Entrepreneurs need to juggle. Thoughts, tasks and different roles merge into a never-ending list of to-dos, many of which are seldom done. This leads to overwhelming panic. Before you know it you are only focused on the small, quick and easy tasks, paying little or no attention to the important things that may help your business grow. Here are three ways to conquer inefficiency.
1. Work smart with lists. The perfectionist may over-use lists, wasting time writing and rewriting, categorising and colour coding them. The detail dodger, wanting to just get on with things, jots tasks down on scraps of paper, on the back of an envelope and even on the odd serviette after a business lunch. If you are a drop-and-hop organisational type you might simply stop what you’re working on to tackle a new task as it comes in, without bothering with lists at all.
Regardless of your organisation style, effective list-making forms the foundation of your efficiency. Choose one channel (paper or electronic) to consistently dump your thoughts. It’s not about what needs to be done today (that’s what your diary is for) but rather everything that you need to do now and in the future. The rule: one life, one list.
2. Prioritise your list based on revenue. Now that you have a running list of everything you need to do, take the last five minutes of every work day to review this list and prioritise it according to the tasks most likely to generate income. Imagine a triangle divided into three levels:
- The largest and bottom level is the flat base. This is the space for all your tasks that are not urgent or important right now (your number 3s).
- The middle segment includes the tasks on your list that may be important but not urgent (your number 2s).
- The top segment is reserved for your number 1s: These are the things on your list that allow you to generate income or perform your core job function so someone else can be bringing in revenue. This is where you need to be spending your time.
Number each task on your list with a 1, 2 or 3 based on importance and priority. Then begin with focusing only on your number 1s instead of being overwhelmed by the whole long list.
3. Schedule according to priority. Studies have shown that people are most productive in the morning, yet most of us dive into email first thing and then get stuck in reactive mode for most of the day.
Start your day by checking your priority list and choose one big task (or a few smaller ones) for the first hour of your day. Working on high-priority tasks when you are most alert will result in a higher quality outcome, as opposed to tackling the task when you are tired.
Common Efficiency Myths
- Multitasking is productive
If you have ever tried to speak on the phone while typing an email you will know that your brain just can’t process two such tasks simultaneously. Rather focus on one task at a time by dividing your work day into grouped time slots (such as 3 x 1 hour communication sessions a day to focus on email, telephone calls and drop-ins). By grouping similar tasks together, you have a greater awareness of time and get more done.
- Delegation wastes time
If it is a once-off task that won’t take you too long to complete, do it yourself. However, when it involves a task that needs to be executed regularly (daily, weekly, monthly), it is worth the time and energy to delegate the task.
- Implementing a system will slow you down
While it will initially take some time to set up the perfect system, once this system is in place, all you’ll need to do is maintain it. A system that suits your working style and complements your job function will free up time for you in the long run — particularly when you are busy.
4 Psychological Reasons Entrepreneurs Should Embrace Procrastination
Do you struggle with procrastination at the office? If so, believe it or not, it might not be such a bad thing.
There’s always something you’d rather be doing. Even right now, you might be reading this article in an attempt to avoid carrying out a less palatable endeavor.
Procrastination is normal, and especially so these days. Social media, streaming television and movies, the ease of internet access, and the ubiquity of smartphones can all distract. There are ample reasons why people procrastinate, and it’s always been thought of as a blockade to productivity.
But the perception of procrastination doesn’t always match the reality.
“Procrastination is not just avoiding or delaying a task,” says David Ballard, head of the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organisational Excellence. “It also has to include an aspect that’s counterproductive, irrational or unnecessary.”
1. Procrastination helps spur creativity
West Wing creator and Molly’s Game director Aaron Sorkin once said on the Today show, “You call it procrastinating, I call it thinking.” Sorkin puts off writing sometimes until the last minute, and the results speak for themselves.
Even if we’re not all award-winning writers, when you’re putting something off, it doesn’t have to be a distraction. It can simply be a break, and that break can open up a world of new ideas.
