“If only I had more time…”
How often do you say that to yourself? As a high achiever, you won’t be alone. With so much to do (and so much you want to do), you’ll often feel as though you’re up against it.
The good news is life doesn’t have to be constant chaos fuelled by endless to-do lists and demands. If you sharpen your productivity skills, you can train yourself to get more done in less time. But don’t go looking for the silver bullet because there isn’t one.
That’s because peak productivity is a combination of small practices that combine to skyrocket what you’re able to get done in a given amount of time.
And with the 19 proven methods in this blog, you’ll have plenty to get your teeth into.
1. Work to goals
Maximum productivity comes from working on the right things at the right time. It’s why goals are critical. They provide a constant compass, which ensures your time is ‘wasted wisely’. Without goals, you’ll be rudderless. This makes focus hard as you’ll be tempted by shiny object syndrome because there is no bigger picture to work towards.
Create goals and you give every day more meaning and purpose. This helps unlock passion for what you do (because you know WHY you’re doing it). As a result, you’ll feel more inspired to get stuff done, efficiently.
2. Plan your week
Instead of taking each day as it comes, maximize your time by getting your head around the week ahead before it even starts. Using a tool such as the Weekly Action Pad, you can create the big picture overview for the next seven days helping you structure your days for maximum output.
Weekly planning gives you an edge. It ensures you’re not rushing at the last minute and it makes batching tasks possible (see no. 16). In addition, with your to-do list out of your head and onto paper, you’ll waste less bandwidth remembering freeing up more time to do the work.
3. Plan tomorrow, TODAY
Do you hit the ground running or do you waste the first part of your day figuring out what you need to accomplish? You’ll free up more productive minutes if you plan tomorrow the night before. Not only can you crack straight on with what you need to do, but you’ll also give your subconscious brain time to mull over your upcoming tasks.
Ever noticed how you go to bed with a problem or a project in mind and wake up with a head full of answers? It works!
4. Set targets
Don’t underestimate the dopamine hit you get when you tick an item off as done. It’s strangely satisfying to be able to cross off a task and see the needle physically move. So leverage this by setting yourself daily targets.
We recommend three. Pick the three tasks that if complete, will make the day a win for you - and then crack on and get them done. This simple practice gives your day focus and direction. And with the finish line clearly defined, you know exactly what you have to get done to cross it.
5. Listen to focus music
Creating an environment that’s conducive to focused, deep work is a gamechanger. One tool to try is focus music - such as Brain FM.
Brain FM is a tool that provides music for your brain. Designed to boost focus, relaxation and meditation, this tool can help you work smarter, sleep better, and even calm mental chatter.
You’ll have experienced how music shifts your mood, but Brain FM takes this connection to a deeper level. Packed with music composed to maximize specific states, Brain FM stimulates your brain to deliver noticeable results in 15 minutes or less.
We’ve partnered with Brain FM to give you a 20% discount off any subscription when you use the code bestself (expires 24th Oct 2018)
A neverending to-do list gets super stressful. You stare at the list wondering how you’re going to get it all done. Pretty soon you’re overwhelmed (because it feels like an impossible task) and instead of churning through your tasks, you freeze.
Here’s the thing…
Not everything on your to-do list will be a top priority. There will be some tasks you can leave until later, others you can delegate or outsource, and others you may be able to scratch off completely.
Always pull the biggest levers first. Remember the 80/20 rule where 20% of the work will deliver 80% of your results. Focus on those big impact tasks by drilling down and getting clear on what completed items will create the biggest win for you. Get those done first, that way - even if there are items left untouched - you can end the day feeling accomplished and successful.
7. Use a timer
It’s so easy to squander time when you’re not consciously aware it’s passing. A quick look at Facebook can easily turn into an hour of wasted minutes. It’s why we love hourglasses.
As well as providing an opportunity to disconnect from digital, a timer allows you to physically see the passage of time. Set an intention for how long you want to work on a particular task and use a timer to keep track. It’s a practice that keeps you more focused and accountable therefore motivating you to work more efficiently.
8. Work in Pomodoros
Your brain works best when you give it time to refresh and recharge. It’s one reason the Pomodoro technique works. Here’s how to do it:
- Set a timer for 25-minutes
- Tackle a task until the time runs out
- Take a 5-minute break
Anyone can concentrate fully for 25 minutes knowing there’s a break at the other end. It’s far less daunting than forcing yourself to sit tight for hours on end. Better still, 25 minutes of concentrated work will deliver far more results than a morning of sloppy focus - you’ll see!
9. Beat Parkinson’s Law
Ever noticed how a deadline forces you to up the ante and get a job done in a realistic amount of time?
Without a set timeframe for a task, Parkinson’s Law will steal your day away.
Parkinson’s Law states that work will expand to fill the time you give it (now it makes sense why that proposal took all morning rather than 30 minutes!) It’s how deadlines can drive efficiency. What’s more, if you get a job done quicker, there’s more time to crack on with others things clocking up an even bigger win for you.
