When we talk about success, one of the most important factors is productivity – actually getting stuff done!
Everybody, regardless of their income level, job status, color, gender, or creed, has 24 hours in a day, and your success is dependent on how you spend those 24 hours.
It’s up to you to decide what to do and how to do it in order to get the most done of value.
So, in this blog post, I’m going to share with you 7 tips to help you do just that.
Tip #1 – Focus on quality and not quantity
A common mistake that people make is to merely be busy rather than productive. You can spend the whole day running around doing tasks but without actually achieving anything.
Here are three lessons that I’ve learned from books to help you focus on quality.
Focus on your one thing
This lesson comes from the book “The One Thing” by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan.
To find your one thing, you need to ask yourself the following question: “What is the one most important thing that by doing it, everything else will be either easier or unnecessary.”
Your one thing is something that should move you one step closer to your goal.
Once you’ve found it, make it your focus of the day.
Practice deep work
This lesson comes from the book “Deep Work” by Cal Newport
Essentially, we have two types of work; we have deep work, and we have shallow work.
Shallow work includes things like answering emails, managing social media, checking stock, etc. Basically, shallow work tasks are everyday jobs that we need to do, but that aren’t really providing any great value.
Deep work refers to tasks such as developing a new product or writing a paper/book. Basically, deep work tasks are those that focus on creating something of high-value.
When you’re involved in deep work, you’re “in the zone” with zero distractions.
According to the book, you can practice deep work for up to four hours a day.
So, once you’ve identified the one thing that you want to concentrate on, try to find four hours in the day to focus solely on that without any distractions.
Work on your business and not in it
This lesson comes from the book “Build Your Business in 90 Minutes a Day” by Nigel Botterill & Martin Gladdish.
This lesson is especially for business owners and entrepreneurs, and that is to regularly take time to work on your business and not in your business.
When you’re working on your business, you’re working on ways to improve it, to grow it, and to move it forward. You’ve essentially removed yourself from the machine and your focusing on how to make it run better.
However, when you’re working in your business, you’re just carrying out daily tasks that allow the business to run normally. In this sense, you are simply a cog in the machine. You’re helping the machine run day-to-day, but you’re not helping to improve it.
If you want to grow your business, you need to dedicate time where you can remove yourself from the business to work on it, rather than always working in it.
In summary, if you run your own business, you need to identify the one thing that will help the business grow, practice deep work on that one thing daily whilst working on your business rather than just in it.
Tip #2 Embrace the chaos
This tip also comes from the book “The One Thing.”
So, what does embrace the chaos mean?
As mentioned, we only have 24 hours in a day, and if you are focusing on quality tasks (as discussed in tip #1) chaos will begin to accumulate around you as you will have to drop other tasks from your day.
You will, therefore, have to accept that some areas of your life will become somewhat chaotic, as we are unable to do everything.
Consider this analogy…
A juggler juggles many different balls, some of which are made of rubber while some are made from glass. It doesn’t matter if the juggler drops the rubber balls because they will simply bounce back up, and he can catch them again. However, if he drops a glass ball these will either crack and will never be the same again, or they can shatter completely and be gone forever.
Now apply that analogy to your life and business.
Some things in your life are rubber balls. They can easily be dropped and picked back up again later with little or no effect. (For example, it’s ok if the car doesn’t get washed this week)
However, other things in your life are represented by glass balls. If you drop them they can be permanently damaged or destroyed. (For example, your health, and time-sensitive business opportunities)
So, at times, you must be willing to embrace the chaos and drop those rubber balls so that you can look after the glass balls, which are the ones that really matter.
Tip #3 Manage perfectionism
Perfectionism is one of the biggest killers of productivity.
Being a perfectionist can result in you spending much more time on task than is actually warranted.
Of course, there are some things that do warrant a high level of perfectionism. But it’s your job to identify which tasks demand perfectionism, and which tasks do not.
Sometimes good is good enough. Tick it off your to-do list and move onto the next task.
Tip #4 Cut stuff out
There are lots of things that waste time. If you can cut out some of those things or reduce their impact on your life, you can become much more productive.
Probably the most time-consuming habit that people have is TV.
