Everyone is looking for ways to boost productivity. Talks about productivity usually involve intense time-management systems that have you putting time into quadrants or downloading a new app. Despite good intentions, a week later you’re back to trying to remember everything and rushing around, feeling overwhelmed.
The problem with most approaches to productivity is that they require too much adjustment in a person's day-to-day life. Someone who is doing everything on the fly isn’t going to easily move into a structured schedule tomorrow. He or she needs more time to ease into making changes. Here are three small, but doable ways to become wildly more productive:
1. Create “on” and “off” weeks for meetings.
When you’re constantly rushing between tasks, client appointments and employee meetings, life feels more overwhelming, and there are a lot more interruptions. Instead, experiment with having weeks solely devoted to meetings and weeks solely devoted to completing work. During the weeks scheduled for meetings, you’ll meet with clients, employees and contractors, with work tasks filling out the edges.
During weeks it no meetings, work will be your sole focus, giving you time for a deep dive into projects and getting things done. Be protective of those weeks and don't schedule anything then. Perhaps even use a highlighter tool to create a visual reminder in your calendar.
2. Create buffer days around all projects.
Working until the moment that something's due is a recipe for burnout. If you’ve got a big talk coming up, an important client presentation or a project launch, decide that you’ll finish the preparation or the work 48 hours before the actual deadline -- and stick to the earlier due date.
Then you’ll have a buffer day before the real deadline for stepping back and getting some breathing space from the project, which will allow you to see everything clearly and perhaps even catch a few things in need of tweaking. Touch base with the content one last time before giving your presentation or turning in the goods.
3. Use the Post-it trick.
Instead of accomplishing more, people who multitask get less done. Research has shown that multitasking is not effective. Rather than adopting the “make a to-do list and start working your way through it” approach to productivity, start each day by looking through your task lineup and then choose only as many items as you can fit on a 3 inch-by-3 inch Post-it note. (Don't cheat by using smaller than usual print.)
Those tasks will your focus for the day. You'll find that when you're really focused on getting a few small, key tasks completed, you'll end up getting more done.
For most busy entrepreneurs, being 100 percent organized is a fantastical ideal, sort of like hitting “inbox zero.” It’s nice when it happens and certainly something to strive for, but chances are that more tasks will always arise. Rather than trying to rigidly control the minutes of the day in order to be productive, give yourself a wide fence. You’ll rein yourself in just enough to become more focused and get things done, without being overwhelmed or the pressure.