Ever wish you had a Time Turner? Faced 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.
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!