Let’s do the maths!
Most people will watch TV when they come home in the evening after work. Conservatively, they may watch 2 hours of TV every evening Monday-Friday. (Although I’m sure we can all agree that most people probably watch more than this, as well as binging for several hours on weekends.)
2 hours per evening x 5 days a week = 10 hours per week. That’s 520 hours per year!
Now, let’s say that each day we spend 10 hours being productive (not taking into account time for sleep, meals, showering, etc.)
520 hours per year / 10 productive hours per day = 52 days
In other words, if you didn’t watch those 2 hours of TV every evening, you would get an extra 52 days per year to be productive. That’s almost TWO EXTRA MONTHS!
…and remember, this is being conservative. Most people watch a lot more TV.
So, the easiest way to get more time is to cut out TV. Cancel your television subscription and get rid of the box itself.
The amount of time that you spend traveling can easily be forgotten about. However, this again is another big area where you can gain back some extra hours.
A 40min commute (each way) Monday-Friday is equal to over 6.5 hours per week! (345+ hours per year!)
Here are some ways to help reduce your travel time.
- Ask yourself if you really need to travel. Can you do it online? via email? get it delivered? etc.
- If you’re having a meeting, see if the other person can come to you rather than the other way around
- Make use of tools such as Zoom and other video conferencing tools
However, I understand that it’s not always easy to reduce travel. Sometimes you just HAVE to travel, especially if you have to get to work. In these cases, try to make the time spend in your car or on public transport as valuable as possible. An easy way to do this is to listen to a podcast or an audiobook.
- Trying Out Amazon Audible & Audiobooks – Free Trial Review
- 7 Tips to Get the Most Out of Amazon Audible (Audiobooks)
Use technology to reduce your tasks
Take a look at what you do on a daily basis and try to identify what technology is available that could enable you to do those routine tasks more easily.
There are a lot of tools out there that you can use for free, or for a small cost, which will help you streamline your regular tasks. Leaving you free to get on with the stuff that really matters!
A really good example of this is social media. I manage around 20 different social media accounts across many different platforms. In the early days, I did everything manually and it sucked up almost the whole morning of every day. Now, I have invested in a piece of technology (I use Sprout Social) to help me manage, plan, and schedule all of my posts. This piece of technology is not free, but I easily gain at least 3 hours of time back per day! So, in my case, this is well worth the expense.
Meal prep instead of cooking
You have to eat a minimum of 3 meals per day; breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and cooking can be very time-consuming.
First, you have to decide what you’re going to make, then you have to prepare the ingredients and cook the meal. After you’ve eaten it you then need to wash, dry, and put away all the dishes and cooking utensils that you have used.
Multiply this by 3 and you can see just how much time it takes up.
Instead, I recommend meal prepping.
Cook one big meal and portion it out into smaller containers. Leave some out for later in the week and freeze the rest of them.
If you do this twice a week, you’ll soon have a freezer full of meals that you can choose from. You simply choose the one you want, heat it up, eat it, and you’re done.
Here are the advantages of meal-prepping.
- You don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat every day
- You always have meals prepared so you’re less like to snack
- You’re more likely to eat healthily
- You don’t have to cook every day
- You don’t have heaps of pots and pans to clean after every meal
- It’s usually cheaper and more cost-effective
Outsource small tasks
Many people are afraid to outsource tasks, as that means losing some degree of control over various aspects of their business.
But by outsourcing, you can effectively clone yourself into two, doubling the amount of work that you can accomplish in a specific time period.
For example, I used to write all my own content, but because that’s not my specialism, it took me a long time to complete each post. Initially, I was hesitant about outsourcing the content, as I struggled to justify the cost. Why pay for something that I can do myself? Even if it did take me 4 hours to write a 500-word blog post!
However, once I began outsourcing, I realized what a fantastic time-saving hack it is!
I try not to think of it as ‘paying for content’, instead what I’m actually paying for is TIME. Since I don’t have to write that piece of content myself, I can focus on other tasks.
Let’s go back to the principle of embracing chaos (tip #2) and my analogy of juggling rubber and glass balls. Some of the tasks that are your rubber balls could be thrown to someone else, allowing you more time to focus on those all-important glass balls.
