Clearly productivity is a hot topic these days. We're all complaining about having more to do and less time to do it. We have incredible technology, apps everywhere, productivity coaches and productivity workshops, but are we winning? Personally some days I am, other days not so much. But I am always looking for more ideas.

To help understand and combat this productivity challenge I reached out to a friend of mine, Sam Harrop, author of the book "Getting Stuff Done". Sam shared his best 101 productivity ideas, determined from many years of working with people to help them win the war on productivity. A number are surprising, some you may have heard before, others will seem like common sense. All will work and having a strategy to implement them is the place to start.

Introduce one idea a day and you will become the most productive person in the world! Here they are:

  1. You need to get clear about WHY you want to achieve or do something, in other words be clear on the results you desire.
  2. Identify which tasks are repetitive tasks and which tasks only need to be done once off to achieve the result you desire.
  3. Understand the difference between responsibility and accountability. You are responsible for your actions and accountable for results. Be careful about being busy and not achieving anything. What are the actions that are going to lead to results?
  4. Identify your top 3 goals and work out what the top three repetitive actions are that you need to do at least once a week to achieve these goals. This will give you nine key actions to focus on each week.
  5. Appreciate how long a minute is. Instead of reacting to a situation, choose to respond by spending a minute thinking. Stop, think and then act.
  6. If you are running late or someone is running late, never use or accept the standard response of, "I'm only 5 minutes Away", no one will believe you. Give specific times for example, "I am 7 minutes away", even if you are only 5 minutes away, people will take you more seriously.
  7. Allocate specific time (in your diary) each day to do e-mail. Allow at least two or three 45 minute blocks of time. This way you can apply the 4D's of e-mail. "Delete" it, "Delegate" it, "Deal" with it if it's going to take less than 5 minutes or "Defer" it and schedule time to work on it uninterrupted.
  8. Create drafts and signatures. You know those e-mails that you send on a regular basis, the standard responses, well invest some time, write a really great e-mail and then save it for future use.
  9. Use appropriate headings in the subject line of your e-mail, explaining the purpose of your e-mail. For example, "action required", "no response needed" or "FYI".
  10. Turn off alerts on your computer and your phone. These are just distractions. Respond to e-mails when you have scheduled time, avoid temptation.
  11. When sending e-mails that require someone to take action use the following format, "if this - then that, if not - then this".
  12. Always set time aside to plan. People often complain about not having time to plan yet they always have time to fix their mistakes.
  13. Batching - group activities together like paying bills, shopping, invoicing, phone calls and meetings.
  14. Structure your days and weeks by setting up a "Default Diary". Think of a School timetable with all the subjects, well apply the same principle for repetitive tasks which can be batched. This can include sales, marketing, proposals, meetings, planning and thinking time (also include lunch and short breaks).
  15. Make time to recover. You need to schedule down time, you will feel much better and be more productive after a short break.
  16. Use Parkinson's Law. Set short time frames to achieve goals. Parkinson's Law states a task will increase in complexity and importance as you increase the amount of time allocated to it, a deadline forces you to focus on execution and do what is necessary to get it done, the essentials.
  17. Get a uniform or decide on set outfits that you can wear each day. The amount of time people waste each day trying to decide what to wear baffles me. If it's good enough for Mark Zuckerberg it's good enough for us.
  18. Plan the next day at the end of each day. Identify what are the top 3 things to achieve tomorrow and then circle the most important one. That becomes the first task you work on that next day.
  19. Prepare the night before. Before you climb into bed set up everything you are going to need for the next day. So you can wake up and get going.
  20. Avoid the rush. Leave earlier or later. Time standing in lines or stuck in traffic is a waste.
  21. When you are driving or exercising listen to audio books, podcasts, webinar recordings etc.
  22. Buy a "Chess Clock" and use it to track the time you are productive and non-productive. This will firstly scare you and then fascinate you.
  23. Use a countdown timer, set time aside to focus on a task and then immerse yourself in it. You don't need to worry about getting carried away because the alarm will go off and bring you back to reality (every phone has a time in it now).
  24. Use Paretos Principle to your advantage. Understand that 80% of revenue comes from 20% of your products and 20% of your clients. 80% of your stress also comes from 20% of your customers. You can apply this principle in many ways to identify which 20% you need to focus on and which 20% you need to get rid of.
  25. Set time aside after a meeting to think, this is the best time to reflect and take notes and will make the next steps from the meeting easier to achieve.
  26. Have a great introduction. When you introduce yourself being able to engage with people and clearly articulate what you do and what you want.
