It’s impossible not to know someone who isn’t busy. Most of us wake up in the morning faced with a never-ending list of to-dos and many business tasks that need completing. As an online business owner, it’s hard knowing where to start first. Yes, we cover how to get a small business up and running during our free webinar training, but what about being productive? Here are 5 productivity tips that should help you stay on task without losing your mind.
Write it down
It all starts with writing things down, which is why Lifehack says you should develop a way to make sure that happens. Whether it’s on an app, planner, or sticky notes, make sure there’s a list so you can get the essential tasks done.
Every task, every commitment should be written down. This frees your mind from the energy- and attention-sucking job of trying to remember.
In his seminal book on productivity, Getting Things Done, David Allen points out how uncompleted commitments take up psychic energy, each one making you just the tiniest bit more tired, more distracted, and therefore less productive.
He emphasizes that the first step to managing your life and time is getting every commitment, large and small, out of your head and into a trusted system.
I use OmniFocus to capture these commitments, but you can start with a simple pen and paper.
If you have a spouse or team member helping you with your business, Entrepreneur recommends delegating tasks so you can divide and conquer.
I’ll confess: I stink at this. I hate to ask for help, and often it seems more trouble to explain a task to someone else than to just do it myself.
But not everything that needs to be done in your life must be done by you.
Evaluate that to-do list carefully. What tasks could someone else do, thereby freeing you up to focus on the things only you can do?
Look around you: who is available to do some of those tasks? A secretary? A colleague? A family member? A paid helper?
An important key to productivity is doing only those things that only you can do, and giving somebody else the opportunity to contribute by doing those other tasks.
Do the most dreaded task first
We all have those tasks we dread getting done, which is why Entrepreneur is smart by recommending you tackle those tasks first. Get them out of the way, and you’ll feel a lot better, not to mention super proud of yourself for getting the challenging tasks out of the way.
Every one of us has one or more tasks on our to-do list that we dread doing.
Maybe it’s that unpleasant phone call you don’t want to make. Or that blog post you’ve been putting off writing because you don’t know how to start. Or that project that just overwhelms you because it’s so massive.
Whatever it is, it hangs over your head, distracting you with guilt because it keeps getting pushed to the next day and the next. It’s time to end that cycle.
Do it first thing. Writer Michael Hyatt talks about slaying your dragons before breakfast—there’s nothing more motivating for the rest of your day than crossing that monster off your list first thing in the morning.
But many people instead of doing the tough tasks first, they do the easy ones. But if you really want to be productive, there’re some tasks you shouldn’t do first in the morning:
So make that call. Pull out a piece of paper and brainstorm ideas for that blog post.
Do something about that overwhelming task—maybe you can’t finish it in one day, but you can at least get started. Whatever it is, just do it.
Then let the satisfaction of crossing it off your list carry you into the rest of your busy day.
Forbes agrees that putting off big projects is not a good idea. Tackle them right away, and you won’t have to deal with the monster later!
At work, it seems nothing creates more of an anvil on you than putting off a big project. It helps to tackle a portion of a harder project before doing the more common work that needs to be done. When you put off a larger project like a talk, a written piece or a looming project deadline, it weighs on you and makes you less productive on the more normal, basic, but still important tasks. – John M. O'Connor, Career Pro Inc.
Use time wisely
Time is valuable, which is why The Muse points out you must make use of your time! Eliminate the distractions and figure out how to stay productive and on task. You can do it!
Build your schedule based on your best times for getting things done. Know that you’re on-point in the mornings? Set this time aside for focused work, and try and keep it free of meetings or distractions. Always hit a lull around 3 PM? Plan an hour here every day for mindless tasks.
“Don’t underestimate the power of small chunks of time to get things done. Instead of wasting the 15 minutes between meetings, come up with a list of little tasks that you can knock out in 15, 10, or even five minutes: Answer emails, reach out to a contact, get some industry reading done.” Fast Company
Not sure where all your valuable time is going? Use a tracker like Rescue Time or Toggl to keep tabs on what you’re doing throughout the day. Over the course of a week or two, you’ll start to get a sense of what the time-sucking culprits are—and be able to plan your attack for how you’ll get rid of them.
You shouldn’t work all weekend, but try finding a couple of hours to clean out your inbox, knock out smaller, mindless tasks, and get a head start on any looming projects. Doing this while watching a movie on Sunday evenings can be a great way to get it done without it feeling like you’re doing too much work.
Use deadlines and time limits to your advantage. Even if you don’t technically have a deadline on a task, set one for yourself. Knowing that you only have two hours to get something done will help ensure you don’t waste an hour of it on the internet.
It sounds counterintuitive, but make sure to schedule plenty of breaks throughout your day. We are most productive when we have chunks of focused work followed by short breaks. Try using an online timer to remind yourself to get up from your desk, grab a snack or some water, or chat with a co-worker for a few minutes before getting back to the grindstone.
Budget limited time for your favorite distractions. Knowing that you’ll get to spend 10 minutes on Instagram after you work for a couple hours can help you avoid wasting time on it now. Plus, using that as a reward for getting through hard work can help you stay motivated.
“If you’re having trouble getting going on a project, make yourself start by running a dash. In other words, set a certain amount of time or a certain amount of work on the project that you must get done before moving on to anything else.” 43 Folders
“Always have backup tasks. There are times when life will try to derail your productivity: A person you need to talk to is unavailable, the internet is down, or you just can’t focus on the task at hand. Always have other options so that you’re able to get something done even when you can’t finish your primary task.” Time Management Ninja
Don’t overthink it
Are you an overthinker? Many of us are. However, Medium provides solid advice by mentioning you should try your best to leave the worrying behind and instead, focus on the tasks at hand. It’s okay to take breaks and pick up where you left off later. The last thing you need is to get burned out. Take things one day at a time and stay focused — it’s a lot better than having an anxiety attack.
When people say: “I’m thinking.” They mean worrying by thinking. Don’t think too much. Just DO, and see what happens. If you like what you’re seeing, continue. If not, do something else.
A few things are vital in life: Food, water, shelter, relationships, and exercise. Without this stuff you can’t function properly. Scientific research shows that regular exercise can make you happier, smarter, and more energetic.
Laughing reduces stress. And if you want to keep up your productivity, you don’t want stress. So move the corners of your mouth upward as much as you can.
Are you feeling productive yet? We can help you stay productive by offering some excellent ways to improve your company. Join us during our free webinar training to learn more about business productivity and how to make a profit from your online business.
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