Here’s an example list of small tasks that you could outsource to free up your time:
- Washing clothes
- Cleaning the house
- Cleaning the car
- Social media
- Email inquiries
Outsourcing does have a cost to it, and you may not be able to afford to outsource everything all at once. This is ok, just start by outsourcing small low-cost tasks first. This will give you time to focus more on your own business and income and as that increases you can slowly outsource more and more.
Trivial decisions and tasks
Making decisions requires both energy and time.
When we spend time on trivial un-important decisions we’re draining our precious energy and time resources. Instead, we need to conserve that time and energy and use it for the stuff that does matter!
For example, Mark Zuckerberg always puts on a gray T-shirt every morning, which he’s famous for. But that saves him time because he doesn’t have to think about what he’s going to wear every day. He just puts on the same thing.
Now, trivial decisions sound like an easy thing to cut out, but it’s actually harder than you think.
Another example of spending time on trivial and unimportant tasks is not being able to let things go. If you are chasing a refund of $5, it’s not worth your time and energy to engage in an email thread back-and-forth in order to fight for your money back. The time and energy you spend will outweigh the value of the refund. In these cases, it’s best to write the loss off and move on.
Tip #5 Look after your servers
By that, I mean, look after yourself!
You wouldn’t expect a piece of computer software to run at high speed on a poorly managed server, so you shouldn’t expect yourself to do the same.
Pay attention to your health, to your body, and to your mind.
As an entrepreneur, it’s all too easy to forget about yourself and we can inadvertently run ourselves into the ground. This can leave us feeling drained and will result in poor decision making and a lack of creativity.
You cannot execute tasks at a high level if you are running on empty.
So, make sure that you get enough sleep, eat healthily, and get regular exercise; these are not rubber balls, these are glass balls that you need to pay attention to!
Tip #6 Scheduling
You have most likely heard of the saying that “poor planning promotes poor performance”, and it’s true!
You need to schedule your day.
As another famous saying goes, “you need to run the day, not the day run you”.
To help you do this you can use one of the many free online tools available such as Google Calendar or Asana. Or, you can even use a good old-fashioned diary and pen.
The most important thing about scheduling is DEADLINES!
Deadlines get stuff done! Never schedule a task without a deadline.
If you have a large task, then break it down into smaller chunks and give yourself a deadline for when each task must be completed, and stick to it!
If you struggle to adhere to your deadlines, ask someone to hold you accountable. If you fail to complete the task you’ve set yourself before your deadline, then promise to pay a fine (or a donation to a charity) of $100.
Tip #7 Batching
Batching means completing one task multiple times before moving onto the next.
A good example of that is my YouTube videos, which I produce in batches of four.
- I record 4 videos at a time (I sometimes change the top I’m wearing)
- I then edit all 4 videos
- I then upload and schedule 4 videos to YouTube
That saves me a lot of time as doing them all individually one-at-a-time would involve a lot of going back and forth.
However, there is a warning when it comes to batching and I learned this from “The Lean Start-Up” by Eric Ries.
Batching can sometimes lead to more problems. For example, there could be a problem in one of the batching tasks that impact the rest of the assembly line. This can create errors and waste a lot of time, especially if you have to go back a step.
Taking my YouTube example above, if I recorded 4 videos but I had recorded them in the wrong format and they wouldn’t upload, this would waste a whole load of time as I would have to record all 4 videos again.
To avoid these mistakes, always carry out a single run through first so that you know what problems you may encounter in each stage. That enables you to iron out any glitches before you move on work in batches of tasks.
Hopefully, you can see how all these elements fit together to help you make the most of your 24 hours.
Here’s a quick recap of some of the things we have covered:
- Focus on quality, not quantity
- Identify your rubber balls and glass balls
- Embrace the chaos that builds
- Don’t focus on perfectionism
- Cut stuff out that wastes your time (TV, travel time, etc)
- Outsource as much as you can
- Look after yourself!
- Schedule and set deadlines
- Batch tasks together to become more time-efficient
If you have any other tips that you would like to add when it comes to being more productive and getting stuff done, please let us know about them in the comments below.