by Spence Rogers
With the invention of the internet, computers, and mobile devices, knowing how to improve productivity is an essential skill to know. So below are some personal tips that I have found to be very helpful.
Plan Ahead and Stick to the Plan
Either the night before or in the morning, sit down and write out what you want to accomplish during the day. At a minimum write down three tasks that you want to accomplish. Each task should be able to be accomplished in less than 1 hour. If you think the task its too big for 1 hour, then just put a sub-task down to help you with the overall task or put “1 hour of working on X”. For example, if you are in marketing and building a website (which usually takes weeks), just write down a task like “identify the site layout” or “research similar sites”. Those should take about an hour. Also include 3 back up tasks. Overall you should have 3 main tasks that you will get done and 3 back up tasks. Of course there are other ways to plan, but I have found this to be very helpful.
Stay Laser Focused
Keep coming back to the tasks you want to get done. If you get distracted, take a breather and then come back and focus. Close out all the applications on your computer and turn off all the distractions. Stay focused on your main tasks for the day. If you finish your main tasks, start working on your back up tasks. Keep the tasks in front of you on a 3×5 card so you don’t forget what you are working on.
If you get Mojo – Take Advantage of It!
Often when writing, reading, working on a project, or even working out in the gym – sometimes you have your mojo and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you can write for hours or work out for hours and sometimes you are dog tired and can’t get anything done. So when you have these bursts of creativity, energy, and motivation – ride them all the way through. Instead of writing 1 article or 1 chapter, write 3 or 4. Instead of working out for 30 minutes, work out for 2 hours. You know what your weaknesses are. So if you can accomplish a lot of something you don’t always have mojo for, take advantage of it.
Batching is Key
If you are like me you have multiple different things tugging at you. And if you run a marketing company like I do, you have multiple clients. So I have to be highly efficient with my time in order to accomplish the tasks that are needed. So what I do is instead of doing multiple tasks from multiple topics, clients, and requirements, I pick ONE topic for an entire morning or afternoon and focus only on that topic. A good example is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I will do a ton of SEO all morning or a ton of SEO all afternoon for my company and my clients. My brain is thinking SEO – I don’t want to switch gears to email marketing or social media marketing. I want my SEO brain on and I ride the wave for all of my SEO requirements. Same thing with bills – I do all my bills in one afternoon on a weekly or biweekly basis instead of opening bills every day and processing them. There is a lot that goes into bills, so I get my letter opener, my scanner, my stamps, and anything else I need and I JUST DO BILLS. I can’t tell you how much batching has helped me and it will help you too.
Automate Whenever Possible
There are many tasks that you can put on auto pilot. Some people use E bills or auto pay. This will save you time. If there is an auto-responder email that will help you, use that. If there is a mobile app that automates something for you, use that. You can automate your computer backup or you can backup your photos from your phone to the cloud automatically. Email providers have filters that help organize your emails which are also really helpful. Get rubber stamps for things you write or type a lot – for example – your address or “for deposit only”. Different people write different things, but you can get a cheap $5 stamp from any discount stamp store and it will more than make up for the time it takes you to write out all that info on every letter, check, or envelope.
Keep Good Records for the Important Stuff
Often you will need various information over and over again in your life. Passport number, passwords, birthdays for close family and friends, drivers license number, important addresses, voter ID number, and about 20-30 other data points that are useful. So if you keep these pieces of information in an organized fashion or on an encrypted & password protected document then you will be able to save yourself some time during job applications, insurance applications, buying a home, lawsuits, school registration, or whatever else may come your way in life as far as paperwork is concerned.
Digitize your Records
Being organized is a commodity. So is having space in your office. I can’t stress enough how getting a quality scanner (Snansnap makes a good one) and scanning your documents can help. First of all you will keep more information than if you kept paper copies. It is a lot easier to create a digital folder than to create a manila folder with a label. It is a lot easier to search digital records. It is even easier to share certain documents with family and friends via email or a secure cloud server. In times past, people used to destroy bills that were 5 years old. But now you can digitize them and keep them in a nice little folder called “2009”. Date the file name and put a good description on the file and you are all set. Shred all documents that are not highly important (a lien, a title, a birth certificate, etc. I consider highly important). Still scan the highly important documents, but then save them in a safe place. But the bills – you can send those to the shredder once you have processed it and scanned it. Shredding is a lot of fun too. One more quick tip – make sure you oil your shredder or it will die on you.
Give Yourself a Deadline and Communicate that Deadline
So if you have a task that is due at an unknown time in the future, calculate how many days it will take you and then add a day or two then put it down on your task list or calendar. Only do this for important tasks and not the small stuff (like take out the trash – that is small). But if you are doing something for a client or for a major event coming up like a wedding, put that task down. And if others are waiting on you to finish that task, make sure you communicate when you plan to have it done by. This will help them with the expectations and it will help you so that you now know you need to get it done. And if you are going to be late, communicate that too. Over-communicate deadlines or people will think you are flaky. I always try to set expectations and then do my best to beat my deadline. This is a very helpful way of staying focused.
