We have all read the books such as “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, or “Early to Rise” by Andy Traub, but if you want to be productive during your working day then it's the little things that you ideally need to pay attention to.
I have been a self-confessed productivity addict for many years, and I recently smiled to myself when YouTube announced a few weeks ago that they are introducing a “time limit” option for their channel. If I have a weakness in my productivity then YouTube is certainly high on the agenda!
Anyway, I spent a week looking at other ways I could increase my productivity by making small changes in my everyday life. Here are my top six observations:
#1 – Addressing tiredness
When running a business (or two!), you start to drain your batteries. If you are tired you are not able to function properly, and this has a dramatic effect on your productivity. It is difficult to get motivated if you are feeling exhausted. Tiredness creeps up on you. It can be a gradual transition that you perhaps haven't noticed. It is surprising that when you are constantly just a “little bit tired”, you become accustomed to not being at 100%. If you are working at 80% then you start to treat the 80% as the norm. Tiredness may not be due to being overworked, it could be a whole range of things. I don't know about you, but trying to sleep in the heat that we are experiencing in the UK lately has certainly robbed me of many good nights sleep. For me, I needed to acknowledge that I was tired and deal with finding a solution to get back into a better routine (this book, Sleep Smarter helped!)
#2 – Dealing with an overactive mind
I soon realised that I spent a good proportion of my time thinking about stuff. My head is full of the next adventure, or the next project. It is exhausting as you run through scenarios in your mind. What will people's response be if I announce this or that? How can I achieve that goal? I found that I was writing todo lists in my head and mentally creating web pages and processes to make the new projects work. Don't get me wrong, having new ideas is essential for the growth of any business, but there is nothing more draining than having an overactive mind. I had slipped back into listening to podcasts, catching up on emails and checking social media whilst out on my walks, which is the time that I had originally planned for “time out”. It is essential that we find the time to carve time in the diary to clear our heads. The answers will appear when you find room in your mind for them to nurture in their own good time. Give your mind the space that it craves and you will find yourself being much more productive.
#3 – Do not spend time in pointless meetings
I recently spent two hours in a meeting with a client that could have easily been dealt with in a few email exchanges. If someone asks for a meeting then it is essential to make sure that you know what the agenda is. When someone says “Can we catch up over coffee”, think to yourself, do I have time for this and what is in it for me? Sometimes, we need to say no. At the end of the day, your time is valuable.
#4 – Stop doing the “nice” or “easy” tasks first
Even though I have worked with the “Getting Things Done” process for many years, I recently found that I was picking and choosing the tasks that were easy to cross off the list, or tasks that I found most enjoyable. This meant that often important assignments would be left until the last moment and I would not produce my best work and I wasted time worrying about the projects that I had not completed. So, to be more productive, it was time to get more strict with my time and to schedule, those “not so nice” tasks in my diary.
#5 – Stop checking social media when on a break
This social media lark is addictive, and not necessarily good for your productivity. I use a tool called RescueMe which analyses how much time I spend on various social networks and other websites. I was horrified and embarrassed to see how much time I spend on YouTube and Facebook. Think of all the other, more productive things that I could do instead of being glued to a screen!
#6 – Turn off notifications
Blimey, how much of a distraction are the notifications on our computers and phones? I hadn't realised how bad it was. As I am typing this blog there have been six WhatsApp pings on my phone that do not need a response from me, but I have still been dragged into the conversation. Email notifications, Slack messages, Facebook Messenger, Tweets and even Amazon delivery messages. Do I really need to know this stuff immediately or can it wait? I recently coped for three weeks without notifications, and if people really need my attention then they can always text or ring me.
It dawned on me that my unproductive time could easily be billing time that I spend with clients. Considering how much I charge for a 121 with my lovely customers it was quite shocking to see how much money I was potentially loosing each week on pointless tasks. I needed to give myself a good kick in the right direction and get back on track.
Perhaps I will write another blog in a month or so to let you know how I am getting on?
What do you find most distracting in your business?