Be Productive

Be Productive – Finish 2017 with a Bang!

With two months left in 2017, it’s time to be productive, really focus and decide what you can still achieve by year end.

What are the key things you planned to do this year? Which ones have you not started? What is the most important thing to prioritise in the next 6 weeks?

Be Productive

With a little planning this can be your most productive time this year. Finish the year on a high and then move into 2018 feeling really positive and productive.

Identify Most Important Goal

Firstly evaluate any existing goals. Are they still important, still relevant? Which is the best one to focus on this year? Then ask yourself these questions:

  1. What will it look or feel like to achieve the goal?
  2. What work do I have to do?
  3. Do I need help or input from anyone else?

Make A Plan

Plan what you need to do by breaking your goal into smaller sub-goals. Brainstorm each sub-goal to list out the actual tasks required. This can be done simply with pen and paper or using post-it notes, flipcharts, etc.

Start looking at the tasks to see what can be done when. Are some tasks inter-related? Can you identify milestones or achievements along the way so you can tell you are still on track?

Map your tasks into each week in November and December using a planner like Microsoft Outlook. Alternatively use our beproductive.ie Q4 Planner template here.

Don’t over plan

Be realistic about how much time you have to work on your goal. You are probably already busy so where and when can you create “extra” time?

Build in some slippage because life will inevitably take over and throw some unexpected things at you.

Be practical. We can’t treat December like a normal month because of all the Christmas activities. So aim to finish your plan mid-December.

Measure & Track Progress

What will change when you achieve your goal? What will be new? Will you start doing something you haven’t done before? Identify some measurable targets and track these.

Capture the date you complete things to compare your Target Time with the Actual Time. If you miss a Target date does it have a knock-on effect on the remaining Targets? Readjust your plan as required.

Acknowledge What You Achieve

By prioritising and planning out your goal you have a higher chance of achieving it by end 2017. Celebrate if you do! And if all the work is not done I bet you still completed more than if you had no plan at all.

And because of your plan you know exactly what tasks are left so you are more likely to complete the work early in 2018.

Find What Works For You

Like all our productivity tips at beproductive.ie we recommend that you: 1) tweak our suggested approach to find what works best for you and 2) stretch yourself a little so you can achieve new things.

Have a productive end to 2017 and be sure to let us know how you get on.

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Be Productive

How to Be Productive in Q4 and Achieve Your Goals

With 3 months left in 2017 this is a great time to be productive. Decide what you can achieve in the time left. Is there a goal from the start of the year that you haven’t been able to start yet? Or maybe a new goal has emerged as the year progressed. You might have work goals or a personal goal or both.

How Productive Can You Be

Well it’s time to get focused, create a simple plan and make Quarter 4 your most productive period this year. How great would it feel to achieve something important and finish the year on a high? How well would that set you up for a productive 2018.

3 months is a good length of time to plan. Not too long to get demotivated but not too short to feel too much pressure.

Your Most Important Goal

First identify which goal you will work on. If it’s a goal you set at the start of the year evaluate if it is still important to you. Is it still relevant? Is it possible to achieve by end 2017?  If so then ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What will it look like or feel like to achieve this goal?
  2. What do I have to do to complete the goal?
  3. Can I break the goal down into sub-goals?
  4. Do I need help or input from anyone else?

Make A Plan

To help you plan what needs to be done break down the goal into smaller sub-goals. Brainstorm each sub-goal to list out the tangible tasks or actions required. You can do this on your own with a pen and paper or with a colleague using post-it notes or flipcharts, etc.

Once you have all your tasks, decide what can be done when. Are some tasks inter-related? Do some tasks depend on the completion of others? Can you identify milestones or achievements along the way so you can tell that you are on track?

Now using a 3 month calendar view map in when you aim to do your tasks. You can use Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Excel or simply create a planner yourself on a chart or board. You can also check out our beproductive.ie Q4 Planner template here.

Measure Progress

You already thought about what achievement of your goal will look like or feel like. This g=helps you decide some measurable targets. What will change? What will be new? Will you start doing something you haven’t done before? Or maybe your goal involves not doing something you currently do!

Don’t over plan

When you are mapping out the work, be realistic about how much time you have. You are probably already busy so where and when can you create “extra” time?

