When it comes to productivity, most of us start each day with the best intentions. We plan on plowing through every task that comes our way with maximum energy and creativity – and minimal distractions. And, occasionally, things actually work out that way.
But more often, they go something like this: You’ve got so many important things to take care of that it seems impossible to prioritise. Or a project takes longer than you thought it would; then an unexpected meeting comes up to steal what precious spare time you have left. Or, you can’t focus for more than a few minutes at a time because you keep checking your phone.
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In other words, being productive isn’t always easy. But by building your to-do list the right way, taking steps to avoid distractions or time traps and having the right attitude, you can usually achieve most (if not all) of what you set out to do each day.
Here are seven simple secrets that business and time management experts swear by that can help you get more done in less time.
1. Write down your to-do list the day before
Walking into your office without a plan for your day makes it more likely your time will get derailed with nonessential tasks.
Instead, recommends life coach Danielle Faust, create your daily to-do list the night before, so you know exactly what you need to do once you sit down at your desk.
You can build in as many tasks as you want, but schedule dedicated time for each of them (with a couple of breaks thrown in) to keep you on track.
If you need to prioritise, star the top three items that you absolutely have to complete, Faust advises.
2. Don’t start your day with email
Replying to other people’s messages first thing in the morning is almost guaranteed to derail your priorities – so don’t do it.
“Instead, start out on your own schedule and include 30 minutes at 11 a.m. and 30 minutes at 3:00 p.m. to go through your emails and messages,” recommends Michael Maven, a marketing strategist with Carter & Kingsley.
If you can’t hear your phone’s distracting dings without feeling that you must respond immediately, turn your phone and email notifications off.
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3. Tackle the tough stuff
You may be tempted to ease into your day by starting off with the simpler or less demanding tasks. But if that’s your way of avoiding the toughest, most dreaded item on your list, it’s really just procrastination.
Instead, start with whatever thing you’re looking forward to doing least – and relish that satisfied feeling that you’re done with it. “Everything else will be downhill from there,” says Faust.
4. Make the most of meetings
We’ve all sat in conference rooms for hours on end where nothing gets done.
Avoid that by scheduling meetings for as long as you think you’ll need – but never longer, and invite only the people that truly need to be there, recommends executive coach and leadership expert Michael Beck.
Another tip? Don’t waste time disseminating information. “A much smarter way to deliver information is in written form. If you had everyone brief you in writing in advance, then the actual meeting would be devoted to discussion and/or making decisions,” Beck says.
5. Give yourself a pep talk
“If you believe you are going to fail, you are pretty much guaranteeing that outcome,” says workplace psychologist Michael Woodward.
Instead, find ways to pump yourself up and make yourself believe that you’re up to completing a tough task; think about the last time you triumphed over a challenge.
When you remind yourself that, yes, you are capable of tackling whatever’s on your plate, you’re more likely to dive in – and less likely to procrastinate out of fear.
Most of us feel compelled to make sure that our day is as productive as possible, which can lead to feeling guilty over taking breaks. But short rest periods can help you reset and recharge, which can actually help you get more done in the long run, says business and marketing coach Sarah Dann.
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“I like to use the Pomodoro method, 25 minutes of working, followed by a five-minute break,” she says. Whatever schedule works for you is fine, as long as you stick to it.
Set a timer if you need to, and take advantage of productivity tools (try Google Chrome extension Strict Workflow) that block you from visiting distracting websites (we’re looking at you, Facebook).
7. At the end of the day, toss your to-dos
Hopefully, you were able to cross every item off your list before it was time to close up shop. But if you weren’t, don’t leave that half-finished list hanging for tomorrow, because it’s a morale killer.
Instead, toss it and make a new list with the unfinished items plus whatever else you need to accomplish the next day, says life coach M.A. Haley.
“Throwing out the prior list, or filing it, is a great way to reclaim energy for the to-do list ahead,” Haley says.
I couldn’t agree more.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Workflow And Business Efficiency – 5 Strategies You Ignore At Your Peril
Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. You’re not still depending on email, are you?
An inefficient business can cost you a lot more than just growth – it can affect your revenue, too. According to a report by IDC, your business runs the risk of losing 20 to 30 percent of your revenue due to inefficient systems.
Unfortunately, many companies still struggle to implement the right systems to improve their workflow. Others have it worse, because they have no systems. In those situations, projects take ages to be completed, more time is spent on menial tasks and teams never seem to get enough done during work hours.
If that describes your company, your company’s profits may start to plummet, too.
Every successful business, then, has clearly defined systems to help the business run like clockwork. Improved workflow, better management and business efficiency save time, increase the bottom line and ensure a higher profit margin.
In fact, in an article on ContractZen, Tim Cummins, president of the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management, wrote that, “The average corporation could boost its bottom line by almost 10 percent if it invested in improving the quality of contracting.
For many companies – especially those in more complex, project-based industries – the prize could be much higher – perhaps as much as 15 percent.”
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Unfortunately, some companies fail to provide systems that put users first, taking a negative toll on those companies’ workflow and efficiency. The good news is that they’re only five strategies away from turning this around:
1. Automate all you can
From email lists, bookkeeping, invoicing and contract management, to social media posts and payrolls, almost everything can be automated. For a business that aims to be more efficient, automation is a must.
Automation doesn’t just save you time, it can be the one strategy that can guarantee explosive growth and higher conversion rates. According to this Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness study, 63 percent of companies polled that were outgrowing their competitors said they had automated their marketing.
Automating monotonous tasks that have to be repeated several times during the day helps you be more productive in tasks that require your personal attention.
2. Invest in customer-relationship management software
It’s not uncommon to find businesses that are barely able to keep up with their leads. Some waste hours hunting the low-quality leads instead of focusing their energy on those ready to buy. Here, a customer relationship management (CRM) solution linked to these businesspeople’s network phone system is a great way to enhance customer communications.
