15 Productivity Hacks Successful CEOs and Founders Use to Get More Done
When was the last time you made a list of New Year resolutions? How did that work out for you? Most people, break a significant number of these resolutions by the time the first quarter of year ends.
This is because goals are easy to set but very hard to keep. Motivation is usually high at the outset, but it has a way of dwindling down with progress of a project. Picture this: You have set yourself the goal of doing 50 pushups every day before you hit the shower. Let’s split those pushups into bunches of 10 pushups. Which bunch is the most difficult one? The first one between 1 and 10, the middle one between 20 and 30, or the last one between 40 and 50?
If you are like most people, you will agree with me that the last 10 pushups are the most difficult. Let’s make this more interesting. Supposing you set a goal of 30 pushups daily instead of 50. Would the third bunch of pushups be as easy as the third bunch in the first case when you had a target of doing 50 pushups? Absolutely not. If your goal is doing 30 pushups, the last 10 will be just as difficult as they would have been if you had set a target of 50 pushups.
The point is, every goal will appear easy at first, but it will get more and more difficult as time goes. To achieve the goal, you need to find a way of staying productive no matter the circumstances. You will not have a problem staying productive in the early days when you are highly motivated. The real problem comes during those low-motivation spans.
In this discussion, we are going to look at some of the most effective productivity tasks that you can use to get the productivity that you need to accomplish any goal. These are hacks that have been used by successful CEOs and founders to get more work done out of the limited time that we all have.
WHAT IS PRODUCTIVITY?
First things first. Let’s start with first understanding what productivity is. In economics, as defined by Investopedia, productivity is “a measure of output per unit of input”. The inputs mentioned here include labor and capital while the outputs are the revenues achieved or other gross domestic product components like business inventories.
The simple definition is that productivity is a measure of the efficiency of production. The goal here being to produce more output from as little input as possible. For you as an individual, the goal is to get as much work done as possible in the time when you are working.
Most people confuse productivity with being busy. You can look busy, and still be unproductive. The catch here is to do work that produces results. Work that contributes positively to your end goal or target as an individual.
For example, you could be busy on your work computer reading your email when your job is to edit an article for publication. Although you look busy, you are really not productive because your pile of work is not reducing and you are not producing any relevant output.
So for you to be productive, you need to be producing something.
FACTORS AFFECTING PRODUCTIVITY
- Taking Breaks: No matter who you are or how much you love your job, your body can only take so much. This is to mean that there will come a time when you will need to take a break. Failure to do that will see your productivity suffer a hit and if you are not careful, you might end up doing more harm than good on your projects. Breaks help your work in many ways. Studies have shown that people who take a break once an hour perform better than those who just keep going without resting.
- Satisfaction: This is about how happy you feel with your job. A study was done to determine how satisfaction affected the productivity of employees and they found out that employees who are more satisfied with their work were more productive than those who were doing it because they don’t have another way out.
- Stress: Stress is another factor that affects productivity. However, unlike satisfaction and regular breaks, this one affects your productivity negatively. Workers who are stressed are not able to stay focused hence they are not able to process new information effectively. It also makes it hard to remember things you already know hence the whole process becomes long and inefficient. This leads to distractions that could easily end up in expensive mistakes that further reduce productivity.
- Technology Applied: This is usually beyond the power of the employees, but if you have a position in management, it is something worth considering. It’s not too early to start embracing automation. There are software and machines that when used correctly can significantly improve the productivity of employees in organizations. This doesn’t only apply to big companies. Even at an individual level, you can make use of technology to improve your productivity. For example, if you want to send five emails at different times during the day, rather than logging in to your email mailbox five times in the day, you can schedule and forget using tools like Boomerang and have each email sent at the most opportune time without having to go back to your mailbox.
- Team Spirit: When every employee feels as a valuable member of a system that depends on his output, they will be well motivated to keep producing good results even when they are not very well motivated. If you know that your output directly affects the results that the department or organization will have as a whole, you are more likely to do all you can to ensure that your results are the best possible results that you can produce.
An important aspect of human nature is shown by Parkinson’s Law. The law states that work will expand to fill the time available for its completion.
Let’s take a minute to think about this law. Remember your days in college? What would happen when your professor told you to write a paper and said that it had to be completed in two days? More likely than not, despite your frowns and unhappiness, you would still complete the assignment in the two days.
