Top 10 Ways to Increase Your Productivity
Dear Success Seeker,
Most of my clients are "results-based income earners" -- that is, the more productive they are, the more money they earn. If this describes your situation, then maximizing your productivity is crucial because it enables you to increase your income without working longer hours.
Before I give you a series of tips for increasing your productivity, I want to remind you that productivity is not the most important thing in life. If you are achievement-oriented, you may have a tendency to measure the success of your day or week by how much you got done. This thinking causes you to focus on being productive without considering your efficiency -- how much the things you did actually advanced you towards your goals. More significantly, focusing too heavily on productivity traps you in the mode of getting things done rather than enjoying the experience of life every day. Building a successful entrepreneurial business without becoming a "human doing" can be a difficult balancing act.
The factor that most influences your productivity is the choices you make about how to spend your time. Below are the ten best techniques I know to help you make better choices.
10. Eliminate distractions
Clear everything off your desk; close the door; turn off your e-mail, telephone, radio and TV. Our minds love to find distractions, especially when we are faced with a difficult task. The Indian master Yogananda said, "Environment is more powerful than willpower." When you eliminate possible distractions in your environment, you are setting yourself up for better productivity.
9. Automate and Systemize
Identify the things you do over and over that take your time and then look for ways to streamline them. Use technology to your advantage. If you spend time deleting SPAM, invest in a SPAM filter. Set up your e-mail so newsletters and correspondence are sent directly to folders without you needing to read them. Create templates for frequently used formats or content in your correspondence. Discover and utilize the full automation capability of your software. Invest in new software products that can save you time and energy. The time you invest in automation and standardizing systems will pay off many times over.
8. Work in synch with your body
Most people can tell you in a moment what their most productive time of day is, but they don’t plan their schedule to take advantage of it. Are you a morning person? Do you get more done in the late evenings? Organize your day so your most important tasks get done when you are at your best.
7. Invest in a timer
One of the most effective ways to increase your productivity is to use a count-down timer. Decide in advance how much time you will allot for a certain task then set the timer and press yourself to complete it before the timer goes off. You can use this strategy on e-mails, on surfing the web doing research, on phone calls, for your coffee break, even for your shower and morning routine. You will be amazed how much you pick up the pace when the timer is running.
6. Play games with yourself
The main reason we chose to become entrepreneurs is because we didn’t want anyone telling us what to do. But the truth is that self-management requires discipline and structure. As entrepreneurs we don’t get this from external sources so we need to create it ourselves. Playing games with ourselves is one way we can do it. The idea is to make agreements with yourself that you will get certain projects done before you will reward yourself. For example, resolve to complete five sales calls before having lunch or finish writing a proposal before checking your email.
5. Pick up the pace
It is easy to operate at a sluggish pace when there is no structure in your life, yet your income depends on how much you get done. Pick up your pace! If you are moving slowly, set a timer when you begin a task and work as fast as you possibly can for 10 minutes. You can slow down after the timer goes off, but your pace will not drop back to the relaxed speed at which you started. Playing fast music is another effective strategy, especially when doing a physical task. It is amazing how fast I can tidy up my office with The Doors L.A. Woman or George Thorogood playing at full volume.
4. Use time blocks
If you really want to get a certain project done, set an appointment with yourself to do it by blocking out time in your calendar. You don’t have to block out your entire day; just make sure you schedule specific times for your most important tasks. The hardest part? You must follow through and keep your appointments! (To download a free copy of the time blocking sheet our ProCoach members use, click here.)
3. Set up accountability
If you are having trouble getting something done, create an accountability agreement with a friend, family member or co-worker. Commit to them that you will do something by a certain deadline and ask them to hold you to it. You can even set up rewards for completion or penalties for failure if necessary. The accountability partnerships we help our ProCoach members establish are one of the major reasons our members get such amazing results.
2. Just don’t do it!
Years ago I attended a speed reading seminar and the instructor said, "The fastest reading you will ever do is deciding not to read something. You can get through a whole magazine article in just a few seconds!" The same is true for items on your to-do list. How much time do you spend doing things that actually don’t need to be done? Perhaps you could delegate them or maybe, given your goals, they are not important at all. Before you start doing any task always ask yourself the following three questions: 1) "What would happen if I didn’t do this at all?" 2) "What could I leave out or reuse to reduce the amount of time this would take?” and 3) "Who could I delegate all or part of this to?"
1. Prioritize your actions
I don’t care what business you are in, the 80/20 Rule applies; 20% of your actions lead to 80% of your results. The single biggest key to increasing your productivity is to consistently prioritize your actions and focus on the 20% activities that pay off. Start by identifying your top 3 priorities every day, big or small. Then get to work on one of them first thing in the morning, before you check your e-mail or do other low leverage tasks. Do this and you will experience a massive increase in results and momentum immediately. That is my #1 productivity tip. It is simple; its even easy, yet very few people do it.
There they are -- my Top 10 Productivity Tips. I encourage you to identify one or two that will serve you and implement them immediately!
Andrew Barber-Starkey, Master Certified Coach
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Andrew Barber-Starkey is a Master Certified Coach residing in Vancouver, Canada. His coaching program, the ProCoach Success System, is designed for entrepreneurs, small-business owners, self-employed and commissioned sales people who want to double their income while simultaneously doubling their time off within 3 years.
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