Are you working on your business? Or are you working for your business? If you are spending more time pushing pencils than acting on tasks that add to your bottom-line, then you are working more like an employee than an owner of a business. Yes, we have to check our emails, manage our weekly calendar, and take phone calls. However, as important as these functions are, attending to them does not constitute productivity.
Productivity is associated with effective time management. How you allocate time to manage the tasks you need to accomplish every day will lead to greater productivity. While this is correct. it is not entirely the case. Productivity is also about efficient time management.
We have been conditioned to think that we should work eight hours a day. If you can efficiently manage the time you need to become productive, you won’t have to work eight hours a day.
When it comes to productivity, it is never about quantity. Quality should always be your primary focus.
It is not the number of tasks you accomplished but the type of tasks you finished that matter. It’s not the number of hours you spend working per day but how you spent those hours that count.
If you are not sure of how to attain this, take the time to read our top 7 tips to becoming more productive.
1. Outsource Non-Essential Tasks
The first step to productivity starts with identifying the non-essential tasks from the essential tasks. Non-essential tasks are functions that do not directly contribute to business growth. These tasks can be categorized as follows:
- Administrative – Email filtering, appointment setting, calendar management, and phone handling.
- Specialized – Social media marketing, content writing, SEO, graphic design, website management, and digital marketing.
- Back Office – Accounting/ Payroll, Human Resources, and Information Technology.
Can you imagine having to do all of these tasks yourself? You won’t have enough time to manage the essential tasks or the functions that directly contribute to business growth.
Although they are categorized as “non-essential”, they are otherwise important because these tasks keep your business running. Your best option is to outsource the non-essential tasks to a qualified third-party service provider.
Contract the services of a Virtual Assistant. These are highly-qualified and well-experienced professionals who have made the move from the brick-and-mortar world to the Internet. Virtual assistants are no longer just personal assistants or secretaries. You can find one to handle any task you want to be managed.
Even if you have the experience, skill set, and training, you should not keep yourself preoccupied with the non-essential tasks. In addition to website management, we have had clients outsource specialized tasks such as SEO, digital marketing, content writing, and social media marketing to us.
These tasks require specialized skills and training. Likewise, you need to dedicate time to track and monitor performance. We have the skills and the experience onboard our team to oversee these functions for our client.
Outsourcing is a great strategy. It will help you streamline your costs without compromising your revenue-generating efforts. Best of all, it will increase your productivity by ensuring you have more time to manage the tasks that contribute to business growth.
2. Plan Today Yesterday
“Carpe Diem” is a popular saying in Latin. Translated to English, it means to “Seize the day”. You should start your day with purpose; know what you need to do so that you can accomplish more.
In contrast, if you wake up every morning not knowing what to do first, you will end up wasting time.
The most successful people in business and politics plan for tomorrow the night before. This way, there is no time wasted on guesswork. They get the day off on a flying start; their minds focused on the tasks that need to get done.
Before you end the evening, spend a few minutes planning your agenda for the next day. Review your objective for the week. Prioritize your tasks on the basis of this objective. Rank the tasks based on their importance.
Some people write down the tasks in their smartphone’s Memo app. Others will save them in a productivity app like Evernote. One of the most effective ways is to go old school. Write them down on a whiteboard. The tasks will be the first thing you’ll see in the morning. It will certainly wake you up faster than a triple-shot espresso!
3. Get Your Most Dreaded Task Out of the Way
In the previous tip, we recommended arranging the following day’s tasks based on importance. Another approach would be to prioritize the task you dread doing the most. Get it out of the way so you can focus on the other important tasks in your schedule.
For example, salespeople dread cold calling. However, it remains an effective technique for generating leads as well as converting interest into sales. Salespeople dread cold calling because the rate of rejection is quite high.
Plus, they have to deal with gatekeepers; usually, the receptionist or secretary who is dead set on one thing: to make sure the boss has a productive day!
Unfortunately for telemarketers, cold calling is best done during the first business hour of the day. This is the time when the gatekeeper could still be finalizing the boss’ itinerary for the day.
Closing a deal or making a sale is a game of opportunity where winners and losers are determined within seconds. A telemarketer who hesitates in making the cold call could be preempted by another telemarketer. The moment of hesitation could be costly.
If you want to be productive, do the most dreaded task right away. Who knows? It could be your day’s biggest accomplishment!
4. Utilize Focus Blocks
Focus blocks are clusters of time that are allocated for specific tasks. While in a focus block, you cannot be distracted. You must be 100% focused. You should not leave your work area until the time allocated for the focus block has expired.
