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Being busy is one, but being productive is another. The busy trap is an easy one to fall into; everything you do seems super important, you’re probably getting a lot of stuff done and to people on the outside you seem like a rockstar and poster child for hard work ethic. But when we get super busy, productivity tends to fall off as you get caught up the in cycle of the proverbial hamster on the wheel. And you may be getting a lot of stuff done, and stuff you even like doing and want to get done, but are these the things that are really going to move your life forward now?
This year has brought with it extraordinary challenges, so being able to harness every last drop of productivity is becoming more important than ever. Here are 6 overlooked productivity hacks to help you get more done and feel better doing it.
1. Find Your Focus
I recently read an interview where Warren Buffet and Bill Gates were interviewed together, and they were asked to share the single most important factor to success. Interestingly they bother gave the same one word answer: Focus. Focus can be difficult for creatives and entrepreneurs who are naturally curious and want to try everything! But large blocks of free time, or even dedication to a project doesn’t just happen by accident, it comes from consciously deciding if this is really important to your immediate goals right now. This is an exercise that Warren Buffet takes his staff through to help them be more successful
Write down your top 25 goals
- Circle the 5 that are most important to you
- Take the remaining 20 and put them on a list of “Avoid At All Costs” …. until the top 5 are done.
- This is another way of expressing the 80/20 rule or the Pareto Principle.
2. Strategically Multitask
As humans, we are unable to give 100% focus to two things at the same time. Think I’m wrong? Try to balance your budget while watching a TV show – you’ll either miss a key plot point or worse yet a budget line. Another way to look at this is what I call “the stand and sit rule” – you can either stand, or sit, but you can’t do them both at the same time. But multitasking can be used strategically. Try listening to an audio book or podcast while you get ready in the morning, commute or prepare food. Catch up with friends or family on the phone while you’re taking care of the dreaded laundry, dusting or other tidying. No time for a workout? Maybe walk or run to do a couple of errands today. Look for ways where you could double up without compromising quality on either.
3. Time Batch Your Tasks
Time batching basically means doing a lot of the same or similar tasks in one large block of time. Personally, I love to bury myself in one thing intensely until it’s done… however many hours or days that it. But with external commitments that is rarely practical or possible. But being able to chuck tasks off into a few hours at a time streamlines your work, allows your brain to focus more intently and makes it easier to stick to a schedule.
Time batching is especially important with things like email and other admin work that can gobble up hours if you let it. Try scheduling any task that needs to be done daily like emails, writing or phone calls into the same time slot every day. Our brains and our bodies love routine.
4. Stick To A Routine
Things are going to come up. People and situations will need your attention. And plans will fall apart. Whenever and where-ever you can, give yourself the gift of stability and routine. I find the easier way to do this is to embrace three key time slots: mornings, evenings and weekends. Schedule in priority tasks for the morning, loose ends and self care in the evening and catch-up, new projects, outings and family time for the weekend.
Middle of the day is loaded with distractions, phone calls, emails and meetings. Most people get 75 percent of their most highly profitable work done either before 9am or after 6 pm.
5. Plan Your Day The Night Before
Indecision is the #1 productivity killer. It leads to overwhelm and ultimately inertia. Taking the time to decide during the day what to do next wastes valuable brain power when you are most alert and productive. It cuts into your best working hours of the day and uses up valuable cognitive energy.
Taking time late at night to plan the following day you benefit from being a little lower energy and often more calm, and it streamlines your morning, so you don’t have to think about what you’re going to do first, or next – you can just set about getting it done. Also our brains love to work out advance strategies. Preplanning your day gives your subconscious room to work on it while you sleep and you’ll be far more productive.
6. Make Your Health a Priority
Ever try to work when you’re sick? Of course, we all have. But how productive are you then? But it’s not just illness, being overly tired, stressed, dehydrated or having low level digestive issues or a headache can have an enormous negative impact on your productivity. Yes, of course, eat healthy, drink lots of water, exercise and get enough sleep, but also take the time for self care, and things like meditation, stretching, aromatherapy and metal breaks. It’ll give you a huge boost in both mental focus and clarity, and it just plain feels good! And isn’t that what all this hard work is for anyway? So that ultimately you can live a better life. Start treating yourself well today; it won’t magically just happen at some later moment.