Top Tip 1: Vision
In order for you to be efficient with your time, you need to know what your vision is. What do you want from your business in 1 year, 3 years or 5 years? What does success look like to you? Then create a vision board so that every day you know exactly what you are striving towards.
Top Tip 2: Bite Sized Chunks
Now that you have your vision, you need to make it manageable. Make a ‘To-Do’ list of what needs to be done to get where you are going – and then make those tasks smaller. If you approach the day with a task to ‘develop the website’ it will make your brain scream. If you break that task down into small components such a ‘register domain name’, ‘decide on type of software’ (and with a timeline attached) it will not only feel more manageable but is much more likely to get done.
Top Tip 3: Stop Multi-Tasking
There I’ve said it, “Stop multi-tasking!” Trying to do 3 tasks at once means getting 3 tasks done badly! Equally if you are switching between tasks you lose productivity as your brain has to re-focus on the new task in hand (see last week article, “Multi-Tasking: Good Use of Time or a Waste of Time?”). Stick to one task only and until it’s complete!
Top Tip 4: Work in Short Intervals
There is nothing like a deadline to focus the mind, so a great technique for getting work done is by setting your own mini deadlines. My favourite is setting my alarm for every 30 minutes and giving myself a task to do for every interval for example, writing an article or developing a proposal for a client (think ‘manageable bite-sized chunks’). It’s surprising what can be achieved this way. If the task is likely to take more than 30 minutes I will often be so involved in the task the first time the alarm goes off, that I set it again – and guess what? One whole hour of focused attention on the task in hand! Additionally, take short breaks or switch tasks every 1 – 1 ½ hours. Your brain will need this to re-energise – so either take a quick walk or find something completely different to do (personally I like to schedule my phonecalls after writing a business case as this requires a different skill set and refreshes me).
Top Tip 5: Eliminate Distractions
We cannot work in a productive way if we are continually distracted. What is the biggest distraction in the workplace? Emails! We are in the middle of a task and ‘ping’ up pops an email and then we find ourselves opening it up and dealing with what is now in front of us, abandoning the task which was important 5 minutes ago. Find ways of eliminating your distractions in a way which works for you. I find that for emails, it helps to have points in the day where I open and prioritise them: once in the morning, after lunch and late afternoon. This means I am always on top of my communications but I am not allowing them to get in the way of my tasks.
Top Tip 6: Use the Phone
We seem to have an over-reliance on using email for communication and then when we are looking for a prompt reply we find ourselves staring at the screen waiting for the reply email to pop up, and getting frustrated. Actually this is one of the times, it’s better to pick up the phone as you will either get an instant reply, or an indication of when our query can be dealt with. Equally, if you think your query will take more than one email to get sorted (how many times do you find yourself having an email conversation with someone), then it’s actually more productive to pick up the phone.
Top Tip 7: Work Smarter – Not Harder
Ok, we’ve all heard this phrase, but how many of us actually work as SMART as we can? When you’re presented with your list of tasks, think to yourself: What can I delegate? What can I outsource? If there is someone else who can do the job better or quicker than you then these are very real options. There is no point in juggling your main job along with the finances, the marketing and the admin, it will just lead to some of the tasks being completed badly and to you working extremely long hours and for not much money. If you outsource the admin that takes you 4 hours a day, the likelihood is that an experienced administrator can complete the task in a lot less time, leaving you time to focus on your real job!
About the author:
Yvonne Vigar is a Leadership and Performance Coach as Astara Coaching www.astara-coaching.co.uk