Staying productive can be a challenge. That’s why The Cheat Sheet reached out to a few top productivity experts to get some of their best advice on how to zoom through the work day with ease. Here’s what they had to say.
You will never finish every task you want to get to in one day. Therefore, you must focus on the most important and valuable tasks first. Prioritize your list of to-dos and work on the ones that you need to finish today. This accomplishes a few important things. First, it helps you objectively identify the most important tasks. Second, it relieves you of the pressure you place on yourself by acknowledging that finishing everything is unrealistic. Finally, without the stress, you allow yourself the time and space you need to do a great job on each of the tasks you chose.
Igor Kholkin, Operations Manager, Coalition Technologies
Limit email responses
Years ago, my business partner mandated a 10-email-a-day maximum since reading and responding to emails was wresting control over our schedules. I responded by spending the last half hour on Fridays adding new rules to Gmail’s inbox and now, eight years (and nearly 100 rules) later, I only get the most crucial emails that merit responses — about six a day. I’m a fairly obsessive person so I liked to read and reply to every email that came in, even if my response was something like “thanks for sending this.” Although I was reluctant to make the change, it opened up a lot of time in my schedule to focus on the things that were truly important to the success of our business.
Mike Catania, chief technology officer, PromotionCode.org
Weekends need to be a time to step away from the instant demands of work and to look at the big picture. For many years, I have used social goal-setting platforms such popclogs.com to create long and short-term goals for all aspects of my life. The social aspect of these sites allows you to declare what you want to achieve and get support and strategies from people with similar goals. It also adds accountability to state your goals publicly. On Sundays, I review my long- and short-term plans, then I get outside and do something active. While I am hiking, cycling, or working in the garden, I find it frees my mind to consider steps toward those goals. At the end of the day, I write down a few small, achievable steps for the week that will help me toward my big goals. This process recharges my energy as it helps me refocus on the big picture and why I do what I do.
Buffy Simoni, President of Paper Mart
Implement a “power hour”
A productively tip that I personally use and promote to others is the implementation of a daily “power hour.” This is an hour of time set aside each day without interruptions from the phone or email to evaluate daily workflow, analyze and modify to-do lists, and pre-plan items for the following day, week, or month. This daily ritual can help small business owners stay on top of business demands while continuously adjusting plans for the future as daily work plays out. A power hour is a fluid process that can be adapted and customized to meet the unique needs and requirements of each small business owner. For example, some business owners find the power hour works best to chart progress on both short- and long-term goals, while others use the power hour to simply plan their next day’s work.
Adrienne Tom, Business and Productivity Coach, CareerPreneur Partners
Do small tasks right away
If you have a task that can be done in less than five minutes, don’t schedule the task for later, do it right away because the task time actually increases when you put it off. Here’s why: It can take you a minute to understand what to do with that task and decide you’ll do it later. The next day, you remember about it again, maybe read the email again, and again decide to do it later; that was another 30 seconds to a minute. You do that another three times in the next couple of weeks before finally getting it done. All of a sudden, a small five-minute task has actually taken 10 minutes. Now multiply that by all the requests, emails, and voicemails you get in a week: It adds up to a huge waste of time — as much as 25% to 50% of all your work time. Do the task as soon as it comes up and it reduces all that wasted time. This had a great impact on me. My task list used to be huge with all these minor tasks I didn’t want to forget about. The list was unmanageable and I missed a lot tasks, plus I wasted a bunch of time writing the task down in the first place. Now all tasks just get done. I find I forget way [fewer] tasks as they just get done and I find it frees up a chunk of time. I even created a productivity app called Completo that helps people prioritize their tasks like I do.
Matt Girvan, co-founder and president of My Gung Ho, LLC
I stopped task switching – Once I learned that multitasking was actually “task switching” and that shifting between tasks actually reduced productivity, I started working in dedicated time blocks. I focus on only one thing for a block of time (usually an hour). I get to the end of the day knowing that I’ve actually completed something, rather than moving back and forth between things “spinning my wheels” and making no traction. I’m much more productive and see greater output.
Leigh Espy, founder of Project Bliss