What happens if you are given two weeks to complete the task? You will find that in one way or the other, the work required to complete the assignment will fill up the two weeks that you have to complete it.
If you have ever been in charge of assigning tasks to people, you will agree with me that this law is true almost all the time. Give someone a month to finish the work, it will be done in a month despite the fact that it could easily be done in two weeks or less.
Even simple tasks will increase in complexity until they fill up the time that is allocated to them. On the flip side, if you reduce the time allocated to a task, the task will become simpler and easier to solve so as to fit in the limited time available.
With this understanding, we can tune ourselves to become more productive in our jobs. If you need a week to finish a project, give it a week. Setting tight deadlines ensures that you avoid distractions and that you get straight to the point when you get to work. This way, you will get more done faster, hence you will have more time to do even more.
Here are some things you can do to make the Parkinson’s Law work to your advantage:
- If you work on a laptop, unplug it and have a list of tasks that you must complete before the battery runs out of power.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique to break down big tasks into smaller chunks and assign time to each chunk. Your job here will be to ensure that every chunk fits in the time allocated.
- Be more specific on your goals. Rather than saying that you want to write 1,000 words every day, aim at something more specific like I’ll do research on the topic before 10am, I’ll create the outlines by noon etc.
- If circumstances allow, you can set a goal like Sean Ogle to never work after noon. This will push you to do as much work as possible in the morning hours since you are trying to fit a whole day’s work into the first half. It will encourage you to wake up early and best of all, you will be rewarded with more free time.
- Blackmail yourself with punishment. Find an accountability partner who will make you pay up every time you break a rule that you have set. For example, if you decide to stop working at noon, you can set a penalty and have a partner enforce it every time you work beyond noon. This will give you the kick you need to actually walk the talk.
- Set hard deadlines. Set specific goals and have specific timelines for each of the goals. Have a reward for achieving that goal and a penalty should you fail to achieve it. You can lose 10 pounds in 5 months, but you can also do it in 8 weeks if you set that as your target.
- If you find that you are struggling with a task which seems to always go above the allocated time, force yourself by doing it in an environment beyond your control. For example, if you find that you always take more than the 30 minutes allocated to checking and responding to email, find a place with a strict timetable like a coffee shop or public library. If they close at 9pm, go there at 8.30pm and start checking your email. Stop working when they close and wait until the next day to resume. After the first few days, you’ll find that you naturally find a way of getting it all done in the available time.
PRODUCTIVITY VS. ACTIVITY
There’s no denying the fact that we are in a day and age where we have the ability to get more done than we could ever have been able to do in the past. With email, text messaging, social media and the internet, we are able to do many things that seemed impossible a couple of decades ago.
This ability brought with it new problems. One of them is the large number of distractions that we are constantly exposed to every single day. It’s no longer a question of what we can do, but more of what we actually end up doing. Are you doing the right things with the immense power that modern technology has given you?
This brings an interesting question: is what you are doing helping you get closer to where you want to go? Of course, you need to first know where you are going before you can ask yourself if you are heading there, but that’s a story for another day. To answer this, we’ll look at the difference between productivity and activity and what makes the difference between busy people and productive people.
Busy people have a constant stream of activity surrounding them, most of which is not relevant to their goal. Although activity ensures that you are not dormant, it’s important to make sure that you spend your time doing the right activities.
I’m not saying that it is bad to be busy. However, it’s important to note that it is dangerous to be busy without being productive. Just because you are doing something, doesn’t mean that you are really getting anywhere. Let’s dive in and identify some of the differences between these two people.
- Busy people want to look like they have a goal and a mission. Productive people on the other hand actually have a goal and mission for their lives. Busy people will act confident and fill their lives with a lot of things so as to hide their doubt about the destination. Productive people on the other hand know exactly where they are going and they have no problem trying different paths.
- Busy people have many priorities while productive people have fewer priorities. There is no such thing as being too busy. If you care enough about something, you will make time for it. It’s a question of priority. If you have 5 priorities, you have priorities. But if you have 25 of them, you have a mess. Henry Ford built one of the biggest car makers not by building better cars, but by developing better systems for making cars.
- Productive people are careful about the promises they make. As a result, they say no to most things. Busy people on the other hand, say yes to most things and will usually end up swamped with work and that’s where the stress and frustrations kick in. Saying yes to many things is really just splitting your life into hundreds or thousands of little pieces, each of which will require your attention.