When you allow yourself more time to sit and think about what you’re working on, different pathways to a result can bubble into your brain. A 2012 study in Nature discovered – through brain imaging – that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) lay largely dormant when rappers were free-styling. Some athletes might even refer to this as “the zone.”
For entrepreneurs, procrastination might be just the thing to trigger an answer that would be impossible to reach if they didn’t let their minds wander away from the task at hand.
2. Procrastination aids memory recall
In 1927, Lithuanian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik first discovered how interrupting an event can actually help people remember it. After her professor noticed waiters at a nearby cafe remembered open tabs better than those that had already been paid, she tested the hypothesis by giving a series of puzzles to people to complete, while subtly interrupting half of them.
Those that were interrupted were able to recall details with 90 percent more accuracy than those who were allowed to complete the task. The Zeigarnik Effect was borne.
The same could be said for today’s entrepreneurs. Breaking for lunch, hitting the gym, reading a book, jumping on another task or simply staring out the window can help you better remember the various moving parts in the mission you’re trying to finish.
3. Shockingly, procrastination can enhance focus
This seems like a paradox on its surface. How can you focus better by interrupting what you’re doing – i.e. procrastinating?
Instead of bearing the monotony of working on a single task until it’s done, it’s more helpful to move away – at least briefly. Concentration wanes if we don’t break up the the tedium. Similar to triggering creativity, we’re better able to concentrate if we take a brief blow.
A study in 2011 looked at this psychological effect. Subjects were asked to remember random digits while performing a visual task. They found that once people were asked to recall the digits, their performance on the visual task declined over time. But when researchers interrupted the visual exercise with sporadic reminders of the digits, their visual scores remained high no matter the duration.
The short of it: Take a break every once in a while, even if you’re on deadline.
4. Procrastination often yields better decision-making
Oftentimes, entrepreneurs will receive an important email that needs an answer. There’s no hard timetable on the answer, but because of the weight of the question, people drop everything to arrive at an answer. If you don’t take a moment to sit back and let the full import of the question sink in, you’re liable to make the wrong decision.
Researchers at Columbia performed an experiment to test this idea. Would a little more time actually lead to better decisions?
First, they asked the subjects to determine which direction a set of black dots was moving across the screen. At the same time, a cluster of coloured dots starting moving to distract them. Participants were asked to judge as quickly as possible.
When the coloured dots moved in the same direction as the black dots, the results were basically perfect. But when they moved in opposite directions, the accuracy dropped.
Second, they performed the exact same experiment, but subjects were asked to answer when they heard a clicking sound, which they varied between 17-500 milliseconds – a time span meant to mimic real-life decisions, like driving. Researchers found that when decisions were delayed by about 120 milliseconds, their accuracy significantly improved.
However, the researchers differentiated between prolonged and delayed decision-making. If subjects made the decision too quickly, the brain was still filtering out the distractions (coloured dots). But if it took too long, it could be hindered by other distractions.
The same could be said for procrastination. Procrastinate too much, or for too long, and nothing will ever get done. But, as we’ve seen, there are some serious psychological benefits to procrastination.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
(Infographic) 9 Daily Rituals To Boost Your Performance At Work
In a rut? These daily rituals can help lift you up.
Some rituals might seem like nonsense, but it turns out, they can be helpful when it comes to productivity and job performance. Studies have shown that rituals can help us take on tough challenges at work, boost productivity and even decrease anxiety. How do you know what type of ritual is right for you? Here are some ideas.
Instead of starting your day with a hot shower, try opting for a cold one. Cold water increases blood circulation and releases endorphins, which can boost a person’s mood and make them more productive. Another helpful ritual is shutting down distracting devices. For example, turn your smartphone on airplane mode for a few hours so you can hone your focus on a single task until its full completion.
