We've heard this saying many times before, work smarter, not harder. To me, that just means "be more productive." Productivity is different for everyone, so it takes some trial and error to find what works for you.
For example, I fought hard to work from home when I had a corporate job. Spending nearly an hour getting ready for work, then two hours roundtrip every day wasn't productive. I wanted those three hours back in my day to get more things done.
Unfortunately, my boss at the time was a micromanager and didn't like the idea. A couple of months later, I quit and started my own business. Now, I spend my time being as productive as I can.
There aren't many things I dislike more than wasting time, so I'm going to share with five ways I've increased my productivity in a single day.
1. Plan your week before it starts.
No one likes to feel overwhelmed or unorganized, especially if you're running a business. I never start my Monday mornings like this because my entire week is planned the weekend before.
Having a plan makes you feel like your work has already started because in many ways it has. Plus, when you have something scheduled you are much more likely to execute it than not.
2. Schedule checking your email.
There may not be a better time suck than meetings and email. Before I implemented checking my email just a few times a day, I always left my browser open. When I would see a notification, I'd stop what I was doing and tend to my inbox.
Sometimes one email would take up an hour of my time, depending on what it was about. Then, when I made my way back to what I was doing, first I'd need to remember what it was, reprogram my brain to get back in that same mindset, and by then I'm lost time and momentum.
3. Turn off your email notifications on your phone.
The first week or two I was scheduling my email checks throughout the day, I did great. But then, I'd look at my phone. All those notifications brought back that feeling of overwhelm and curiosity. Who's emailing me? What do they want? Is it urgent?
I'm in marketing. It's not a business of saving lives, so I don't need to be tending to my email all day, every day. It can wait a few hours. To help execute this, I let me needier clients know I only check my email at certain times every day and it is something urgent, to give me a call.
Out of all the tips, this one was one of the hardest to implement, but the most life-changing.
4. Don't over-schedule your days.
Remember how I mentioned one email could tip me up for an hour? It's important to plan for those unexpected long tasks and give yourself buffer time. We are not machines. We are humans. If we work all the time, we will get burnt out and lose motivation. Also, that feeling of overwhelm and having too much to do creeps back in.
Overestimate how long it is going to take you to complete a task. If you finish earlier, great! You have some extra time to take a little break and scroll through Facebook to see what your acquaintance from high school had for lunch.
5. Unplug and take a break.
I'll admit, this one isn't easy either, especially as a business owner. But guess what? My business won't run with me, so I need to take care of myself.
To help with this, I always go back to my why. Why did I start a business? For me, it was freedom. Working all the time doesn't sound very freeing. For others, it's the money. If that's your why, then ask yourself why want money? Chances are, it's to enjoy what the money can buy--so go enjoy that.
Like turning off the notifications on my phone, this one isn't easy either.
While some of these may be hard to implement, try starting one of these each week. You could even do it all in a single day. Like anything, it takes practice, but when you get it, you'll be a lot more productive.