I rarely talk to a solopreneur who doesn’t want to increase productivity. Few of us are working at optimum productivity levels, and mostly we know what we need to do to improve: minimize distractions, work more efficiently and develop solid systems. What we don’t know, is exactly how to get from where we are now, to where we need to be.
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Many of us choose to run our own businesses so we can have have more time to spend with family and loved ones, so it’s vital we learn to increase productivity, and work smarter, not harder. Using time well starts with getting control over our daily tasks and habits.
Try these quick tips to increase productivity
Time it right
Nearly everyone has times of the day when they are most effective and times when they tend to drag their feet and procrastinate on everything. It’s smart to schedule your most crucial tasks into your most productive time of the day.
Try tracking something easily measurable (I went with how many words I write in an hour) at different times of the day to see when you’re most naturally productive.
Plan it out
A plan may be the single most important thing to get in place to increase productivity. I’ve just finished this year’s Facebook Planathon with the amazing Amber McCue. And, man do I feel better for it. I’m all planned out through 2017 with my big goals and main focus areas, so I feel like I know exactly what I’m doing every day when I hit my home office.
I’m also working my way through The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran. I don’t know if I’ll really get more done in the next 12 weeks than most people do in 12 months (I suspect I won’t), but the planning aspect is really keeping me on track. I feel like I’m increasing my productivity day-by-day.A plan may be the single most important thing to get in place to increase productivity. Click To Tweet
Triple D Your To-Do List
Never heard of Triple D (at least not in the context of productivity?). The 3 Ds are Delete, Delegate, or Do. Take a long, honest look at your to-dos. If a task isn’t vital to your business, just ditch it altogether. If you hate doing it, delegate it (more on that in a moment). If it still needs doing, just do it, or schedule in a time to do and make sure it gets done. Doesn’t your to-do list look better already?
Tackle the hard stuff first
Do the unpleasant or challenging things quickly and as early in the day as possible. Otherwise known as the Eat That Frog approach, it really does work.
Set a goal each day (or night)
In the morning, decide what you want to accomplish that day. This is even more effective when planned the night before. It works best if you have just one major goal per day. If you have smaller, less time-consuming tasks to get done, you’ll still find you’re more productive if you keep it manageable (between 3 and 5 things a day). Better to do a few things start to finish than little bits of everything.
While you’re working, turn off your phone, cell phone, and notifications on the device you’re using. Don’t check your email. Hang a sign that says, “Do not disturb,” if necessary. You don’t have to do this for all your tasks, but at least do it when you’re doing difficult or creative work that requires deep focus.
Do all your emailing at one time. Make all your phone calls at another. Open your snail mail during a set block of time. You’ll waste less time by doing your work this way. The very wise Joanna Martin advises ‘task batching for energy matching’, so you batch together all the tasks that require a similar kind of energy. Switching from one energy level to another actually takes time and saps productivity.
Set a timer
Even if a task might take hours, starting will seem easier if you simply give yourself 30 minutes to get as much done as you can. A time limit seems to help many people concentrate and work better, too. And as we all know, work does tend to expand to fill the time available, so when you work in short bursts you may surprise yourself with how much you get done.
Measure what you treasure
Many of us spend a lot of time tracking: traffic, social media engagement, and anything else we can. While it’s great to know what works, the most important things to track are the things that most impact our business. As a writer, I tend to track words written, and sales (of books and articles). That’s what matters most. I don’t spend too much time worrying about all the other metrics I could be measuring.
Outsource like a pro
Remember the second D in the triple D formula? There are probably at least a few business tasks you can delegate or outsource. If you’re not used to outsourcing it can seem daunting. Check out the three things you should do before you outsource first. Really want to grow your business over the next year by building your team and getting super strategic with your outsourcing? Try the Outsource Weekly course from Nicole Dean. She’s an outsourcing ninja.
Set a deadline
As the authors of Hustle: The power to charge your life with money, meaning and momentum, put it: ‘Deadlines are lifelines’. Having a specific endpoint will really help to focus your time and energy. If a task doesn’t feel necessary, chances are that it won’t get done. If you’re creating your own deadlines, be strict with yourself. Set a reward for finishing on time, and don’t do it til you’re finished.
Increase your speed
It sounds simplistic, but this can really help. Try doing everything a little faster. Learn to touch type properly. Take a speed reading course. Practice making phone calls short and to-the-point without sounding rude or abrupt (it can be done). If your work includes a lot of writing, I highly recommend Write Better, Faster by Monica Leonelle. It really helped me get my word counts up.
Spend money to save time
Sometimes you need to spend a little money to be more productive. This could mean anything from upgrading to a faster computer to buying in some quality PLR content for your websites and blogs. (Find out more about using PLR in this post.) Look at what takes you the most time and see if a small investment might make a difference.
Another great way to save time is to invest in apps and software that can increase your productivity. TimeDoctor.com has published a list of over 50 tools, apps and software programs that can help you automate and streamline almost every aspect of your business. Many offer both free and paid versions, or a free trial, so you can make sure they’re a good fit for you before you invest.
Manage your energy
Many of us would increase productivity far more if given a 10% energy boost, rather than an extra hour in the day. Read The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, for an in-depth and entertaining look at this aspect of increasing productivity.Many of us would increase productivity far more if given 10% more energy, rather than an extra hour. Click To Tweet
Increase productivity on-the-go
A good mobile device and the right apps can enable you to stay productive wherever you are. Download this free report to help you to Increase Productivity On The Go.
Need more tips on increasing productivity? Check out The Savvy Solopreneur’s Guide To Productivity.