Customers value businesses that provide excellent customer service. A CRM solution increases the ability to keep track of customer information, monitor leads and provide efficient delivery. Businesses can provide for their customers’ needs faster and make effective business decisions. With CRM, businesses can also keep their focus on quality leads that will drastically improve conversion rates.
3. Set up a task-management system
Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. Email makes it difficult to carry everyone along. However, setting up task-management software like Slack, Trello or Asana makes it much easier to have everyone’s tasks in one place and ensure that everyone is carried along in the project.
Task-management software helps members of a team track their progress and ensure that everyone is working on their tasks.
4. Sync your calendar with that of everyone else on your team
How many times have you had to reschedule appointments because you didn’t know you had other meetings lined up for the day?
Aside from leaving negative impression in clients’ mind, this error makes you less productive. Having to go back and forth until you have settled on an appropriate date can be cumbersome especially when different time zones are involved. So, do this instead: Sync your personal calendar with your work calendar, and make sure that everyone in your team is synced to the latter, too.
This will ensure sure that everybody is “on the same page” in terms of appointments and deadlines. Google Calendar can help you do just that. Once everyone is synced up, any change in the calendar will be seen by everyone so they can manage their own appointments.
5. Block out chunks of time
Constant interruptions hamper your workflow. Imagine having to deal with turning over a project on a deadline while you’re stuck in a series of meetings throughout the day. It can get very difficult to focus on completing your most urgent tasks.
Block out chunks of time on your calendar for uninterrupted work. It’s better to schedule a series of meetings in one day than to spread them throughout the week.
If you’re creating content, block out one day to create all the content you’ll use for the week. That way your business will run more efficiently.
Related: 3 Reasons You Should Embrace Change
Wrapping it up
With the right strategies, you can turn your business around to make it efficient and lucrative. Automating your processes, setting up the right software and remaining focused on the tasks at hand will go a long way to help you do this. But just as with every good strategy, you need to remain consistent and give it time to do its magic.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Multitask Like Tim Ferriss, Randi Zuckerberg And Other Very Busy People
Nine entrepreneurs tell us how they get it all done.
Think you’re busy? Take a look at Guy Fieri‘s calendar. Or a U.S. Army general’s. Or an in-demand teenage actor’s. Or the CEO of a globally recognised company’s.
Some of the busiest people on the planet took time out of their days to tell us how they get it all done. Take note!
6 Questions Entrepreneurs Should Ask When Choosing Medical Aid
As a young entrepreneur, what are the questions you should ask yourself when it comes to choosing a medical aid plan?
One of the most valuable assets in any small business is something that entrepreneurs often overlook – their own human capital. Part of making sure that you give the best of yourself to your new business is to make sure you’re in good health, and one way to invest in your health is to make sure you have a solid medical aid policy in place.
Besides being a financial safety net if you get sick or are in an accident, it can also encourage you to stay healthy in the longer term. So, as a young entrepreneur, what are the questions you should ask yourself when it comes to choosing a medical aid plan?
1. How healthy are you?
If you’re young, there’s a good chance you’re relatively healthy and not plagued with serious health issues – but this isn’t always the case. You may have a chronic condition such as diabetes or asthma, where you need regular checkups and medication. If this is the case, will your medical aid plan cover the costs of managing your chronic condition?
2. How much can you spend each month?
If you’re self-employed, you won’t have the luxury of your company paying your salary – or your medical aid cover. Compile a budget and work out exactly how much you can afford to pay towards your medical aid cover per month, bearing in mind that you may have to pay in extra for things like day-to-day medication, medical specialists out of network or even membership fees for your medical scheme’s rewards programme.
3. Is there a waiting period involved?
Medical aids are able to apply waiting periods, where you won’t be covered for a certain period of time after you join their scheme depending on your health and previous medical aid cover.
If you’re joining with a pre-existing condition, remember that you won’t be covered for up to 12 months as soon as you become a member, so you’ll need to set aside money for any related costs during this time.
4. Are you planning on starting a family?
As a young entrepreneur, starting a family may be the last thing on your mind – but it’s important to factor this in when joining your medical aid, as it becomes very important later on. This is because you can’t join a medical scheme if you or your spouse is already pregnant (just as we explained in point number 3, there’s a 10-month waiting period for the “pre-existing condition” of pregnancy). Things like maternity benefits can be a lifesaver in terms of footing the bill for pregnancy and birth costs, so it’s worth thinking about this long before you’re ready to settle down.
5. What does the hospital plan offer?
If you’re young and healthy, chances are you’ll most likely opt for a hospital plan, so don’t just compare medical schemes in general – compare their hospital plans specifically. A hospital plan has the lowest premiums but also the lowest coverage: generally, it covers you if you’re admitted to hospital, but you pay for any other day-to-day medical expenses such as doctor visits and medication. Many hospital plans also come with the option of a medical savings account (MSA) attached, where you can access a certain portion of money per year for these day-to-day expenses. Others, like Fedhealth’s MediVault offering, take this even further – you can “borrow” a certain amount of money for day-to-day medical expenses from the Scheme, and then pay it back over 12 months, interest-free.
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6. What does the fine print say?
Before you choose a medical aid plan, make sure you know exactly what’s covered and what’s not, including things like in-network and out-of-network hospitals, co-payments, limits and exclusions. Also research the scheme’s pay-out rate: do they pay medical aid rates or higher rates, which many hospitals and specialists charge?
Owning your own business is about investing in yourself, including your time, your ideas – and your health. It’s also about juggling lots of balls in the air at the same time. With a solid medical aid plan in place, you can at least know that you have your health looked after should something happen – which means your business can keep going and thrive well into the future.
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