- Busy people are quick to point out all the tasks they have to do while productive people will allow their results to speak for them. Busy people always have a long list of pending tasks. They are the people who have so much to do that they end up doing very little. Productive people will remove all unnecessary tasks and focus only on what is needed. As a result, they end up achieving more and having results to show at the end of the day.
- Busy people multitask while productive people focus. A study has shown that you reduce your efficiency by as much as 40% when you multitask. The brain needs time to refocus on a task after a distraction. Sometimes it could take as much as 15 minutes before you are fully focused again. Multitasking costs you time. It also overloads your brain, which explains why you will feel tired faster when you multitask. It doesn’t have to be multiple large projects. Even chatting on an IM app as you work on your report qualifies as multi-tasking so make the change and notice the effect on your work productivity.
As you can see, it’s really simple to be more productive in your job. It may not be easy at first, but when the results start streaming in, you will be happy that you started. Start with the small things like making a conscious decision to stop multitasking and focusing on one goal at a time and work your way up until you are operating at peak performance.
The following list contains hacks that have been proven to boost productivity in the workplace. Although they are very effective, trying to use them all at once will not help you. Remember what we said about multi-tasking. So pick one hack, use it for a week, note the difference and see if you can accommodate another. Keep doing this until you are at peak performance.
1. THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE
The Pomodoro technique can help you plan your workday effectively and get rid of distractions throughout the day. It was invented in the early 90s by an Italian entrepreneur known as Francesco Cirillo. He named the technique Pomodoro after the tomato-shaped timer he was using to track time. Pomodoro is the Italian name for a tomato.
The technique is very simple to understand. When you are given any huge task, break it down into small timed intervals known as Pomodoros. These intervals are separated by short breaks to give your brain some breathing space before going back to razor focused work.
The main aim of this technique is to train your brain to give full concentration for short periods and also to give you time to rest. When correctly implemented, it can help improve your attention span and consequently increase your concentration.
It works well because the intervals are short enough to focus on only one task at a time, thus eliminating any temptation to multitask, and at the same time, it allows you to take regular breaks to keep you motivated and creative.
How it Works
The Pomodoro technique is one of the simplest productivity hacks around. All you need is a timer and some work and you will be ready to go. Cirillo wrote a book, The Pomodoro Technique about this method, but you won’t need to read it to be able to use the technique. However, it is a helpful read if you want to get more done from your time using this technique.
Here’s how you do it:
- Choose a task that you would like to work on
- Set the timer to countdown from 25 minutes
- Work on the task until the timer rings then mark the first Pomodoro as complete
- Take a 5 minute break. You can use the same timer to time your break. Don’t be tempted to take the break without timing. You might be tempted to stay longer and end up wasting time, or you could come back before the 5 minutes and not reap the full benefit of the break.
- One Pomodoro is 25 minutes of work and a 5 minute break. After 4 Pomodoros, take a 15 or 30 minute break before going back to work.
That’s all there is to the Pomodoro technique. It may sound simple but it is very powerful when it comes to improving productivity. Just one day following this technique will prove to you how much you need it. The best thing about it is that the results come immediately when you start using it.
For best result, you need to make sure that you are focused on the task at hand in each Pomodoro. You can’t divide a Pomodoro. When you are distracted before the Pomodoro ends, you have to either stop working there with the intention of starting a new Pomodoro later, or you can postpone the distraction.
For obvious reasons, it will be better if you can postpone the distraction. To do this, Cirillo suggests a strategy where you inform the other party that you have your hands full, negotiate a time when you can get back to them about the distracting issue and to schedule that follow-up immediately then you can call back the other party after your Pomodoro is complete or at the scheduled time. This time, you will make sure that there are no Pomodoros going on hence it won’t be a distraction.
While this is not possible at all times, a big chunk of the distractions that we get do not need our immediate attention. Those are the distractions that should be postponed. It will keep you focused and you will take control of your workday.
As mentioned above, all you need is a timer and some work. This means that any phone with a timer can easily do the job. You can even use the countdown timer on a digital watch or the old egg timer. Cirillo used a manual timer. He prefers the manual timer because according to him, winding it confirms that you are determined to work.
If you don’t have access to a manual timer, here are some apps that can do the job:
- Tomighty: This is a desktop Pomodoro timer that has all the traditional Pomodoro rules programmed into it. You only need to download it and fire it up whenever you have some work that needs doing. It has the timer and four dots that serve as counters to help you keep track of the number of Pomodoros that you have completed so far. It is a free-to-use cross platform app that will work on Windows, Linux or Mac.