  27. Make sure your marketing is attracting the right kind of people to your business. The sooner you realise that not everyone is your client you will waste less time trying to sell to unqualified people.
  28. Set up and have a well-defined sales process. Think of the steps someone goes through when they buy from you - think about it, design it and then use it. Think of rinse and repeat.
  29. Respect your time and respect other people's time. For example define the amount of time you are prepared to wait for someone and then after that politely leave. You will only need to do this once. Remember you get what you tolerate.
  30. Learn to say no and say it often. You don't want to over commit and achieve nothing.
  31. Say what you mean, honesty is the best policy. Be firm, fair and direct. Say it nicely and move on.
  32. Learn how to delegate effectively. Make people accountable by being clear on why you need something done, confirming the person knows how to do it and when you need it done by.
  33. Stop micro managing, you don't pay people to watch you work - get out of the way and empower them.
  34. Invest time in training your team, this will give you one of the highest returns on your effort.
  35. Give people in your team more authority to make decisions. For example if a mistake can be fixed and it will cost less than $ 100, go ahead and fix it.
  36. Do not take on other people's problems and do their work for them. In other words do not take on other people's "monkeys", say to yourself "Not my monkey, not my circus."
  37. Make sure you have productive meetings not "talk fests". Have an agenda, only have the relevant people attending and make sure you start and finish on time.
  38. Take minutes of the meetings using a very simple yet action orientated format. Who is going to do what by when?
  39. Give feedback to your team on a regular basis. Make sure you focus on the behaviour and outcomes you want to see. Reward and recognise the behaviour you want, let people know where they are doing well and where they need to improve.
  40. Leave meaningful messages when you can't get hold of someone, that way when they do come back to you they have the information you require.
  41. Stop random interruptions by applying the "15 minute rule". On the hour for 15 minutes you are available for questions or conversation, then from quarter past the hour until the hour again you can work uninterrupted.
  42. Get a set of headphones and use them. Some people just don't get the no interruptions idea so put on a set of headphones and when interrupted pretend you are on a call, eventually they will get it.
  43. When interrupted or when someone approaches you politely ask, "how can I help you?" this way it gets them to focus on why they are there and you don't have to engage in frivolous small talk.
  44. Set up a filing system and use it. The amount of time people waste looking for stuff is truly amazing and the reason most people don't have a decent filing system is that they don't have the time to set it up. But they find the time to move stuff around, look for lost documents etc.
  45. Try and organize re-occurring meetings and reminders for the same time each week or day making it easier to remember.
  46. Measure your activity and measure your results. How many sales calls does it take you to make an appointment, how many appointments does it take for you to make a sale? You cannot manage what you don't measure.
  47. Get rid of your "To Do List" and create a "To Achieve List". Make sure you prioritize what is most important and urgent and do this first. Once you have completed tasks that are both important and urgent, then focus on tasks that are important and not urgent. Be careful of getting caught up doing tasks that are unimportant whether they are urgent to not!
  48. Be careful when using "apps" and technology. The problem is there always seems to be newer and better ones and it can take time to learn. Find out who is using what effectively and then use these, you do not need to be the person who discovers them.
  49. Make sure you eat regular healthy meals, as you become hungry your ability to concentrate and be productive decreases.
  50. Early to bed early to rise. Like the saying goes early to bed, early to rise, makes you healthy, wealthy and wise.
  51. Exercise early in the day, it gets the blood flowing and clears your brain which sets you up for great productivity throughout the day.
  52. Make sure you get enough sleep, lack of sleep makes you slow and less productive.
  53. When hanging up your washing use hangers. Sounds silly, but the washing can then go from the line into the wardrobe.
  54. If you have children get them to help with chores, it builds their character and helps you.
  55. Outsource the low value, low enjoyment tasks such as ironing, gardening, cleaning and washing the car.
  56. Buy and use easy to wash pans. Sounds kinda weird but wow it does it make a difference
  57. Establish a productive routine, it's good for you, good for your family and it makes planning much easier.
  58. Plan your meals in advance and find meals that work and are easy. Cook in batches so you cook once but cook enough for three or four meals and freeze them.
  59. Do not go to the shops when they are busy.
  60. Buy in bulk.
  61. Don't watch or listen to adverts. Record the shows you want to watch or subscribe to ad free services.
  62. Learn how to speed read, even a one day course can more than double your reading rate. Think about how much time you spend reading.
  63. Invest the time in learning how to touch type.
  64. Learn your keyboard shortcuts.