Build in some slippage because life will inevitably throw some unexpected things at you. And if you miss some target dates you may become demotivated. It can work well to overestimate the task times initially to build momentum. Then as you see how things are going, revise the later task times to stretch yourself more.

Also be practical. The last month of Q4 is December and we can’t treat this like a normal month because of all the Christmas activities. So aim to finish your plan mid-December.

Leave a 5 day cushion at the end of your timeline with no tasks planned so you can complete anything that didn’t get done. Then if unexpected things crop up you will still have a chance of completing your overall goal on time.

Track Your Progress

By completing your plan you have actually completed your first milestone. Now you need to work through your tasks tracking your progress as you go. The easiest way is to capture the date you complete things so you can compare the Target Time with the Actual Time. If you miss a Target date does this have a knock-on effect on the remaining Targets? Readjust your plan as required.

With any goals and plans, whether personal or business ones, it can be really useful to tell someone else what you are doing. This can make you more committed to the work which can help on a day when your motivation might be low.

Celebrate What You Achieve

If you complete your tasks and ultimately your overall goal then celebrate! But if you haven’t finished by the end of Q4 don’t despair. Just think of the work you have done so far. This is likely to be a lot more than if you had no Q4 plan. And from your plan you know exactly the tasks that are left so you are more likely to complete out the work.

And you can also celebrate your skills in Project Management. If you have used the approach described here you have used classic Project Management and Project Planning technique. These techniques can be applied to any project large or small, business or personal.

Find What Works For You

Like all our productivity tips at beproductive.ie we recommend that you: 1) tweak our suggested approach to find what works best for your work and 2) stretch yourself a little so you can achieve new things.

Have a productive Q4 and be sure to let us know how you get on. And Contact Us if you want to talk about Productivity training.

Success-Photo-by-Benjamin-Davies-on-Unsplash

Be Productive Surprisingly Sunshine Can Help

Be Productive – The Sunshine Can Help!

Be Productive Surprisingly Sunshine Can Help

We are experiencing some fantastic weather this week in Ireland.  Here is a photo I took earlier at my local beach. The weather forecasters promise it’s going to last for a few days but in Ireland we are always a bit reluctant to believe them. The temptation is to down tools, stop work and get outside to make the most of it. Hopefully some of you have the flexibility to do that but many won’t be able to take time off at short notice.  But I bet you are already making plans to adjust your schedule so you can squeeze in some time to enjoy the sunshine. You may be getting up an hour earlier to take a walk on the beach, or starting earlier so you can finish early. Maybe you prefer to take a long lunch break and work later in the evening to allow for it.

CLEAR GOAL

But take a look at what’s happening.  Because you have a clear, tangible goal (i.e. get out into the sunshine) you much more ffocusedand productive while you are in work.  Have you set a deadline? Are you getting through more work in a shorter space of time? How are you achieving this?

Well a number of things may be happening:

  1. You are not allowing yourselves be distracted so easily
  2. You prioritise the items that are a real priority for today
  3. We take more control of our time and don’t let others distract us

PRIORITISE

And you know these are 3 great habits to use during a regular week (i.e. when it’s lashing rain and there is no rush to get home!!). Set a goal, decide a plan to achieve it, really focus when working on it, don’t let other people or things distract you and really enjoy yourself when you succeed. For more tips read our article on Planning & Prioritising in Business.

So what are you waiting for, stop reading articles online and get out into that sunshine! As ever please share any of your ideas, tips or tools in the Comments below.

If you would like further information on being productive or wish to book a Be Productive training session, please contact Moira or Ann on our Contact Form.

Productivity Experiment No Coffee

Productivity Experiment – No Coffee for 6 Weeks!

“Giving Up” FOR Lent

Today marks the start of Lent which in Ireland is a 6 week period before Easter when many people “give something up”. Lent actually lasts for 40 days and 40 nights, from Ash Wednesday (today 1st March) to Easter Sunday. We often joke that it’s not the 40 days but the 40 nights that gets you! The custom is based on the religious concept of penance that most Irish Catholics were born into. It is all about preparation for Easter. As kids this usually meant giving up our favourite sweets or chocolate treats. Then on Easter Sunday we would be rewarded with piles of chocolate Easter Eggs. It was always worth the sacrifice as we rose at dawn and gorged ourselves and usually felt quite ill by mid-morning on that Spring Sunday.

