I’m one of the most productive people I know. Getting so much done in so little time gives me a lot of free time I can spend with my family and friends, which is something I really enjoy. The techniques I use to be highly productive are very simple, but they require a big deal of discipline.
The biggest enemy of getting things done is interruptions. My solution is very simple: I wake up at 5am every morning and I work until 9am without checking my email, Facebook or my phone. I just get work done. Simple, huh? If 5am to 9am doesn’t work for you, pick whatever time slot you want, but turn off your phone, disable email alerts and don’t check Facebook or Twitter. You won’t believe how much you get done when nobody is talking to you, calling you or tweeting you.
Some people would argue that they NEED to be checking their email or getting calls ALL THE TIME because they don’t want to lose business. I’d say that 95% of the time, people will be OK with leaving you a voicemail and having you call them back later. And you’ll get so much more work done that it’ll more than make up for the 5% of the time when you could actually lose business. And yes, most people are OK with getting a response to their emails in a few hours; you don’t need to reply to every single email as you receive it.
I understand that this is very different from how most people deal with email, and I’m not saying that change is comfortable; I’m saying that the spike in productivity is worth some temporary discomfort.
Brain scientists have proven that humans can’t focus on two conscious acts at a time. You can chew gum and solve a math problem at the same time because chewing gum is an unconscious act once you know how to do it. But you can’t read an email and talk to someone over the phone at the same time. You can switch your attention back and forth between these two tasks, but you can’t focus on both at the same time. That’s why you should avoid distractions when you’re getting work done.
Twice a day I check my email, social networks and my phone for voicemails. I spend the rest of my days actually working.
Group Similar Tasks Together
It’s unbelievable how much easier and fun your week can be when you group similar tasks together. I have all my meetings and calls on Thursdays and Fridays. Once a month I have a “content day” when I write my blog posts for the entire month. On Wednesdays I go over all the campaigns for our clients.
This is very effective because different tasks require different skills and the less you have to switch between the skills you use, the more productive you are. Let me give you an example: on Thursdays and Fridays, when I’m meeting people, I put my “sociable” hat on. I’m much more lighthearted, less focused and more fun to be around. When I have to write content, on the other hand, I stay home and work from my home office. I make myself a great cup of coffee, lean back in my reclinable chair and start writing. I don’t take any calls and don’t talk to anyone. Group similar tasks together and you’ll become much more productive.
My Magic Formula: EDP
We can all agree that there’s always much more stuff to do than we have time for. That’s why I love my EDP formula so much. EDP stands for “Eliminate. Delegate. Prioritize.”
The first thing I do is eliminate tasks from my to do list. About one-third of my tasks at any given point can be eliminated without causing major problems. Get rid of the tasks that you can afford to get rid of.
The next step is to delegate as much as possible. If your team is great, this should be easy. If it isn’t, stop micromanaging and empower your employees. You’ll never be a great manager if you keep telling your team how to do everything instead of hiring the best people, giving them guidance and letting them figure things out.
And finally, prioritize your tasks and work on the most important ones first. This is actually very difficult because we’re wired to want to mark things as done and we’re tempted to work on the easy things first. Getting the most important things done requires a lot of discipline. On Tuesday mornings I take care of all these small things and that frees up a lot of time I normally spend working on big, important projects.
I hope you found this post useful. What other productivity tricks do you know?