  65. When you read take and make notes. Use colors and post it notes, it saves you time when you have to refer back to what you have read.
  66. When doing research be clear about what it is you want to find out. Write it down first before you start.
  67. Outsource well. Always consider the amount of time you are going to need to invest in explaining what needs to be done. Outsourcing well starts with identifying simple, repetitive tasks.
  68. Stop multi-tasking, you can't do it. Focus on one thing at a time - and that is it. A tough routine to get into it, but it really will pay off. Multitasking is a myth, well documented in many areas. Undo the habit and you will not only become much more productive you will also feel a lot less worn out at the end of the day.
  69. Stop chasing butterflies. Entrepreneurs are really good at this, it is what makes us entrepreneurs. But knowing when to focus and when to chase butterflies is the key.
  70. Be selective on how you get the news, you don't need to read it, listen to it or watch it. Set up Rss feeds and Google Alerts. Trust me, if it's important news someone will tell.
  71. Beware of social media. Allocate set times for it and set an alarm.
  72. Make your bed when you get up in the morning. You have already achieved something, what a great way to start the day.
  73. Clean as you go, pick stuff up, put it away, put it down in the right place. Never walk from one room to another without something in hand.
  74. You don't need to know everything, be prepared to ask other people who already know.
  75. Don't argue with an idiot, it just makes two of you and wastes your time.
  76. When moving between tasks or appointments, "clear the slate" in other words pause, reflect and then move on.
  77. Throughout your day set up a couple of "sprint sessions". These are high focus, high intensity sessions where you focus on just one major task, after which you have a short rest before moving onto the next task.
  78. Build momentum, set yourself up for small wins. Achieving incremental steps regularly results in you getting more done rather than trying to do it in one long push. Think of the principle of compounding.
  79. Do things right the first time. If you have to go back and redo a task that is a monumental waste of time. Think slow down to speed up.
  80. Review your progress regularly and identify what you are doing well and what you could do better.
  81. When you think it, ink it. Document your thoughts and how you reached decisions.
  82. Make decisions quickly, change your mind slowly. Generally if you have applied your mind to something and done some critical thinking then you know it's the right decision based on the information you have available at the time. If you need to change your mind ask yourself "what has changed since I made that decision?"
  83. Respond don't react. The difference between a human and an animal, there is a gap between stimulus and response, we need to work on increasing the thinking time between the response, if anything this will save you time in terms of having to apologize for saying or doing something you shouldn't have.
  84. Put a value on your time and then ask yourself, "Is this task worthy of my time?"
  85. Put things in perspective by asking yourself, "will this matter a year from now?'
  86. Know when it's "money time". There are certain times in the day when it is money time, when you need to connect with people, use this time wisely.
  87. Pay someone to teach you how to use technology. Most of use only use a tiny proportion of our technologies capability - because we don't have the time to learn how.
  88. Get really good at using 5 minute increments, you will be surprised what you can achieve in 5 minutes.
  89. Set up your office correctly. What do you use, don't use, where is the printer, stationary, etc.
  90. Be set up so you can use your time when you are away from the office. Make it so that your geographical location is irrelevant - you work the same regardless.
  91. Re-use articles and copy that you write. Sure, re-purpose it, the morale here is that you don't have to reinvent copy all the time.
  92. Write a stop doing list. This is so powerful, often we are doing stuff we know we shouldn't be doing, break the habit.
  93. If you travel, lie about when you are leaving and getting back. This gives you free days at the start and end of your trip when you can work undisturbed.
  94. Reward productive people not busy people. People can be busy and achieve nothing.
  95. Set clear expectations with your team and suppliers. Have a talk to suppliers before any money changes hands.
  96. Get good at knowing when you are wasting time.
  97. Decide to decide once. This is gold, if you decide you are going to go for a run in the morning when you wake up, get up and run, you don't need to think about it, it's been decide, now act upon it.
  98. After attending a conference or training session a great way of sorting your notes is to create four categories, things you need to stop, start, do more of and do less of.
  99. Eat the frog. Remember we spoke about the three things you needed to achieve the next day, what is the one you least feel like doing, get it done.
  100. Focus on finishing. 99% finished is not finished. Most people have a number of nearly complete projects that lie rent free in their minds, finish them off.
  101. Sometimes the best way to be productive is to do nothing or more specifically have a break. Trying to push through when you are brain-dead or exhausted is generally a waste of time. Best to take a break, recharge and come back to the task pumped and ready for action.

 

Published on: Nov 10, 2015