business you're in, marketing is the first priority of every day. Spend 90 minutes of concentrated effort every morning – with zero distractions – on marketing your business. Without marketing, there is no business! Remember marketing is as much about gaining new customers/business as it is about denying your competitors the customers/business. To get what they want, you have to do what they won't. A wise mentor of mine shuts himself away in his office for 90 minutes every work day, to concentrate on his marketing. He even puts a note on his office door which reads: “Only knock this door and disturb me if the building is on fire”. One assistant didn't take the notice seriously, very nearly lost her job and never did it again. This is the level of focus and dedication you need to be working at.
7. STRIVE FOR PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION
Understand that perfectionism is overrated. Of course you must do a great job, but ask yourself at what point are you prone to “over-polishing” and why...really, why? The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, a waste of time and self-abuse of the highest order. You are confined only by the walls you build for yourself, and a mind full of fear has no space for dreams my friend.
8. TIME OPTIMISATION
Optimise delays and waiting time. If i.e.: your client is running late, or you're stuck in traffic, compose/dictate a blog article, educate yourself and read a book, consider the time positively as a gift which allows you to think a thought all the way through. Don't waste the time by thinking negatively and i.e.: swearing at the traffic. Ask yourself how this time could afford you something positive and turn it to your advantage. Snatch productivity from the jaws of delay and frustration.
Those running around like their hair is on fire, saying they don't have enough time, need to remember they are allocated the same 24 hours in a day as Leonardo Da Vinci, Oprah Winfrey, Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Marie Curie and Jessica Ennis Hill have or had. Their excuse is invalid. What's next?