Whether you’ve got a big deadline approaching or an upcoming presentation, if you’re feeling anxious, one ritual to help calm your nerves is counting your breaths. A quick daily mindfulness practice, such as counting your inhales and exhales for 10 minutes, can help relieve stress and get you in the right headspace for getting work done.
From journaling daily to doing five-minute desk exercises, check out Pound Place’s infographic below for nine daily rituals to boost performance at work.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Four Ways To Boost Your Daily Productivity
You can also, hopefully, become a happier human. Here are our suggestions…
Given that most modern professionals are armed with a full array of sophisticated technology tools, it is safe to assume that our productivity and efficiency has reached dizzying heights…right?
With so many digital distractions and the constant pinging of notifications, most of us have severely dwindling attention spans. Several years ago, Microsoft released a study that revealed a consumer’s attention span is now less than that of your average goldfish. Moreover, our overall productivity might be plummeting. According to research from theHRDirector.com, employees are distracted at work every three minutes – and it can take us as long as 25 minutes to refocus. In addition, workers are more stressed out than ever before, a trend that has been attributed to the constant barrage of digital information and data.
The good news is that by making a few simple changes and employing the right tools (yes, tech tools), you can both alleviate your work stress and enhance your daily productivity. You can also, hopefully, become a happier human. Here are our suggestions…
1. Find Ways to Work Remotely
Although this may not be an option for everyone given his or her particular company or personality, research has shown that working from home – or from a quiet place – can boost your productivity. The average workplace is a hive of activity and distractions, making it near impossible to get critical tasks done.
Nowadays, with enhanced mobile connectivity, employees can escape home or to wifi-hotspots (with great coffee) to focus on their work. Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom recently conducted a two-year study on remote workers that showed a massive productivity boost among the telecommuters… Moreover, his study revealed that employee attrition decreased by 50 percent among the remote workers. Also, they took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days and took less time off work.
2. Turn off Your Push Notifications
Yes, that’s right. You can do it. There is simply no need to see a notification every time someone likes your post on Facebook or adds you as a contact on LinkedIN. Also, that Whatsapp message on the group from old high school friends can wait. By constantly moving between screens, apps and platforms to keep up with ongoing digital communications, we lose focus and interrupt our creative processes.
In 2016, a Deloitte study found that people look at their phones 47 times a day on average. For young people, it’s more like 90. As Wired writer David Pierce put it, “push notifications are ruining my life. Yours too, I bet”. It might be time to turn down the digital input volume.
3. Use Productivity Apps
Yes, this might seem ironic and counterintuitive. But, there are now several productivity apps that have been cleverly designed to help – not hurt – your ability to focus. There is Todoist, which allows you to put all your to-do lists into one, easily manageable place. This app syncs with virtually any platform – allowing you to complete tasks even if you forgot your smartphone at home (maybe a good thing?).
We also like Pocket, which collects your favourite articles and sites so that you can peruse them later, instead of ‘right now’. There are also great project management tools now available, such as Omniplan and Trello, which make certain tasks appear fun and often encourage collaboration and creativity. These apps allow you to create and group tasks, organise and streamline workflows, and to file documents in a simple and accessible way.
4. Find Cool Ways to Collaborate
Although technology can fuel our efficiency (if used the right way) it can also isolate us from our peers and make teamwork (or talking to humans) seem a thing of the past. Yet many studies have shown that collaboration actually supercharges our contributions at work.
For example, a recent joint study between the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and Rob Cross, Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Business at Babson College, revealed “companies that promoted collaborative working were 5 times as likely to be high performing.” In addition, a 2014 Stanford study found that simply working alongside others drives ‘intrinsic motivation.’ And, as always, there’s an app for that!
The most popular tools include Slack, which allows for the sending of direct messages (DMs) and files to a single person or a group of employees. It also has the ability to place conversations into different channels (for specific projects, one for customer support, general chat, etc). Another handy tool growing in popularity is Microsoft Teams, which is included in many Office 365 packages. Businesses may have Teams available right now and not even realise it or the powerful productivity boosts it can unlock.
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