- Pomodorable: This is a 2-in-1 productivity app that can function both as a Pomodoro timer and a to-do list app. It works on the Mac OS X so Windows and Linus users will have to make do with other apps. This one integrates with the Reminders app on OS X to bring you notifications about your Pomodoros and your upcoming tasks. It allows you to estimate the number of Pomodoros you will need for a task and then use this number to check whether you are on track.
- Marinara Timer: This is a web app that runs as a tab on your browser. It enables you to track your sessions at the end of the day with a history of all the sessions that you have had. You can configure the length of the work sessions or breaks to suit your individual preferences. The good news is that it all runs on any web browser so you don’t have to install anything.
- Simple Pomodoro: This is a free, open source Android timer. It doesn’t have a lot of the fancy graphics, but it has everything you need to effectively use the Pomodoro Technique. It follows the traditional Pomodoro rules and doesn’t give you the power to change the time in the work or break periods, but it has notifications that tell you when to take a break and when to get back to work. At the end of the day, you can go back to the app and see how many Pomodoros you were able to accomplish. It can also integrate with Google Tasks.
- Focus Timer: This is a feature-rich iOS app for your iPhone and iPad. If you feel that 25 minutes are too short for a Pomodoro, you can adjust the time accordingly to suit your unique preferences. You can also adjust the breaks. This app also gives you the ability to review your work history so that you can see if you are making progress or not. You can rate each Pomodoro using stars to keep you motivated. It also has a variety of sounds to pick from, with the option of hearing the clock tick as you work to ensure that you are not distracted.
The Pomodoro technique is a very effective productivity hack for many industries. Regardless of whether you work in a creative environment where you are expected to produce something for review, or if you have an in tray where all your work is sent, you can use it to get more organized.
Despite its benefits, it’s important to note that the technique is a system that tries to make your workday more productive. It is not a pair of handcuffs. So when the timer goes off when you are in the zone, it is okay to pause the timer, finish your breakthrough, and then you can take a break. The main aim is to keep you focused throughout the day, but also to remind you to take breaks because they are vital in keeping you productive.
2. THE FIVE SECOND RULE
The five second rule was invented by Mel Robbins in 2009 in a bid to beat the habit of hitting the snooze button. She invented this rule to fight with the temptation to hit snooze and stay in the warmth of the bed for just another 15 minutes.
Although it was intended to get you out of bed in the morning, it works like a charm in many other aspects of our lives. Basically, it will work in anything that you need to do but your body wants to remain in the comfort zone.
How it Works
To use the 5 second rule, you only need to have a goal that you are working towards. As Mel Robbins puts it in her website, “the moment you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will stop you.”
Watch this video of Mel Robbins introducing the five second rule in front of a live audience.
The rule is useful when your instincts fire up and you know that you should do something. There is always some resistance that makes us hesitate and start second guessing our abilities, the timing or our preparedness for the action.
That resistance, according to Mel Robbins, is what you will overcome with the 5 second rule. If you don’t move in 5 seconds, you have a higher chance of not making any move and your self-doubt will kick in and kill the idea.
When you act in 5 seconds, you will not overthink and all the focus will be on you taking a new action hence you will not have to deal with the self-doubt that comes with overthinking. You will actually be thinking about how you are going to do it as opposed to whether or not you are able to do it.
The best thing about the five second rule is the fact that it is applicable in all the times when we hold ourselves back because of fear. Whether it is talking to an attractive guy or girl at the bar, or speaking your mind in a meeting or waking up in the morning, the five second rule will help you fight doubt and take action.
This rule is important and effective because thinking about change alone anything. Without taking action, everything else is wishful thinking. However, to take action, you will need to find courage to make the first move. If you find yourself saying that you can wait and do it tomorrow or that you are not yet ready to take the plunge, then you should consider the five second rule.
When you take the plunge, you will realize that the move really isn’t fatal no matter how bad it turns out to be. That realization is where you start to build confidence and momentum. It is a simple idea, but it is very powerful.
3. THE PARETO PRINCIPLE
This principle is has caused a number of people disagree with the popular cliché that there is no shortcut to success. I’m not going to argue about whether or not this rule is a shortcut to success, but since it is quite effective at improving productivity, I think it’s worth discussing.
