Time is an entrepreneur’s rarest commodity. There is always something that we should be doing conflicting with whatever it is we are doing. There is simply not enough time to get through the myriad of things requiring and demanding our attention.
And that is why Mega-Productivity is a skill that all entrepreneurs and business owners must acquire if they are to be successful. And that success extends across business and across life. After all, even if our businesses are tremendously successful, they become meaningless when our personal lives lie in tatters.
The challenge with most people is that they are extraordinarily busy. But, when you ask them what they are achieving that really matters, it is precious little. If business is all about ROI or return on investment, time is all about ROE – return on energy. Because time is such a precious commodity, we must ensure that every one of the 1440 minutes we experience each day gives us a return.
1. Establish what you want
Zig Ziglar said “Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time”.
So, unless you know exactly what it is you desire for your life and business, you are likely to pursue anything shiny, and waste a lot of time in the process.
You have to figure out what, when you are 90 and sitting in your rocking chair reflecting back on a life well lived, will stand out for you as the things you are most proud of.
The temptation is to select what you think you can achieve. That’s great! But also include the goals that may be a little tougher to get to. You may not know quite how to get there – yet – but unless you start taking some action towards their achievement, they will forever and always remain merely a dream.
Once you have identified the overall goals and dreams, you must prioritise them. Number them in order of priority. Be cautious here to think through your list of priorities carefully. Remember that you can only juggle so many balls, and whilst, when dropped, some will bounce, some balls will break. Make sure that your choice is made with full awareness of the consequences, and the time that you have available.
2. Write a list of how you intend to get there
This is a process whereby you detail the action steps you’ll need to take in order to achieve your overall personal goals and business objectives. Start with the goal that you labelled as number 1, and work through each until you have created action steps for all.
If you have set a goal that is particularly challenging, you may not know the steps that you need to take beyond perhaps the first ten. That’s OK for now. Once those first ten steps have been taken, the next ten will reveal themselves. At that point, write those ten steps down in a list, and keep repeating the process.
3. Use your most productive time productively
Most people wake up in the morning, and hit the office only to focus on the 100 e-mails that have arrived in their Inbox overnight. If you are energised and focused in the morning, your time could be far better utilised.
Identify when you are most productive during the day, and block that time off to get one of your priority tasks completed. I always do my most important tasks first thing in the morning.
The reason is that unless I complete them first, I get caught up in the demands of the day and find myself out of time and out of energy. If you run this risk, then commit to completing your number one important (not urgent) task first thing each day. Do not move onto anything else unless and until that priority task has been completed.
4. Leverage the productivity curve
We have all had experience with the productivity curve, even if we are not directly aware of it. It goes like this: When we start something, it takes us a while to get traction.
We need to figure out what we intend to do, and how to do it. We waste quite a bit of time being unproductive in this phase. It is only after some focused effort that we start having an impact and moving forward in an upward direction.
If we give ourselves a sufficient amount of uninterrupted and focused time, we can start achieving Mega-Productivity, and get into ‘the zone’.
However, precious few of us get to this point when we are in our work environment. When we are just at the point of starting to gain productivity, we are called to our next meeting, are distracted by an incoming e-mail or message, or by a member of our team.
After we have dealt with the distraction, and return to our work, we revert back to the point of negative productivity. We need to figure out what we’ve done, what we still need to do, and get our train of thought together before we can move forward once again.
You can imagine that many small interruptions have the result of us losing massive productivity. Something that may have taken us 30 minutes to complete ends up taking ten times as long. And given repeated interruptions, that’s no exaggeration.
You have to create the habit of booking out blocks of time in your diary – time that is long enough for you to achieve the focus that drives Mega-Productivity, and enables you to complete your most important tasks without interruption. This is an absolute essential step in accelerating your achievement of your goals.
5. Get your e-mails under control
E-mails are a killer of productivity. If you are not careful, you can spend an entire day on e-mail, and not complete a single important task.
Identify two times in the day when your energy is low. Book a 30 or 60 minute slot in the morning, and again in the afternoon.
Dedicate that time to reading, responding and completing your e-mails. Do not look at e-mails at any other time. If there is something of significant importance, you can be assured that someone will actually phone you.
When it comes to working through your e-mails, apply ‘one touch management’. The temptation is to open an e-mail, read it, and think – I’ll get back to this one. That’s a productivity no-no.
You’ve just invested a minute or two reading this e-mail, so deal with it in its entirety now. Do whatever needs to be done now to complete the task at hand.
7. Mega-Productivity is a mindset
Consider that if you invest R1 every day for the rest of your life, what an incredible investment you’ll have as a result of the cumulative interest you’ll earn. This is in fact what you are doing in your life and your business. Whatever actions you undertake today must repay you in return on energy tomorrow, and next year.
Consider therefore the implications of leaving a Must Do task incomplete. You can never re-earn the cumulative interest you’ve lost. Adopt that mindset for every important task you have listed. Make completing your Must Do and Important to do list a habit. Your life will change as a result.
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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