A few years ago, I was wildly overwhelmed with both my life and my business. I hired a productivity expert to help me identify how to better manage my time, tasks, and life! The end result at that time was unbelievable. Now, here I am five years later and it was time to revisit my weekly schedule and identify how to reposition it again for maximum productivity (with more down time).
When I hired my first productivity consultant, she had me go through the day and track everything I was doing. I was surprised to find that I was completely all over the place all day long. Even though I have always prided myself on being very efficient, I was switching tasks too often to ever really see a project through start to finish. I would be working on a marketing email or writing blog posts, and then I’d answer an email and then I’d come back to my project. Or I’d stop my day to go make lunch and dinner.
After working with Ellie, I found that I was MUCH more productive if I spent an entire afternoon writing all my blog posts for the week. I only respond to email now at certain times of the day. On days when I’m in my fitness studio, I only teach, run errands, and handle studio business. On days I’m working in my consulting business, I am only working in my consulting business.
When I make lunch, I also put together dinner (or when I’m making dinner for tonight, I’m making lunch for tomorrow). And when I clean the house, I clean the house for a few hours, not 30 minutes here and 30 minutes there.
I have learned to batch my activities in such a way that I am able to get more done and am not jumping from task to task.
Shut off All Phones, Email, and Social Media For Blocks of Time
In today’s society, we are all SO plugged in ALL the time! We expect that when we send a text that someone will get it and respond within minutes. We expect that with cell phones that people will answer our calls. And we expect that when we send an email, we will get a response within hours. All of these different methods of communication quickly become a distraction. You can literally be in the middle of emailing someone and you get a text. You then drop the email, respond to the text, and then go back to responding to the email. I’m sure you’ve been here – right???
But with this methodology, you have allowed someone else to control your day, your schedule, and your focus! If you have something that needs to get done, turn off ALL forms of communication for an hour or two at a time.
I once had a business coach teach me to create an auto responder that said that I was unavailable at this time, and would return all messages between 11 and noon and again between 3 and 4. This allowed me to set the expectation that I wouldn’t always be available, and it allowed me to be better focused!
So now, every single day I sit down with my computer for at least two hours with my phone on do not disturb and I focus on my tasks at hand! It has helped tremendously!
Do you have things that you do over and over and over again? Do you have emails that go out time and time again? Do you have bills that you pay month in and month out? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to spend some time in your business and your life developing systems! Your time is your most precious commodity. Once it is gone, you can never get it back. So, if you spend less time working, you can have more time to do other things that you enjoy.
For me, I started developing systems when I started hiring staff. I found that the more systems, the more training videos, and the more we automated, the smoother everything ran, and the less time everything took. I also found that if I had great systems, things were done the same time and time again. If I did not have systems and organization, I could go to the office one day and find supplies in one place, and then the following week, I would find them in not only a different place, but sometimes a completely different room! It used to cause everyone a lot of anxiety and waste a lot of time when they couldn’t find things!!
If you have bills that come month in and month out, maybe you can set up an autopay with your credit card company, and eliminate the amount of time you send on bills.
If you send a series of emails to clients to make announcements, you can create email templates or email automation.
The more you can systematize, the more time you will have to spend on what is truly important.
Do The Highest Impact Activities First
So, this is a new tip after hiring a new productivity coach this year! After making changes to my business over the past few years, I have taken on a number of new projects and staff. Although I get much more done, I find that I have an awful lot more to do! I schedule all my “to do’s” in my ical and move them around from day to day as they are completed or not completed. What I have found over the past six months is that I have become a bit overwhelmed by my to do list, so I started tackling the low hanging fruit (the easy to complete tasks). This would have been fine if I didn’t seem to keep finding more “easy to complete” tasks. Ultimately, over the past few months I have looked at my calendar, only to find that the really really important tasks that would move my business forward exponentially are the tasks that keep getting pushed from day to day. These are some of the harder tasks I have on my agenda, so I have been hesitant to tackle them. But these are also the tasks that would have the largest impact on my success, and they have been ignored for months!!! And as you would expect, revenues have gone down accordingly. I could spend all day finding more things to do. But that doesn’t mean I am actually getting anything done!
I have now stepped back and started identifying my High Impact activities – things that will supercharge my business. These are the things that I will focus on in my day to day. I am trying to outsource all the other stuff!
For example, one of my high impact activities this year is webinars and list building. I kept creating content and improving the program rather than just putting it out there and hosting the webinar, and revising it as I went! In a similar fashion, I have been nervous about hitting the speaking circuit, despite having given a number of keynote talks and having been on television at least five times! I kept resisting writing my new signature talk. After deciding to focus on this as an impact activity, I wrote this signature talk in less than four hours because I had a lot I wanted to say, and I knew just how I wanted to say it. But if I had not made this activity a priority, I never would have gotten around to it!
And the final large change I will be making this year to increase my productivity is that I will…
My productivity coach, Todd Herman, recently delivered a video training series in which he showed the dangers of multi-tasking and “context switching.” In this video he showed how as humans, most of us have 4-5 projects going on at one time and that we are actively working on all of them at the same time. According to PhD Susan Weinschenk, it is believed that by switching from two tasks, we are losing about 40% of our productivity. Considering most of us are multi-tasking to hopefully get more done, it seems hard to believe that by going from one task to another, that we are actually LOSING productivity.
But a recent American Psychological Association Study showed that when we are multitasking, we are switching back and forth between four different parts of our brain quickly. This actually slows down our brain and causes us to make more mistakes.
So if you are serious about increasing your productivity over this next year, keep it simple! Focus on one thing at a time. Turn off the distractions, batch your activities and focus on the task at hand. You’ll likely find that you get more done in less time, with less mistakes and frustration!!