“Time management”, “flow”, “zen” - these are all buzzwords centred around the art of being productive.
But What Is Productivity?
If you ask me, productivity is when you can kick the procrastination monster in the butt and just get work done. But not just any work - real work, the stuff that matters. Productivity is a profit multiplier. It helps you generate higher ROI investments and keeping productive should be the core focus of every executive.
As a business owner, you need to have your pulse on where the real work is in your company. This way, you and your teams can double down and focus on those tasks, rather than scheduling the 17th meeting this week on “company policy”. You get my drift.
So if you’re clued up and realise that the only thing school taught you about productivity was “time management”, then sit down my friend and read on. This might actually be useful to you.
1. To-Do, Tomorrow
People have a tendency to wait until “tomorrow” to take action on something important. But this can end up being a massive productivity killer, especially when you’re still up at 2 am, desperately trying to shut your brain off.
A great way to combat your nighttime overthinking and get a good night’s sleep while increasing your sense of accomplishment is to prepare the night before. This means creating a to-do list/action plan for tomorrow, tonight.
Note down the important things on your plate at the moment and create a short list of what you aim to accomplish. Rank them in order of importance so you can prioritise what to focus on first!
If you’re ruminating on longer-term projects/challenges/problems/goals, note that down too so you can get it out of your head and commit to a future plan. We can’t solve all our problems in one day, but planning ahead can help you feel in control and avoid chaos.
Having a scheduling/time management app to help you sort through your ideas is a worthy investment. My team prefer to use Asana, but there are many other apps available in the market.
2. Start Your Day Right
Unless you’re a millennial, you didn’t wake up on a school day with 237 notifications from 18 different apps filtering through your phone, as you desperately tried to turn your alarm clock off. Today, it’s a different story.
Our phones serve as a portal to access information quickly, but we are also just as easily distracted by them. Even a glimpse of a notification can knock you out of your good energy vibes and morning routine.
Get your morning productivity back by turning your wi-fi and mobile data off overnight. Go for a morning gym session, do some meditation, enjoy a delicious breakfast and be mindful about the process. These are the things that feed and fuel the machine that is your body - don’t neglect it.
If you constantly ask yourself, “what can I do today to transform my business?”, then do at least 30 minutes of work to flesh out that idea. This way, you will be leagues ahead of those people who spend their days solely focused on transactional tasks. Let’s face it, most people are transaction-oriented because like we said in another article, people don’t like thinking.
From here, you can decide when to allow notifications to filter in through your phone. This could be at home (once your human needs are met), on your commute to work (if you take public transport) or when you get to the office with a coffee in hand. Then from there, you can prioritise where to focus your time and energy - does Jessica really need your relationship advice right now, or can it wait until later in the day?
3. Quit Multitasking
In the last 90s and early 2000s, multitasking was a big deal. Those who multitasked well were viewed as efficient and high-performance people. Today, multitasking is widely viewed as a productivity-killer, by up to 40% according to some widely circulated research.
Open door policies might have you viewed as higher in openness and conscientiousness across your staff, but it also leaves you less productive as a business leader, with people filing in and out of your office, stealing time away from you. Now, if you want to ditch the open door policy (and the office altogether while you’re at it), check out this article on how to manage a team remotely from the same city.
To ensure you balance focused and strategic work with that “employer of the year” title, block out time in your calendar where your staff understand that you are not to be disturbed. Schedule times during the day to allow your employees to speak with you - and make sure they are aware of the changes and why. Better yet, find a way to clone yourself so you can get more done.
4. Energy Trumps Time
When it comes to getting things done, it’s a little known secret that energy management is more important than time management. You can be good at planning, prioritising and delegation, but unless you know the optimum time to be doing certain activities (based on your preferences and circadian rhythms), you’re likely to end up procrastinating anyway.
Here’s what you should do to fit more into your day...
Think about when you have the most energy in your workday. For most people, this is in the morning (with the energy slump hitting after lunchtime, between 1-3pm). If this is you, you’re going to want to tackle the ‘bigger picture’, strategic objectives of your business/role first. This involves setting aside 30 minutes for strategic thinking.
Your lower energy times can be spent doing the tasks you least enjoy or are transactional by nature as they require less brainpower eg. responding to emails, scheduling meetings etc.
Hang On, You Want Me to Schedule Time to “Think”?!
Strategic thinking looks at the end goal or desired situation and explores the possibilities of taking certain actions. It also seeks to find common ground between issues and opportunities to make problem-solving a successful endeavour.
Take, for example, a new competitor in your market. Naturally, they might be tempted to take your clients and make them their own through a juicy USP. A tactical endeavour would be to tackle them head-on with a sexy marketing campaign. On the other hand, a strategic endeavour would involve determining where your audience ‘congregates’ for purchases, and then creating partnerships with those brands to attract your target audience from a wider pool.
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory” - Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Although I loved his book, I’m going to have to challenge Sun Tzu on this one because I’ve seen time and time again that strategy without tactics is actually the quickest route to defeat. Without tactics, nothing gets done.
However, I do agree with the next line, “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”. This is when business owners drill down on management and process, without displaying leadership or painting the vision for their staff. Overall, the business might work under these conditions, but there is no growth when there is no passion. You’ll notice that these types of companies have a high-turnover rate. People like to work where they feel valued.
So yes, thinking is extremely valuable - don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! If you implement these 4 strategies into your daily routine, your next high school reunion will have you telling Mrs Johnson from Year 10 English, “if only I knew this back then!”.