10. Zero hours schedule
Unallocated time is always at risk of getting squandered. So plan your day leaving zero white space. It’s not overwhelming like it sounds. That’s because as well as scheduling time for all your tasks, weave in time for the gym, for reading, for relaxing, cooking, chilling out with your loved ones and even doing nothing! Account for every minute of your day and you can have it all.
11. Cut distractions
You’ll always be at your most efficient when you work on one thing at a time. Multitasking as a productivity hack is a myth. You don’t get more done. Instead, you water down your focus by forcing your brain to switch constantly from one task to another.
So do whatever it is you need to do to concentrate on one thing.
Log out of social media, switch off distractions, turn off your phone, and tell whoever’s around to leave you alone. It can take as much as 20 minutes to get back into your flow after you’ve been interrupted. Don’t waste time needlessly. Instead, protect your focus by removing the things that throw you off track.
12. Stop procrastinating
You’ll always find a reason not to do the work now - especially when the task you’re tackling is hard, long, or boring. When you don’t feel like it or you’re in an energy slump, it’s extremely tempting to put it off for another time.
But that’s dangerous.
Not only do you squander time in the moment (that you’ll never get back), but you pile on more pressure for the next day. Procrastinate and you’ll either have to play catch up another time or settle for less because you’ve run out of time to do it all.
Instead, build the discipline to get the work done when it needs to get done. Tackle the excuses that your brain tempts you with. Train yourself to sit tight and your productivity will soar.
Productivity is a skill and that means you can sharpen it with practice. So take the time to reflect on your methods and behaviors. Where are you slipping up? What are you doing well? Where are your opportunities to improve?
Build this habit into your every day and you’ll unlock the insights you need to take your efficiency as far as it can go.
14. Be realistic
When you have a pile of tasks to do it’s tempting to make a super long list - and believe it’s possible.
But can you really crack through so much?
The last thing you want to do is set yourself up for failure as that will only knock your confidence and drain your motivation. Instead, estimate the amount of time you think each task will take to complete. Next, tot up the total to get a better gauge as to whether you really can fit it all in.
If you can, schedule using the zero hours principle (point 9). If you can’t, prioritize your workload to make the biggest dent possible.
Then crack on.
15. Batch tasks
You don’t have to take calls all throughout the day. You don’t have to answer emails as soon as they come in. You don’t have to prepare every meal on the day you’re going to eat it. You’ll make much better use of your time if you batch similar tasks together.
For example, spend time on a Sunday evening preparing veg for the rest of the week rather than doing it every night. Schedule 30-minute slots at the beginning and end of each day to handle your emails. Book all your calls on one day instead of scattering them throughout. Plan all your content creation into a focused slot.
Batch and you won’t waste energy and focus switching from one task to another. What’s more, because you’ve created focused time, you’ll get the work done quicker. It’s a smart way of working.
16. Systemize and automate
What tasks do you do on a repeated basis? Which of these could be handled by an app or streamlined with a system?
Reduce what you have to do on a daily basis and you’ll free up time and capacity to work on more of the higher leverage work.
17. Work to your energy levels
Every day, you wake up with a finite amount of willpower and focus. You need to use this energy wisely if you want to maximize the work you’re able to get done. To help you do this, figure out what time of the day you’re at your peak - and then use that time wisely.
One way to do this is to classify your tasks as draining, energizing, or neutral.
You’re more likely to knock out a draining task when you’re high in energy - and an energizing task can help boost your motivation when you’re feeling low. Think strategically about what tasks you place when and it can make all the difference to your output.
18. Say NO
Is your to-do list weighing you down because you’ve taken on more than you can handle?
If so, it’s time to set up some boundaries and protect your time. This involves becoming aware of your limits and protecting them by saying NO.
You don’t have to explain yourself.
19. Eat your frogs
According to Brian Tracy (who wrote the book Eat That Frog), your frog is:
“Your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it now. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.” (p. 2)
You’ll create a big productivity breakthrough if you identify your frog each day - and tackle it first thing. Here’s why...
Firstly, even when you’re not focused on that task directly, you’ll be thinking about it. Especially if it’s something you have to do. As a result, that frog steals your bandwidth and drains your energy (how do you feel when you’re dreading getting started on a task that feels big!)
Secondly, get that task under your belt early, and you’ve already clocked up a big win for the day. You’ll get that boost of motivation because you finished, which will fuel you to go further than you would have done if you’d left it for later.
Thirdly, your daily willpower is finite. Try and tackle a frog when your energy and enthusiasm are low and it will take you 10 x longer - guaranteed!
So every day this week, schedule your day to get your frog out of the way first. It’s a habit that will help your productivity soar.
Time is the great equalizer.
It doesn’t matter who we are or where we live, we ALL get the same 24-hours a day. It’s what you do with that time, which counts.
How you choose to invest your time will directly impact the quality of your life. So invest your minutes wisely.
Commit to mastering productivity so you can get more done in less time.
It’s a skill that will keep giving back in your career, your business, your relationships, and in yourself.