We all have the same twenty-four-hour day. How we each manage that day is the most important factor in determining our success or failure. Entrepreneurs should carefully examine how their daily routines affect their productivity. These four root causes impact productivity most.
1. Lack of Organizational Skills
The ability to organize is the key to productivity, and we are not speaking of a simple as a “to do” list. Organizational skills overlap with management skills that ensure you get the most from your staff and vendors on behalf of your customers. The ability to delegate, for example, is a critical management skill that impacts productivity.
2. Working Counter to One’s Internal Clock
Everyone has a personal rhythm, an internal clock. This encompasses more than being a “day” person or a “night” person. It is understanding your peak times, and when your capacity is greatest for energy, productivity and focus. Mark Twain famously said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Good advice, however, it doesn’t go far enough. Understanding your personal rhythms allows you to schedule tasks when you are best prepared to handle them.
Tomorrow is not a labor-saving device. Tasks that have not been completed are an unwanted distraction that devour attention and sap productivity from the things that need to be done immediately.
4. Inadequate Sleep
You need sleep—some need 6 hours, others need eight. But beyond sleep, one also needs to relax. Allocating time for adequate rest and relaxation makes you inherently more productive.
Hacks to Get More from Your Day
Here are five hacks that you can use to boost your time management skills and make every day productive.
- Prioritize by tackling the most difficult tasks during the hours you have determined are your most productive (eat the frog first). Schedule less arduous tasks for the hours you have determined are less productive based on your personal rhythms.
- Consider implementing the Pomodoro Technique. This technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980’s, makes use of a timer to divide work into 25-minute intervals, punctuated by breaks. It can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed by breaking down time-intensive projects into smaller time components.
- Use the two-minute rule. If a task can be accomplished in under two minutes, it’s better to complete the task now than to put it on your to-do-list. While this is generally true, you should also ask yourself two questions: 1) is the task recurring? 2) can the task be automated? If the task is recurring, it may be better to teach someone to complete the task and then delegate it. If the task is recurring and can be automated, spend the additional time to do so.
- Task batching helps maximize focus, efficiency, ingenuity, and mental acuity while reducing distraction, stress, and fatigue. Task batching involves grouping similar tasks together and completing them during a dedicated time period with no interruptions. This time management technique works by minimizing the time it takes for your brain to shift from one task and refocus on another task.
- Start bragging—by talking freely to coworkers, friends, and family regarding your goals, you place yourself in a position where others can hold you to account. Being in this position is an incentive to perform and make good on your boasts.
Productivity is a skill you can develop through diligent practice. Invest in it wisely and you will be able to get more out of your day than is otherwise possible. More importantly, you’ll feel less stress and a greater sense of accomplishment when you do.