2016 is around the corner and lots of people will start the new year off with fancy new years resolutions.
One area where entrepreneurs might look at improving is productivity.
There’s always room for improvement, and streamlining your days helps you get more things done, which in turn propels your business forward.
If you’re considering having productivity as one of your resolutions, or even if you’re just wanting to get more out of your day right now, here are my best tips.
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1. Tackle your least desirable tasks first
We all have those tasks that we simply hate. Whether it’s because they are difficult, time consuming or just dull, they often get continually pushed back. This isn’t healthy though as it starts to instill a sense of dread for the task, and you can lose even more time and energy fretting over actually starting it!
Instead, take the bull by the horns and get it over with!
Either that our outsource it.
2. Quit social media
There has never been a time when posting a picture of your cat to Facebook has been considered productive. Neither is looking at pictures of cats on Facebook.
Sure, in the online marketing world we need, and should, use social media as part of our business, but it’s all too easy to get sucked into it and have an hour disappear.
If that sounds like you then you have a few options:
Only use social media (for business) towards the end of the day, that way any blurring into cat photos dips into your own personal time.
Use a program/app to block websites for a specified time, such as Cold Turkey.
Hire someone to manage your social media for you, thus reducing the temptation by not even needing to visit those sites.
3. Use technology and automate
Some days it feels like working on a computer causes less productivity than not. In fact it amazes me how much time we spend doing tasks and jobs when we can leverage the power of computers to do it for us.
Make use of apps and services to reduce your workload:
IFTTT / Zapier
These services allow you to automate a process based on something else. For example if you post an article on your WordPress website, you can set it up so that your Twitter/Facebook account automatically post a notification about the new article. That’s just one idea of many!
A text expander
As a coder I use snippets a lot. These are pre-written code segments that can be reused in other coding projects. You can take this idea and use it in your day to day life by using a text expander program.
These are like autocorrect on overdrive; you type a few letters or a few words and it will replace them with a pregenerated snippet. Example, type Joe Bloggs and Joe’s full name, address, phone number and email appear.
Use services like Asana, Google Docs and Trello to track your tasks and projects. Having everything in one place and being able to share it from that place can make life easier
We all want to read up on the latest internet marketing news or an article related to your field and niche, but is stopping mid-morning to read a 3,000 word article on SEO rally the best use of your time?
No, the answer is no.
Instead use a service like Pocket to tag these interesting articles for reading at a later, and more suitable, date.
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4. Disconnect when you need to focus
If you really need to focus, turn off your phone, unplug the internet and find a room with a lock.
“But I need the internet for research!” I hear you cry. Well, do the research up front or even just ignore the research and get as much done as you can without it.
5. Know what you’re going to do
Before you head to bed at night, right a list of things you need to do tomorrow. Also mark each one with a priority so if something truly urgent comes up, you have an idea of which tasks can be abandoned.
Rather than writing a “to do” list, write down your schedule for the day, or even the week.
Block in time for everything; the tasks and your breaks.
This way you can hit the ground running in the morning, knowing precisely what you have to do and when.
6. Take a break
Working 16 hour days with no breaks is not only a crappy life, but it can kill you, or at least burn you out!
Instead, take regular breaks throughout the day. Walk away from your desk or even better go outside and take a stroll.
Take advantage of techniques like the Pomodor Technique, which helps you focus on tasks and enforces breaks.
Lifted from Wikipedia:
- Decide on the task to be done
- Set the pomodoro timer to n minutes (traditionally 25)
- Work on the task until the timer rings; record with an x
- Take a short break (3–5 minutes)
- After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes)
7. Schedule exercise
Staying healthy is important generally, and has a surprising effect on productivity. Exercise increases your level of alertness and generally makes you feel better, so you are more likely to get things done.
Top entrepreneurs recommend grabbing your daily exercise first thing in the morning.
8. Work to your own beat
Each of us has our own rhythms, and those rhythms dictate when our most productive time is. You need to define your own and modify your schedule to fit.
If you get things done first thing in the morning, schedule your toughest work for then, when you are most productive. You’re favorite jobs and easy work can be done when your rhythm is lowest.
9. Prioritize incoming tasks
No matter what you do for work, new things will continue to pop up each day.
The general rule of thumb here is to see if the job will take a short time to do or not. If it does, then get it done and out of the way, if it takes a longer time, schedule it for another day.
Some people state to use a 2 minute rule, others a 5 minute rule. The choice is yours!
We’ve discussed outsourcing on I’ve Tried That recently so I won’t go into too much detail here.
The basic rule is that if you hate a job, are not skilled to do the job, or the job is menial/time consuming, then outsource it!
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11. Email is evil
Email is an amazing invention and absolute hell if you are not controlling it with an iron fist!
There are several ways to take control of your inbox back:
- Only look at it once or twice a day, at set periods.
- Make use of Google’s tabs system to filter out unimportant email
- Use email rules to filter important emails
- Use a separate email address/account to sign up for things that are not business related, and only check it periodically
12. Start early
Making the most of your day is important. If you sleep in until 9 you probably won’t start work until 10. Instead try to get up and about at 6am or earlier!
Of course, factor in your own rhythms and home life, but an early start can make a huge difference to your day!
13. But get enough sleep!
Heading to bed at 3am, and waking up at 7am? Don’t do it! While waking early is good, you still need to get enough sleep otherwise you simply won’t function correctly and everything will take much longer to do (or need to be redone due to the sleep related errors!).
If you must procrastinate, get paid for it!
Finally, there will be times when you give in to temptation and start browsing the internet, or watch videos of cats and cucumbers.
This is fine, occasionally, but why not benefit from it as well?
Sign up to a service such as Swagbucks and make some money while browsing the web. It’s free, unobtrusive and pays you for not getting on with your work!
The Bottom Line
Those were my tips for becoming more productive in 2016, but let’s face it, you can use all of those tips right now to become more productive! What are you waiting for?