You’ve done the right thing and set some business and personal goals for the year. You may have set some financial targets, created flowcharts and set up tracking systems. Now, a month into 2019, you may feel frustrated that despite your best intentions, you are not being as productive as you had planned. Time just seems to slip away. Here are some simple, easy-to-implement strategies to help you claw back some control and get traction on those good intentions.
Start on time. Finish on time. Stick to the agreed agenda. This is respectful to everyone who attends. For agenda items that don’t get handled, bump them to the next scheduled meeting. Attendees will learn very quickly to stay on point if their precious item didn’t get addressed. If you want to go really hard, hold your meetings in a room where there are no chairs. Or standing up on the shop floor before you open the doors to the public. If you do it before coffee, the meeting will fly like the wind.
Become aware of what interrupts your flow or breaks your concentration. Make a conscious choice about which interruptions to allow and which to refuse. Put yourself in control. Put a good old-fashioned Do Not Disturb sign on the door. Ask someone else to take your phone and take messages for the next hour or three. Take yourself off to the anonymity of a coffee shop when you need to plan or be creative. Make sure you have communicated to those who matter the reason for your new-found boundaries. This way you will get their support, not their suspicions!
Saying “no” will establish clear boundaries. Someone else’s ‘urgent’ doesn’t have to become your ‘important’. Saying “no” with diplomacy and firmness takes practice, but it’s all about how you communicate. When it comes to distractions and unhelpful habits, respect your own boundaries – say “no” to yourself. Get support with this by making yourself accountable to someone. If you’re serious about breaking an unhelpful habit, use the Money-In-the-Swear-Jar principle: set up a system where it hurts every time you do it. (Missed a session at the gym? Pay your wife $50. You get the idea).
Distractions are the enemy of productivity. Know your enemy: what distractions are you vulnerable to? Checking emails or social media or the news too often? Getting involved in other people’s problems? Reduce or eliminate those activities that do not move you closer to your goal. You can’t do big things if you are distracted by small things. Starve your distractions, feed your focus.
No matter how busy you are or under the pump you feel, make sure you plan – and take – regular breaks throughout the day. This one may sound counterproductive, but breaks restore your energy, which will increase the quality and quantity of your workday’s output. Go for a walk. It will get some oxygen to your brain. Ideas will pop. Solutions to problems will float to the surface effortlessly. (Hint: leave all devices at your desk).
A coffee nap is a simple secret to a more productive day. Drink a cup of coffee, wait ten minutes, then have a 20-minute sleep – no more and no less. Set an alarm – the exact amount of time is important for your sleep cycle – otherwise you will wake up groggy. Your brain and physiology will be refreshed and re-set, enabling you to go again.
Les Watson, The Time Lord, www.getmoretime.com.au