Does it feel like there are never enough hours in the day? Could you do with a better work-life balance? Do you feel that being more productive at work would help your current situation?
If so, take a look at my 5 productivity tips below which will help you to get the most out of your day.
- Analyse your Time
Although you may think you know exactly what you spend your time doing at work, do you, really? Have you honestly just spent one solid hour working on a project, or after 15 minutes did you quickly answer a few emails and then check social media 10 minutes later?
If my clients are looking to improve their productivity, the first thing I suggest they do is to log their time. By this I mean making a note every time you start a new activity and the time you started it. Don’t leave anything out – including coffee and chat breaks – and make sure you write down the activities as they happen as it’s easy to forget. It’s important to log your time over a few days as your tasks may vary, but if doing it manually seems too arduous, you can always use a time tracking tool such as Rescue Time or toggl to do it for you. If you’d like someone else’s opinion of what it’s like to use toggl, then check out this review by Lewis Parrott of the Freelancing Effect.
Once you’ve logged your time, analyse it. Ask yourself: ‘Am I realistic about the time needed to complete tasks?’, ‘How much time do I spend on emails?’ and ‘What are my main distractions?’ By finding out exactly what you’re spending your time on, you’ll be able to identify where changes can be made.
- Schedule your work
Once you have analysed your time you can start maximising your output by scheduling your work. Block out 15 – 30 minutes at the beginning or end of each day to create your work schedule. When planning your time it’s worth considering the following:
Tune into your work rhythm
You should be doing your most important tasks when you are feeling at your best, so consider what time of the day you feel most energetic and productive. I know I work well in the morning and early evening so I schedule my more challenging or creative tasks for those times and review my emails after lunch when I tend to feel more sluggish. Consider what your key priorities are, plus how long these tasks will take, and schedule them into the times of the day when you perform most effectively. This will ensure you don’t waste high quality time on low-grade activities, choosing to use this time instead to focus on your most important, impactful work and achieve your goals.
Group similar, routine tasks together and schedule blocks of time during the day to carry them out. For example, you could allocate 30 minutes, two or three times a day to answer emails, rather than interrupting your work flow to answer them piecemeal.
Take regular breaks
Remember to schedule in regular breaks, no matter how busy you are, because fatigue reduces your effectiveness. Even if you just take 10 minutes to have a quick walk round the block or read a book it can make a real difference on your ability to focus, thus improving your productivity.
Following these scheduling tips will help you to become focused and proactive rather than distracted and reactive.
- ‘Eat That Frog!’
Well that’s what Brian Tracy suggests in his excellent book about productivity! Don’t worry though, it’s not as bad as it sounds and is actually an excellent technique to beat procrastination. Brian explains that your frog is “your biggest, most important task, the one you are likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.”
What’s the task on your to-do list that you are currently putting off? What’s hanging over you and making you feel guilty each time you decide to leave it until tomorrow? Whatever it is, make sure you do it first thing in the morning because there’s nothing more motivating for the rest of the day than crossing that frog off your list!
- Follow the ‘Two-Minute’ rule
This rule states that if you think an action can be done in two minutes then you should do it immediately because it’ll take you far longer to organise and review it than it takes to actually complete it the first time you see it.
- Make sure technology is working for, not against, you
Technology can be both a huge time saver and time waster, so use it wisely. Thus, if you want to focus on a work task without interruption, turn all your electronic notifications off and put your phone on silent. If you’re very easily distracted, shut down your email and internet browser, switch off your phone and make sure you’ve scheduled in some time later to check your emails and messages.
Technology can however be an incredible enabler both at home and at work and there are a number of useful tools available to help improve your productivity. For personal use, Out of Milk helps you create and share shopping lists with friends and family and Evernote enables you to remember everything, allowing you to capture and share your ideas wherever you are. At work, the team scheduling tool Doodle will help you find a date for your meeting faster and IdeaFlip is perfect for group brainstorms, especially if your team are based in different offices. Lastly, if you run your own business you can manage all your customer information by using a CRM system such as Salesforce and save time on your invoicing by using Quick books.
So, what could you do differently to improve your productivity? By implementing some of these time management techniques, you’ll become more productive at work which, in turn, will help you to achieve a better balance in your life.
Want to achieve a better work-life balance?
Contact me to book an introductory 30 minute consultation where we can talk through your current situation and I’ll advise you of the ways I can help you to regain your balance.