Also known as the 80-20 rule, the law of the vital few or the principle of factor sparcity, the Pareto Principle is the reason why some students who studied day and night still ended up scoring less than those who started studying a day or two before the exams. Want to hear an interesting fact? About 80% of the wealth lies with about 20% of the population. Anyway, today we are talking about productivity so we won’t look into that.
Here’s what it states:
The Pareto Principle states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort or 20% of the inputs produce 80% of the outputs.
What does that mean? In simple terms, it means that a minority is responsible for causing the majority. The principle was named after Vilfred Pareto who was an Italian economist. He was doing a study in 1897 when he discovered this interesting trend. The study was about land ownership in Italy and he noted that almost 80% of it was owned by about 20% of the population.
The interesting thing about this ratio was that the same was noticed when looking at other spheres of life. Pareto even noticed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden produced 80% of the peas. Further research found even more areas.
While the ratio does not strictly apply in all situations, it is the general rule of thumb in many aspects of our life. Here are a few examples:
- 80% of the sales come from 20% of the clients
- 80% of software failure comes from 20% of the bugs
- 80% of a company’s profits come from 20% of its investments
- 80% of the customer complaints come from 20% of the customers
- 80% of your output comes from 20% of your time
We are going to focus on the last one: 80% of your output comes from 20% of your time. Think about it. If 80% of your results will come from only 20% of your inputs, doesn’t it make sense, then to at least start with the 20% that create the best results? This way, you will still be able to get a big chunk of the results even if you don’t manage to do everything that you had planned.
How it Works
To improve your productivity using this principle you only need to do one thing: scheduling. Proper use of the Pareto Principle involves good understanding of the importance of each task on your to-do list. How much does each task contribute to the end result?
Once you have sorted the tasks in order of importance, allocate time on the ones that have the biggest effect. Start with those. The others that don’t have a direct impact on the results can be outsourced or postponed unless they are mandatory before the important ones can be done.
If you are working on a tight deadline like in the case of a student studying for exams, starting with the significant 20% will see to it that he has enough to pass the exam even if there isn’t enough time to study for everything.
Let’s finish with a story.
Once upon a time, an ordinary guy challenged a professional fighter in Chinese Kickboxing Championships. The guy admits that he was not good at kickboxing, but he went ahead with the challenge. For an ordinary person, there’s only one way this would have ended. The guy would get a decent beating in the first match and serve as an example.
However, that’s not what happened. The guy won the match, and went ahead to walk away as a gold medalist. How did it work, you ask? The Pareto Principle.
The ordinary guy in our story is Tim Ferris and as he writes in his book The Four Hour Workweek, he only needed to win and since he didn’t have the advantage of having trained for years like his competition, he had to find a different way of winning.
He analyzed all rules and found two loopholes that helped him win without the years of training.
First, he discovered that all participants were weighed one day before the competition so he dehydrated his body and lost 28 pounds. He weighed in at 165 pounds and after weighing he hyper hydrated back to 193 pounds. This means that he got opponents who were three classes below him, which allowed him to beat them easily.
The other loophole one involved winning automatically if your opponent fell off the platform three times in a single round. He exploited this in all his games, working to push his opponents off the platform as opposed to fighting like it’s supposed to be. Granted, his games may not have been the most entertaining to watch, but he knew what he wanted and he had found a way of getting it.
In other words, to win the championships at that time only required mastery of these two and you could have saved yourself years of training. But that’s only if you are interested in winning and winning alone.
In the same way, it’s important to choose how we allocate our time. You could be going a long way when you can achieve the same results in a fraction of the time using a fraction of the effort.
4. START RIGHT
The way you start your day determines how you are going to live for the rest of the day. If you begin your day with things that you know are going to make you hate yourself, it’s highly likely that you will spend a significant portion of that day sulking.
On the other hand, if you start your day with things that you are confident in, you will start your day feeling that you are in the right place hence you will be more confident in yourself and that will show in your results.
Before we even start talking about what you do in the morning, let’s talk about something that is commonly overlooked. The best way to start your day is by ensuring that you get enough rest. If you don’t get enough sleep, don’t expect to wake up feeling fresh and energetic. So make sure you get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Once you have that, you can now focus on habits that energize you. One common way to build your momentum in the morning is to make your bed immediately after you wake up. It might sound meaningless, but it does give you a sense of achievement and control. It also makes you eager to take on the next item on your schedule.