St Patrick’s Day

A great quirk of this Irish Lenten penance is of course the reprieve we get on St Patricks Day. March 17th is our national feast day and always seems to fall nicely in the middle of Lent. A “special dispensation” means us Paddies can eat all the treats we like on this day. Love it.

Old habits die hard  a lot of adults still give up something we enjoy. Some of the more mature folk amongst us take something up instead, something virtuous and giving. But this year I will be “giving up” and for some crazy reason, I have decided that my “sacrifice” will be coffee.

No Coffee for 6 Weeks

I know! I’m worried too! Because I love coffee. I love really good coffee. I have favourite coffee houses and would often travel a distance to get good coffee. I don’t drink that much – maximum 2 cups per day. But it seems to give me a boost and I often have a burst of productivity for about 2 hours after a strong cup.

So……let’s see what happens. I consumed my last cup of coffee yesterday. 40 days of tea and smoothies looms! How hard will it be? How will it affect my daily routine, my focus, my productivity?

Join me in this adventure as I post a weekly update. If anyone has any advice or experience of coffee abstinence I would like to hear it. And of course if you too are joining the Lenten penance party, be sure  to let us all know.

Control Time

Want to Be More Productive in 2017?

Ever wish you had a Time TurnerFaced with the problem of having to attend three classes at once, Hermione Granger used a Time Turner to turn back time and have 27 hours in each day! 

Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Imagine a typical busy day. You make a plan first thing, you get engrossed and before you know it it’s 5pm and you have done nothing you planned to do. No problem, just turn back time to 11am and do it again!

Sadly we don’t live in the magical world of Harry Potter, so we need to take control of how we use time to be productive.

Take control

We can’t control time but we can control how we use our time so that we are not just busy but productive too. And we can do it every single day. We can control:

  • What we work on
  • What we prioritise
  • How often we check email
  • What goals we set
  • How often we plan
  • Our energy levels
  • Our focus
  • Our output
  • Our mobile phone notifications (seriously, we can!)

So how can we do this?

There are lots of articles online and great tips and techniques available. But it can be hard to apply these ideas when we are running our own businesses.

We try out a new idea for a week or so and then our clients need something urgently or we have a product deadline or a busy year end.

Our new habits can go out the window. We get frustrated because although we are trying to improve and be more productive we fail.

Here are some practical tips to help business owners become more productive.

  • Tip 1 – Know the priorities for you and your business
  • Tip 2 – Understand how you work
  • Tip 3 – Control your distractions
  • Tip 4 – Manage your focus
  • Tip 5 – Identify routine tasks for low energy times

Tip 1 – Know the Priorities for Your Business

Think about it, you can’t become more productive without knowing what’s important for your business, your clients, your targets or your career. What are you trying to achieve, what are your goals? Do some thinking and planning. Set weekly and/or daily goals and identify the tasks that will achieve these goals. Now you have your priorities. Focus on achieving these tasks. Protect your time when you are working on them by minimising your distractions (see later).

Remember, if you don’t set your own priorities, someone else probably will.

Tip 2 – Understand How You Work

The first step in CHANGING how you work is KNOWING how you work. Do this simply by reflecting on what went well and what didn’t at the end of each day. Did you stick to your plan? Did you end up working on unplanned things? Was this the correct decision at the time? Were those unplanned things important to your business? How many distractions did you allow?  Did you let other people’s priorities take your time? Consider also what time of day you are most productive and when you concentrate best.

You can also do this in a structured way. Keep a simple Time Log for a few days or preferably a week (template available at beproductive.ie). This can seem like a painful exercise but people are generally amazed how much they learn about how their time is spent when they actually track it. Once you know this you can take steps to control it.

Tip 3 – Control Your Distractions

Your Time Log analysis will tell you what distracts you. It could be phone calls, social media notifications, message alerts (the unimportant ones) or other people’s requests which are usually their priorities! Take steps to eliminate or at least minimise your distractions now that you are aware of them.

We let ourselves be distracted because sometimes it’s a welcome change from the tough or dull (priority) task we are working on. And that’s okay if you chose to do this for a set time to refresh and regain your focus.

But the trick is to do it deliberately and control the time you spend. We’ve all been there: “I’ll just check this Twitter notification” and 30 minutes later we’re still on our phone!

