Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that productivity tips are B.O.R.I.N.G.
That they only interest dull men sitting in stuffy suits in some equally dull office somewhere.
That they wouldn’t make a difference to your life because you’re ‘not that type of person’.
But today I’m going to show you why this certainly isn’t the case.
I’ll explain how a few tiny lifestyle hacks can help you gain extra freedom, give you back more of your precious time and knock stuff off your ‘to do’ list.
Why productivity is something you need to start caring about
Put simply, personal productivity matters because it helps you to achieve more of what you want with less investment.
For example, imagine that you had an amazing diamond-making machine.
To get those highly valuable diamonds you simply had to add the perfect blend of hand-picked ingredients, press the button and then the most incredible, sparkling, 40-carat diamond would pop out of the other side.
It would be pretty awesome, wouldn’t it?
Now imagine that there’s a secret switch on the side that means you can get exactly the same diamond with 50% less effort.
But there was a catch (isn’t there always?).
To operate this switch, you need to climb up onto the ladder and balance on one leg whilst you reach and hold the switch in place. You need to stay like that the entire time the machine is operating, but not when you’re resting.
Sounds challenging, doesn’t it? But I’m sure that if this was a real scenario, you’d be up there on the ladder with your hand where it needs to be, churning out those diamonds.
Yes, it would probably feel awkward at the beginning. Yes, you might feel tempted to hop down and run the machine the usual way, but you persevere because you know the payoff is going to be huge.
It’s exactly the same when it comes to productivity.
You can keep running your business exactly the same way as you always have and continue to get the same results. That’s OK.
But hit the secret switch by getting more focused, managing distractions and becoming more mindful about how you structure your day, and you can get your very own ‘diamond’.
You can save time, save money, boost your creativity, enjoy a better work-life balance and reduce stress. You’ll produce more, generate more income and enjoy greater success in many areas of your life.
With that in mind, here are six highly actionable tips that can help you achieve just that.
1. Plan your day the night before
Before you switch your computer off for the night, take 10 minutes to plan out what you need to achieve the next day. Then start planning how you’re going to actually make this happen.
Follow the words of productivity expert Brain Tracy and make sure you ‘eat that frog’ before you do anything else. In other words, focus your energy and attention on the most important task of the day (which is often also the hardest) and get it done. No excuses.
You can also prioritise other items on your ‘to do’ list by picking the top three most important tasks and then getting them done next.
I’ve found that it’s also useful to add an approximate time needed next to each task so you can structure your working day effectively and get more done.
2. Schedule time for email
I have a love-hate relationship with email, don’t you?
I love connecting with new clients, finding out about new opportunities and nurturing the relationships I have with my long-term clients.
But emails can also be a real drain on my time, especially if they require a carefully considered response and significant research on my part.
After some trial and error, I’ve discovered that the best way to deal with them is to allocate time in my day just for dealing with them.
Once I’ve ‘eaten my frog’ and I’m happy with what I’ve achieved, I fire up my email and dive on in. By batching the task like this, I also get into a better flow and I can be more efficient because I know I have limited time.
Admittedly, this can feel really strange at first.
You feel like you’re neglecting your business and that people will notice when you’re not replying immediately.
But trust me- they barely notice a few hours and appreciate the attention you’ve given to the email when you do this.
3. Use music (but wisely!)
Listening to music can also be a great way to boost your productivity and it’s worth using, especially if you have a highly creative task to attend to.
But only if you choose wisely
Studies show that listening to instrumental or non-distracting music whilst you work can help improve your focus and boost your productivity, whereas another shows that music with vocals can actually have the opposite effect.
4. Kill distractions
Distractions come in all shapes and sizes and can really crush your productivity.
Notifications, emails and Whatsapp messages…
Dogs barking outside. Neighbours cutting the grass…
Colleagues popping in to ask for advice…
Friends and family deciding to have a whole conversation with you about this news headline they read or what snacks they’d like you to get for them…
It all has an impact.
According to a study at the University of California, “But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task [after an interruption.”
Just think how that can potentially impact upon your working day.
Here are some tips that might help:
- Hide your phone
- Turn off notifications
- Wear headphones (even if you’re not listening to music)
- Get rid of clutter from your desk
- Hang a sign on your door that says ‘do not disturb’
5. Schedule breaks
Taking a break might seem like the last thing you want to do when you’re tight on time and have deadlines looming over your head.
But it could actually give you that secret sauce that you need to feel creative, think clearly and be a problem-solving genius.
OK, so I’m exaggerating that last one slightly, but you get the idea.
At last every hour, make sure you stand up, move away from your desk and give your brain and your eyes a break. I often just pop to the loo, put the kettle on or even just go outside for some fresh air.
Then take a proper break of at least 30 minutes for your lunch then make sure you stick to it. Set an alarm on your phone if you have to. Eat something healthy and tasty, and get outside for some fresh air if you can.
6. Work to a deadline
Deadlines provide excellent accountability that can help you get focussed, encourage you to get into a state of flow, and ultimately get more stuff done. I love them.
Use deadlines as a motivator, setting personal deadlines that are a few days earlier than your clients’ wherever possible. Even if you don’t have an externally imposed deadline, you can set a deadline for yourself then make sure you stick to it.
You’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve when you have limited time.
Follow these productivity tips and you could achieve far more in your working day and enjoy greater success and a better work-life balance. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can then just cross your fingers. Get out there into the world, chase your dreams and make success happen. You are the only one who can do it.