Thursday, April 7, 2016

5 Strategies for a More Productive Day

Productivity is all about getting closer to your goals. That's it - plain and simple. Do what you set out to do, and you're productive. Do it better, or faster, or more of it, and you're more productive.

It follows, then, that being more productive gets you closer to your goals, and getting closer to your goals means your achieving the things in life you wanted to, which means you should be happier. So, if being more productive makes you happier, let's dive right in and talk about how to be more productive!

Here are 5 ideas you can implement today to help increase your productivity:

1.) Plan your tomorrow, today.

Spend 5-10 minutes in the evening thinking about what, specifically, you want to accomplish tomorrow, and write it down.

  • What is the main thing you want to work on tomorrow?
  • How many calls are you going to make? To whom?
  • What are you going to do to connect with your Sphere of Influence (newsletter, blog post, personal emails, social media posts)? What about? How many? To whom?
  • How many strangers are you going to introduce yourself to? Where will you meet them?

If you know your direction when the day starts, you can get a long way down that road while others are still trying to figure out where they're going.

2.) Control your email.

Email might be the biggest game changer in communication speed in the last 100 years, but it has a nasty side effect of taking us off track just as fast.

  • Don't read-react-respond to every email that hits your inbox as if it's urgent; it's not. It will wait patiently for you to respond when you're ready.
  • Use folders/labels to get the non-urgent stuff out of your way. This is especially important for those of you who, like me, get flustered by a cluttered inbox. Here are the labels I use in gmail:
    • Inbox - should stay clean & empty. Check emails as they come in, because you don't want to miss something from a client or referral source. But get them out of your way quickly.
    • Read Later - for articles, newsletters, and promotional offers. You can peruse these when YOU decide is the right time. Don't let them interrupt your flow.
    • Action Items - If your response to an email will take less than 2 minutes, go ahead and respond. If your response will require additional time for thought, research, and writing, put this email into an Action Items folder. You can work on it as soon as you're done with your current task. (or later in the day - whatever YOU decide.)
    • Confirmation emails - Order confirmations from online shopping, hotel reservations, airline tickets, etc., should be moved into a Confirmation folder. This gets them out of the way of your inbox, but still gives you easy access to find them when you need them. Once your product arrives or your vacation is over, you can archive the emails.

Using email to help you accomplish the task you're currently working on, without letting it take you on side-trips to all sorts of other tasks, is a huge step towards increasing your productivity.

3.) Close Windows & Tabs

Single tasking is far more productive than trying to multi-task. Focus on what it is you're working on, right now, and maintain that focus until the task is complete. Additional windows, apps, and browser tabs will at best be ignored, and could easily lead to distractions. Believe me, you will make up the extra 30 seconds it takes to re-open an application many times over by not being distracted in the first place.

Do you sometimes have extra tabs open in your browser because you're afraid you won't be able to find that webpage again later if you close it now? Use Temporary Bookmarks - create a bookmark folder called Temporary for these tabs. Bookmark the tab in Temporary and close the tab. Now you'll be able to find it later, and you can rid your browser of extra distractions in the meantime. You can review this bookmark folder once in awhile and delete the older bookmarks you don't need anymore.

4.) Add some healthy to your life

How many times have you thought you could be more productive if you just had more energy? Exercise and lower percentages of body fat have been shown to increase energy levels. So just do it (be healthier), and then just do it (your work!)

  • Food - Eliminate the worst junk foods from your house: prepackaged donuts and cookies, anything that ends in "itos", etc.
  • Exercise - 20 minutes, 3 days a week, goes a long way towards healthy.
  • Plan your Workouts - Per #1 above - write down what workout you're going to do tomorrow, and then get your clothes out and be ready to go.

I'm not saying you have to go fully organic and start training for triathlons, but food is fuel and fitness is good. Paying a little better attention to how you treat your body can make a noticeable difference in your daily productivity.

5.) Social Media - Don't do it, unless:

Like email, social media has changed the way we connect with each other. And the change has been profound. However, also like email, it can be used to either enhance your productivity, or grind it down to zero.

  • Productive Social Media - This is a connection business, and social media is an awesome tool for connecting with people. You can interact with old friends, new prospects, and referral sources. You can also discuss industry trends and ideas with other professionals from around the country. If these were on your today's list from #1 above, then you've been using social media to increase your productivity!
  • Bad Social Media - The trouble with social media is how easy it is to get derailed. You start out by connecting with a prospect, then click on a video she posted, and the next thing you know you've spent most of the morning surfing through videos, photos, and links out to other websites. A funny video here, and interesting factoid there, and suddenly it's time for lunch and you haven't done anything important yet today.

The scary thing about social media is how quickly it can go from productivity tool to useless waste of time; it only takes one mouse click (and a lapse in awareness) and you're down the rabbit hole.

Bonus Tip - Ask it out loud

Get in the habit of asking yourself what you're working on, out loud. If you feel yourself drifting, ask "What am I working on right now?" This may feel awkward at first, but it'll quickly snap you back into your zone. Over time you'll get used to spotting yourself drift off course more quickly.

And that's it - 5 simple strategies to help you get more of the important stuff done each day. Now get out there and get some good work done!

- Chris Butterworth

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