productivity tips and tricks

Productivity Tips & Tools

I read a lot about productivity and inevitably my takeaway is that people who write about this subject are already highly productive. They’re the super-workers of the world. But let’s face it, the reason most of us read about productivity is the same reason we invent time-saving devices and phone apps … we want more time to hang out and do the non-work things we enjoy. Am I right?

I’ve tried a lot of techniques to make the most of my business day and maximize my productivity, and here’s what lets me waste less time and enjoy life more:

1.  Keep a To-Do List

Go old-school with your to-do list and use a notepad and pencil. Or go high-tech with Evernote or Trello or one of the hundreds of apps out there that sync and update and highlight and remind. If you’re managing a team, try a tool like Producteev to manage to-do lists for projects and people. Do what feels right. Just keep a list and modify it as needed.
A to-do list will keep you on track and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

2.  Regiment Your Time

If you’ve been at your computer for 4 hours but haven’t gotten anything done, it’s time to start getting strict with yourself. Try the Pomodoro method. This has you work for 25 minute blocks capped by 5 minute breaks. My team member who tried this didn’t have a problem with 25 minutes of continuous work. But only 5 minute breaks!? Her usual long stints of work led to long stints of emailing, chatting with co-workers, taking personal calls, putting out fires, playing games, and surfing. “When I break, I break bad.”
Regiment your time and you’ll soon see how much of it you waste.

3.  Track Your Time

Once you get the hang of cutting out time-wasters during the day, you can take that a step further and track your time. This can be as basic as noting the time when you start and end a project. Or you can try something fancy like Freckle or Harvest, which are great tools if you’re working as part of a team on a billable project. Or go with something simple like WorkTimer or Toggl. Then analyze how you spend your time. Maybe you offer a service that used to be your bread and butter but isn’t cost effective anymore. Maybe you simply aren’t good at something.
A tracking tool will help you decide if your time could be better spent.

4.  Outsource to Professionals

We can’t all be experts on everything. Also, there are some things we just don’t like to do. Say you’ve tracked your time and identified that you spent 10 hours a week managing your business’s social media. You hated every minute of it, and it didn’t even do much good as far as you can tell. This is when you need to outsource and hire a professional social media expert. Or maybe you discovered you need a personal assistant, an editor, a web developer, a bookkeeper, a beekeeper, a dog walker.
For every task you hate, ask yourself if there’s someone you can hire for the job.

5.  Do One Thing at a Time

Multitasking does not exist. If you think you’re good at multitasking, what you’re really good at is task shifting (scientist say so). And once you know you’re task shifting, doesn’t it make more sense to just concentrate on one thing at a time and do that thing well? Unless you work as a chef in a busy kitchen, it’s unlikely that you need to be good at rapid-fire task shifting.
Just do what you’re doing, do it well, then move on.

To-Do:  Stop Planning

The gadgets and apps and tools are great. I try them and integrate the ones that work. Sometimes I use one for a while until something better comes along or I don’t need it anymore. The point here is, don’t get too caught up in tracking and managing lists and researching and switching tools. A not-so-great plan put into action today is better than one that’s been stalled endlessly for the planning. So, keep in mind the end goal, whatever that is—luge lessons, bonsai, knitting—and go back to work.