Unless you are a night owl, try and begin your day as early as possible. This is the time for doing your most important assignments. There are fewer distractions and you will be able to focus better because you are energetic and generally more enthusiastic.
You can start with a simple resolution like saying that for the next 60 days, you are going to spend the first 60 minutes of your workday doing just one important task. The one thing that you know will have a big impact on your work if done religiously for 60 days.
If you are trying to get a beach body for summer, spend the first 60 minutes working out. If you are trying to build traction for your blog, spend the first 60 minutes writing. Make sure you go to bed knowing exactly what this task is so you don’t find yourself stuck trying to figure out what you are going to do.
5. HANG AROUND LIKE MINDED PEOPLE
We all unconsciously adopt feelings, beliefs and behaviors of the people we spend time with. Think about your time in high school. Chances are your group of friends shared the same opinion about most things in life. This is the reason why you were quick to defend your friends any time they were attacked because you agreed with them on the matter that caused them to be attacked in the first place.
Behavioral scientists call this emotional contagion. According to this phenomenon, we will unconsciously adopt the behaviors and feelings of the people we spend time with. Isn’t it also true that our feelings and behaviors will ultimately control our moods?
With this in mind, it will help if you can hang around people who are headed in the same direction as you are. If you are trying to save to buy a house, spend time with people who are also saving for a house. When sharing experiences, you will learn a lot of new things and at the same time, they will keep you motivated towards your goal.
So if you have a sales or revenue target that you want to hit, don’t hang around the colleague who is tired with the company and is looking for a way out. This colleague will show you all the bad things about your company and you will leave feeling used. At the end of the day, you will end up not giving your job as much as you should and as a result, you will not reach your target.
6. GO ON A SOCIAL MEDIA AND NEWS DIET
Think about it. How often do you see an interesting news headline and click through? How often do you see that email from Facebook about an interesting post by an interesting friend and you click through to view it? How many times did you see a Facebook notification pop up on your phone and you had to stop everything and check it out? What happens after that? Usually, you will end up wasting about 10-30 minutes before you can get back to work.
This simply makes you a prisoner of these news and social websites. It makes it that you will only work when there are no interesting things happening around you. Let’s face it: interesting things will never stop happening. What you need to do is to watch or read about them on your terms.
According to the New York Times, the average person spent about 50 minutes every day on Facebook in 2016. That was Facebook alone. If you count the time spent on all the other news and social websites, you’ll find that you are losing a lot of time. If we take a minimum of 2 hours every day, that is 14 hours every week and about 60 every month. That’s enough time for exercise, meditation or even learning a new skill like playing a music instrument.
I’m not saying that you cut yourself off from all news sources. That will not do you any good. You also need to be informed. However, this doesn’t need to come at the expense of your work. That’s why it’s called a diet.
Disable notifications and turn off news feeds that send news updates and social media updates constantly to your computer or mobile phone. Then focus on your work. During working hours, keep off these distractions. You’ll find that you are able to focus more on your work and that will produce better results.
7. JUST START
Newton’s first law of motion states that “A body will remain at rest or move at a constant velocity in a straight line unless it is acted upon by an external unbalanced force”
That makes sense in physics, but what does it have to do with productivity? Well, when you are procrastinating or doing all the other seemingly important things that are keeping you from doing what you are supposed to do, you are at rest. This is a pleasant state that is hard to come from. This is where you need a kick.
Get yourself to start. It’s not going to be easy, but once you have given yourself that kick and started the progress, it will become easier to continue since you are already in motion.
A good example is getting out of bed in the morning. The act of leaving the warm, comfortable bed is very hard. However, the moment you are out of bed, everything becomes easier because you are now in motion.
So remember this every time you face the resistance that comes with starting something new. If it helps, use the 5 Second Rule discussed above to give yourself the kick before your brain starts questioning your ability to complete the job.
8. LIMIT DISTRACTIONS
Distractions tend to drive you away from your current task and before you are back and focused again, you will have lost a lot of time. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say no to all distractions because some of them are important and need your immediate attention. However, most of them aren’t. The good news is that you can achieve more by limiting the distractions that aren’t urgent.
So close all those tabs with holiday destinations, articles that you are going to read when you get time, your gmail inbox, and pretty much everything that is not related to your current task. Tackle work one tab at a time and you will be rewarded with more efficiency.
