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When Enough Is Enough: The Perfectionist's Secret to Higher Productivity

When Enough Is Enough The Perfectionists Secret to Higher Productivity
image credit: John Turner World

As you know, many of us have a variety of projects requiring our attention each day, both in the office and at home. To be more effective, you need to separate "perfect" from "productive." The keys to help make this happen are:

1. Focus
2. Planning ahead

We all know only so much can get done in a 24-hour period. To be more productive, you need to consciously choose what you want to focus your energy and time on. And, almost as important, you also need to identify what activities to not focus your energy on each day. Some events and activities are going to move you closer to your goals and those may make the most sense to focus on. Some items need to be let go, get delegated and be simply ignored. . . at least for now.

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And, of course, not everything can be completed to perfection. Sometimes "good enough" truly is. . . enough. . . and then it is time to move onto the next task. Or to pass the current task to someone else who can take it to the next level. There is just not enough time in a day to complete everything to perfection and still get everything done.

Undeniably, focus is essential to be productive. Most people can only focus for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time on one task. Give yourself that small but important window of solid focus. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can actually complete some tasks when you focus completely on just them. Multitasking seems to be a way of life in our culture, but to be truly productive, focus is essential.

As an exercise, try singular focus on one or two tasks today. Set an alarm for 15 minutes and just focus on that one task. This focus may allow you to delve deeper into that topic rather than just quickly glancing at it. You are not looking for perfection here, just focused productivity. You may be amazed at how quickly you can actually complete a task with 15 focused minutes or how far you are able to move that task forward. Again, focus is critical.

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You can also increase your productivity by planning ahead. For example, getting the amount of sleep you need each night gives you the ability to focus more effectively the next day. It is challenging to be focused when you are tired. Even getting one hour less of sleep than usual at night can greatly affect your productivity the next day.

To help you sleep better, take time at night before you head to bed to think about what you need to do in preparation for the next day. This simple planning step can also improve your productivity. For example, if I know I need to give a presentation the next day, having all my materials prepared and ready to go the night before helps me sleep better and wake more rested. Sometimes I’ll even change what I’d planned to eat for dinner the night before an event because I know some food just makes me feel more tired, even into the next day, where other fare allows me to awaken much sharper and ready for the new day. Each small step can make a positive difference for your productivity.

In addition to being well-rested and bringing focus to your tasks, you also need to always "be ready." This means anticipating how your plans for the day might change. Nothing ever goes perfectly. Perhaps you have a meeting scheduled and the host is delayed. When you are "ready," that is, when you have planned ahead, you can then use that "waiting" time to, perhaps, write a thank you card to someone, or maybe read an article with information you need to be aware of. When you plan ahead and are always ready, your day almost magically becomes more productive.

Related: Three Tips for Boosting Productivity With Project Debriefing

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Jason W. Womack is founder of The Womack Company, a productivity-training firm based in Ojai, Calif. He is author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More (Wiley, 2012).

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