This means no breaks for coffee, water, snacks, or even the restroom. Did you watch the Will Smith movie, “The Pursuit of Happiness”? In the movie, Smith’s character, Chris Gardner, calculated the amount of time people waste going to and from the restroom and factored it in his work schedule.
How much time should you allocate for a task? According to sleep researchers, on average, we can maintain 100% focus for 90 to 120 minutes. To be sure, set aside 90 minutes per focus block.
Once a focus block is completed, take a break equivalent to one-third of its length. This will allow your brain to reset and get ready for the next focus block. Thus, a 90- minute focus block should be followed by a 30-minute rest period. During this time, you can have a snack, go to the restroom, check your messages, or better yet, take a short nap.
If you can accomplish just 3 focus blocks, you would have put in 270 minutes of productive time. That is 4.5 hours of productivity! So who says you have to put in eight hours of work per day to be productive?
According to productivity guru Steve Pavlina, the average American worker only puts in 90 minutes of productive time every day! For a 480-minute work day, 90 minutes only represents 17% productivity.
Again, think about the quality of work. Focus on what the tasks mean for your business. Will they bring me closer to achieving my goals?
If you accomplish 3 tasks that will significantly bring you closer to achieving your business objective, then you have a productive day. On the contrary, if you crossed out 20 tasks in your “to-do” list that are more administrative in function then what you had was a busy day. It was not necessarily productive.
5. Remove All Distractions
Let’s go back to Steve Pavlina’s study which revealed Americans only put in 90 minutes of productive time every day. Pavlina says the rest of the day is spent doing the following activities:
- Surfing the Internet
- Checking their social media status
- Water cooler chatter
- Coffee breaks
- Taking snacks
- Reading the newspaper
- Taking naps
These activities are definitely not examples of productive behavior. Instead, these activities are prime examples of distractions. Yet, the United States remains the most powerful economy in the world!
Before commencing on work, remove all forms of distractions. Put away your smartphone. Close all of your social media pages. If you work with certain work-related apps open such as Skype, Slack, or Viber, leave a message about your current status.
If you have a secretary or a Virtual Assistant, ask them to just take messages. Make sure your assistant gets complete details on every important call.
6. Get Good Quality of Sleep Every Night
Sleep is an overlooked factor of productivity. Without enough sleep, you will not be able to function properly. Doctors consistently recommend getting 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep every night. If you are getting less than 7 to 8 hours, you could be exposing yourself to the following health risks:
- High-blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Irregular heartbeat
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Decreased memory function
- Affected level of cognition
- Mood swings
Sleep is your body’s time to recharge. If your body is not properly rested, its various systems may not function properly. People who lack sleep are more susceptible to acquiring diseases, illnesses, and infections because their immune system is compromised.
If you plan your day properly, you will have more time to relax and prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep.
7. Organize Your Meetings
If you manage a team, scheduling meetings is a great way to make sure everyone is on-board and on the same page. However, if meetings are not organized properly, they can be productivity killers.
Before you finalize the meeting, draw up its agenda. Identify the amount of time allocated per item. Prepare an outline of the salient discussion points for each item on the agenda. If you must, assign a discussion point to a team member.
Inform your team of the meeting by routing an email to each and everyone at least one week before its scheduled date. One week will be enough time for them to get ready.
Make sure your email has complete details: time, place, and items to bring if any. Remind everyone to be on time. If necessary, penalize those who are late.
Life is not just about work. If most of your waking hours are spent in the office and on your business, you are not being productive. It does not matter if your bank account is growing. If you are neglecting other aspects of your life such as family, friends, and health, you are not optimizing time that is available to you.
You are merely existing, not living.
Productivity means achieving a balance between life and work. If you follow our top 7 tips for productivity, you won’t have to work 8 hours every day to accomplish your business goals and objectives. Integrate focus blocks into your day, and you may only have to work 4 to 6 hours per day.
Assuming you get 8 hours of good quality of sleep every night, that means you will have 16 hours of daylight to get things done. By being productive and working only 6 hours per day, you will have 10 hours to do other things such as:
- Have nightly dinners with the family
- Attend your son’s baseball games
- Watch your daughter’s piano recital
- Take your spouse out for dinner
- Exercise in the gym
- Catch up on some leisurely reading
- Take a vacation with the family
- Learn a new hobby
Most of all… breathe! Relax and realize that you work to live and not live to work.
Do you have any great productivity tips that you would like to share? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.