So for electronic notifications:

  • Analyse all the notifications you receive. Are you giving them all the same priority? Are you letting a Twitter interaction distract you as much as the alert for an email from an important client?
  • Turn off the low priority notifications
  • Check Twitter or other social media interactions at a set frequency that makes sense for your business.
  • Consider if you can have periods in the day or week when your email alerts can be on silent. Take control.

Tip 4 – Manage Your Focus

Being productive is not just about being organised and sticking to your plan. It’s about producing the best work you can. It’s about the outcomes you achieve. We sometimes feel unproductive even when we have created the uninterrupted time to work on an important piece of work. This is because we can lose our focus which can really affect our output.

Our focus is affected by our energy levels and this in turn is affected by what we eat, whether we take breaks, how much we sleep. When we’re in business for ourselves we often compromise these factors.  But simply being aware of their impact helps us make some small adjustments.

Even a 15 minute walk around the block at lunch time can work or maybe sometimes eat a banana instead of that chocolate bar!

Tip 5 – Identify Routine Tasks for Low Energy Times

Running a business presents plenty of routine, so-called “lower priority” tasks such as, updating your contact database, sending follow-up emails, arranging meetings, ordering supplies or maybe subscribing to a newsletter to stay informed.

Some of these tasks may actually become high priority and urgent if not addressed. Some of these don’t require peak concentration or energy so a good approach is to do them in batch at a time when you know you are not at your peak productivity.

For example between 3pm and 5pm on a Friday can be a great time to do new contact follow-up emails when your energy may be low after a busy week.

You are still being productive because you are getting things done.

Be Productive in 2017

Try these changes in the New Year and you have every chance of making 2017 your most productive year ever. Also keep check in on beproductive.ie on the web and on Twitter as we constantly post tips and articles on a range of topics. Happy New Year!

be productive

New Year, New Habits, New You?

Want to be productive in 2017?

Here are our top tips for making changes in the New Year:

  1. Get to know your work patterns, your environment and challenges
  2. When you need to really focus switch off email & social media notifications
  3. Use a process to manage your email (see Article on www.beproductive.ie)
  4. Do things in batches: social media updates, invoicing, emails
  5. Monitor your use of time so you know where it goes
  6. Identify your distractions or time wasters
  7. Understand the difference between important and urgent
  8. Learn how to set SMART goals
  9. Realise that being busy is different to being productive
  10. Automate and delegate tasks that don’t require your expertise

But don’t stop there, being productive means being healthy, fit and positive too.

Be Productive…contact us today to discuss the best training & consultancy options for you.

Be Productive Surprisingly Sunshine Can Help

Be Productive – Surprisingly the Sunshine Can Help!

We are experiencing some fantastic weather this week in Ireland.  Here is a photo I took earlier at my local beach. The weather forecasters promise it’s going to last for a few days but in Ireland we are always a bit reluctant to believe them. For those of you reading from overseas, I must explain that this type of day is quite rare and could be followed by an entire summer of clouds and rain!

Down Tools

So the temptation is to down tools, stop work and get outside to make the most of it. Hopefully some of you have the flexibility to do that but many won’t be able to take time off at short notice.  But I bet you are already making plans to adjust your schedule so you can squeeze in some time to enjoy the sunshine. You may be getting up an hour earlier to take a walk on the beach, or starting earlier so you can finish early. Maybe you prefer to take a long lunch break and work later in the evening to allow for it.

Clear Goal

But take a look at what’s happening.  Because you have a clear, tangible goal (i.e. get out into the sunshine) you much more ffocusedand productive while you are in work.  Have you set a deadline? Are you getting through more work in a shorter space of time? How are you achieving this?

Well a number of things may be happening:

  1. You are not allowing yourselves be distracted so easily
  2. You prioritise the items that are a real priority for today
  3. We take more control of our time and don’t let others distract us

And you know these are 3 great habits to use during a regular week (i.e. when it’s lashing rain and there is no rush to get home!!). Set a goal, decide a plan to achieve it, really focus when working on it, don’t let other people or things distract you and really enjoy yourself when you succeed.

So what are you waiting for, stop reading articles online and get out into that sunshine! As ever please share any of your ideas, tips or tools in the Comments below.

If you would like further information on being productive or wish to attend our Be Productive training, please contact us.