9. IF YOU HAVE TO EAT TWO FROGS, EAT THE UGLIEST ONE FIRST
Many people have talked about eating frogs. Brian Tracy said that “if you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first”. Mark Twain also talked about this, saying that if you start your day by eating a live, frog, you can go through your day knowing that the early morning frog is probably the worst thing that will happen to you all day.
Of course, we are not saying that you should go out and start catching frogs.
The frog here represents your biggest, hardest, most important task. The task that is most likely to cause you to procrastinate every time you think about doing it. When you do this, everything else you do that day will be easier and simpler. You will have no problem finding motivation because if you were able to eat the big frog, the small frog will not be as tough.
10. AVOID UNNECESSARY MEETINGS
Truth be told, most meetings are not needed, and a majority of those that are needed need less than 30 minutes to accomplish their mission. Since you can’t do away with meetings altogether, you need to figure out how to get the most out of them without compromising on anything else.
First, manage time by the clock. Start on time and more importantly, end on time. Secondly, have the agenda sent out before the meeting. This will ensure that you hit the ground running when you start. Next, limit the time to a maximum of 30 minutes unless the agenda is too long. You can try stand up meetings if they are appropriate in your business.
Finally, set apart a day of the week when you will have no meetings. For example, you can set Tuesday to be the day when you will not schedule any meetings and communicate it effectively. If someone asks for a meeting on a Tuesday, tell them that your schedule is full on Tuesday and reschedule to another day.
11. DELEGATE, SYSTEMIZE AND AUTOMATE
Trust your employees. IF you hired them, they must be good. There is no point hiring someone if you will spend three quarters of the time looking over their shoulder. Train them, and trust them to make decisions. Cultivate a sense of ownership and they will surprise you with the results. Let them feel like they are the boss and they will act in the company’s best interest.
Create systems for your main processes and automate the work. Systemizing the work ensures that there doesn’t come a time when you are not sure what they are supposed to do next. Each process should lead to the next one until the task is complete.
12. FIGURE OUT YOUR GOLDEN HOURS AND PROTECT THEM
Find out when you are most productive. Those are your golden hours and protect them at all costs. List any interruptions that come during this time to be dealt with later. Try to get as much ground covered during this time.
13. SET FIXED DEADLINES
When you have a task, set yourself a deadline for it. We all have an inner perfectionist who will always want us to keep checking if the work is perfect enough to be released to the next department. Silence this perfectionist and send it out when it’s due regardless of whether it’s perfect or not.
14. STAY ORGANIZED
In addition to making it easy for you to plan your workload, staying organized helps make big problems appear smaller. If you have a plan for doing something, it somehow looks easier and manageable as opposed to only having the end in mind.
Start by de-cluttering your desk. A messy work desk will make you feel anxious and overwhelmed. Throw away what needs to go to the trash and keep everything else neat and organized. Then break down your projects into small, time sensitive and measurable victories.
15. EISENHOWER BOX
The Eisenhower Box was used by Dwight Eisenhower, who was the 34th President of the United States. He served two terms between 1953 and 1961. He had many achievements even before he became president and during his two terms in office. Some of these achievements include development of the US Interstate Highway System, launch of the internet, space exploration and the use of alternative sources of energy.
He was able to do all these by making very good use of his time. The Eisenhower Box is his famous productivity tool that you can start using right away and start seeing benefits. Let’s take a closer look at how it works.
Basically, the Eisenhower Box is a decision making matrix that helps you decide which tasks you are going to tackle and what to do with the rest. The matrix has four boxes as shown below.
Work on these tasks now
Decide when to do it
Find someone to do the task for you
As you can see above, separate your tasks into four categories:
- Urgent and important tasks: These ones you will work on them immediately.
- Important, but not urgent tasks: These are the tasks that you will schedule for later
- Urgent, but not important: These are the tasks that will be delegated to someone else
- Neither urgent nor important tasks: These are the tasks you do away with
This matrix helps you decide how you are going to spend your time and also in managing your assignments. It is very easy to find yourself stuck with a lot to do yet you don’t see results in your bottom-line. You could be spending too much time on tasks that you don’t need to spend time on because they can be delegated, or tasks that can be eliminated altogether.
Start with eliminating tasks until you have no more tasks that can be eliminated. As Kevlin Henney once said about computer programming, there is no code faster than no code. What this means is that the smaller the number of tasks you have to work on, the faster you’ll finish.
Remember, don’t be busy. Be productive instead. Spend time on tasks that help you advance towards the goal or target you are shooting at.