Segment Your Lists
In the age of internet we all have Facebook friends, email contacts, Google+ Circles, Linked In connections, Twitter Followers, and the list goes on and on. Some people you know from business, others you know as friends, others you may have added and you don’t know anything about them. So it is important to find the main types of people in your list of connections. So let’s say those main people are (as an example): Friends (people you actually hang out with), Family, Business Associates, and Classmates. So you want to take the additional time and create labels and lists of these people in your Facebook, email, and every other platform. Even Twitter allows lists. And the reason you do this is because when you are in a bind or a pinch, you can quickly access the people who are important to you. Did you know that you can invite entire lists of people to an event in Google Calendar? Did you know that Facebook also lets you do this? Or in Gmail, that same group of people that you added to an event can then be emailed as a group? This is important and the benefits are obvious. So you can’t do this for every type of contact you have on every single platform because it would take a lot of time, but you can do this on the top 3 sites (email, Facebook, and Twitter – for example) with your top three groups. That is a good place to start and it will save you tons of time later – trust me.
Identify What Your Time is Worth Then Farm Out and Sub Out
The question I ask people often is – what is your time worth? And most people don’t know. So you have to sit down and realize what that is. Some people it is $10 an hour. Some people it is $20 an hour. An accountant or lawyer it might be $300 an hour. For public officials who are on the speaking circuit, it may be $20,000 an hour. So you have to determine what your time is worth based on your salary or hourly wage.
For this example lets say your time is worth $20 an hour. So if there are tasks you know will take you 3 hours to do, then the opportunity cost (what you would make if you were doing your job or working on your business) would be 3x$20=$60. So if it takes you 3 hours to mow the lawn ($60), but some guy is willing to mow it for $20, then you are being more efficient with your time by paying someone to do it. Use those extra 3 hours you have now gained to be more productive: Figure out a good investment or some other productivity hack that can help your bottom line; Cut household or business costs; Cancel an expensive recurring bill for a bulk purchase; Use your time to make your life better.
The more you can farm out and sub out the better you will be as long as the opportunity cost of you doing it is more expensive than what you are paying someone else to do it.
One other point is some time is does not have a price tag – time with your children or spouse – is a good example. So in that case, if you aren’t able to spend time on doing the important stuff, all the more reason to farm out some of your tasks to someone else.
Call in the Car, Email at the Desk
Many people like to make calls at the desk. I strongly caution against this if you do a lot of driving. It is more efficient to email 5-10 people than to call one person. Now sometimes you need to be at the desk to take notes and in those cases sure. But if you are just calling to catch up with a client or you are calling about something that doesn’t need a lot of thought, then do it in the car on your way to wherever you are driving to. If you are in the car, think of people you could reach out to and call them. Why not? You are driving anyway… It is unsafe to text in the car and red lights are really not that long so it is way better to call. And it is that personal touch of calling that often solidifies a relationship.
Double Up Tasks Whenever Possible
Think about ways to double up your time when you are doing routine tasks to add value to what you are doing.. For example, most people eat out. We all get gas. We all have to go to the store. Why not get on Yelp or Foursquare and check in to those places? That will give you a much better Yelp or Foursquare profile so when you rate places you carry more weight – your profile has more credibility when you do more check ins. So if you eat out and a place is really good, you can rate it 5 stars and vice versa, if a place really burns you and they are off-the-wall bad, you can rate them with a low rating. This gives you power and gives you a say in life. When you have more of a say you are more valuable – it opens up more doors. But all of this can be done while you are waiting in line or waiting on your check. There are tons of examples of where you can double up your tasks without reducing efficiency. If you are lying down at the beach, listen to an E-book. Or a lot of people listen to E-books in the car when they go on road trips.
Get More Time
Need more time? Go to bed earlier instead of staying up all night watching that show that you really don’t want to watch. Then get up earlier and use that time to get things done. So instead of staying up until 11:30 pm and then go to work at 7 am, go to bed at 10:00 pm and get up at 5:30 am and knock out some tasks. People are more energized in the morning anyway, so take advantage of the mornings and cut off some time at night.
Overall, being efficient enables you to do more. We are on this earth but a short time and the more we can do with our time the better we will be. If you think of any other ideas, please post them below. I am always wanting to learn more about how to be productive.
Latest posts by Spence Rogers (see all)
- 8 Ways to Use Pinterest to Grow your Brand - September 3, 2016
- Google Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, and Pigeon Differences - May 9, 2016
- 10 Helpful WordPress Plugins - September 9, 2015