Entrepreneurs and leaders strive for productivity. They want to become successful by getting more and more done, often with fewer and fewer resources.
But being productive isn't just about efficiency. It's about doing things that bring value to your company and doing them well. I've spent years trying to perfect my productivity formula, and there are a few habits I've developed that have been consistently beneficial.
No matter what new tools or time-management trends come out, these habits have helped me stay focused and accomplish my goals. Here are seven tips to help you be more productive:
1. Help your team.
When people think of productivity, they too often think of burying themselves in their office and working through a stack of urgent memos. That's just not me. I've found that helping others improves my own productivity.
I notice that when I'm supportive and helpful to the people around me, they're able to do their jobs better, and that makes mine easier, too. So, make it a point to speak with your employees on a regular basis. Make yourself available, and offer to help with what they're working on when you can.
2. Create a resource.
You might think that writing as much as I do is a lot of work, but I've found a way to reduce that work considerably: by maintaining a knowledge bank. Basically, my team and I save interesting articles, statistics, and anything else we might want to include our content. When it comes time to write my weekly column, we use the knowledge bank to get started.
My team and I also use an app from Zapier, a company we've worked with. We use the app to sync up our blog and Slack so that everyone is notified when a new blog post goes live. This saves us a lot of time because we don't have to craft a companywide email every time a blog post is published.
When you do something often, it's important to have a tool or resource that streamlines as much of it as possible. If you use content marketing, then a template for content ideas can help you save time and get more done, too.
3. Make it quick or make it wait.
People make the mistake of treating every email with equal urgency, but not every email needs to be answered right away. If I'm working on something and an email comes in, I consider how long it would take to respond. If my response (or the work required to respond) will take more than five minutes, I set the email aside for later.
Concentrating on one task at a time allows me to complete my work much faster than if I paused my work to address every email I receive. If you can get to it quickly and it would really help out the sender, then get it out of the way sooner; if not, make it wait.
4. Manage your email.
Have you ever gotten an email at 11 p.m. from your boss? I'm that boss. Rather, I was that boss. On days (or, really, nights) when I needed to get more work done, I'd be up in the late hours of the night after my kids went to bed, sending emails to my coworkers.
Obviously, I rarely got a response back at those hours. So, rather than being the weird 11 p.m. email boss, I started using tools to manage my email. Mixmax, for example, helps me schedule emails, allows me to create templates, and reminds me when to respond to important messages.
5. Stay informed, but not too much.
With social media and news outlets all around us, it's easy to get sucked into productivity vacuums. I can't really go offline, and I want to stay informed, so I've started using NewsPicks, where I am a pro-picker, to keep myself caught up.
NewsPicks simply shows you the biggest news items of the day, as well as comments from a few experts. It doesn't push you to read more than the news you came for, and the comments are typically much more insightful than those you'd see on most social media sites. You'll be informed, and you won't waste your time.
6. Use distractions for good.
Phones are distraction machines. Texts, calls, and notifications all get in the way of productivity. Rather than allowing my phone to distract me, I use it as a tool to keep me on track.
You can do this with an app called Forest, which gamifies productivity by allowing you to grow a virtual tree with each task you complete. If you leave the app before the tree has fully grown, it dies. When you stay on track, the forest grows. It's simple but really helpful and addicting.
7. Be careful.
Even if you follow the tips I've outlined thus far, there are bound to be days when you simply do not have enough hours to complete your work. We only have limited willpower, so my last tip is this: Be careful.
I don't mean be cautious of burnout or failure. I mean choose what you do with care. When you have a list of tasks to complete, assess each one carefully and pick those that are the most important. The things at the bottom of your list can wait for another day, so don't sweat them until the higher-impact work is done.
When we're all working harder and harder to get more done, even a little help can make a big difference. Try putting these habits into practice, and watch more hours open up during your week.