It’s not always easy to be a productive person. At various points in my life, I’ve been accused (or so it felt) of being
The “Energizer Bunny”
A “Busy Bee”
A Consummate “Workaholic”
All work, and no play… (you know the rest)
I have to admit. I do like to be active – mind, body, and soul. I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of helping people and a “well-done” job. I push myself pretty hard – mostly to meet my own expectations, but almost as often to live up to the above nomenclatures assigned to me by others.
Since others have dubbed me as some kind of productivity prodigy, I thought I’d take a detour from my usual “marketing strategy” train of thought to share 10 tips & strategies that help me get a lot done.
- Acknowledge Limitations – Time / Energy
I actually used to stink at this. I wanted superhuman powers that would allow me to stop the clock (but keep my work pace ticking along) until everything I could possibly want to do in a day was done. Yeah…right. It just doesn’t happen that way does it? With age comes wisdom. I’ve faced the reality that I cannot control time and that I need rest and down time. This realization has been good though; it has forced me to make choices about where to focus.
- Do the Most Good
I don’t know about you, but some days I suffer from paralysis of analysis. As I told you, I like to get involved – with my family, with friends, with various work projects, with NARPM®, with my church, with my neighborhood. Every day, I must juggle and balance a lot of possibilities and make choices. One of the criterion I use to set my priorities is “where can I do the most good TODAY.” Sometimes that means setting aside tasks that seem more important to accomplish ones that have a greater impact.
- Control the Tyrants
All of us have selfish tyrants in our life. They include things like email, instant messaging, social media, cell phones, text messages, and (sometimes) real people. We allow these tyrants to creep into power, subtly at first, but they can quickly become dictators. Their beeps, squeaks, and persistent tugs take control of our lives. At least that is true for me. I like to be a responsive person. If you send me an email, I like to reply quickly. If you call me or text, I like to show you that you are important by responding right away. I’ve had to learn to control my impulses so that I can be more productive (and do more good) overall.
- Exercise the Mind
It’s easy to get so focused on “what we do,” that we don’t allocate time for developing “who we are.” Our minds begin to atrophy – like a body that does not get enough exercise, the mind muscle starts to deteriorate. This last year, I read a book called Brain Rules that influenced me to make time for “brain workouts.” My “workouts” include specific mind games (I like Lumosity), increased reading, and pushing myself to learn regularly. These activities develop my memory, increase flexibility, and build skills, all of which help me be more productive.
- Develop (& Break) Habits
A habit is an “acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.” They are actions we “practice” until they become a part of who we are. I’ve been examining my habits with a goal to develop the ones that improve my life and squash the ones that hinder it. For example: I used to drink lots and lots of coffee, all day long. I thought it helped me be more productive, but in reality it altered my mind to the point where I had to work harder to function. The caffeine made my brain (and body) race…until I crashed. When I was racing, I could not focus well. When I crashed, I had headaches (not to mention a grouchy demeanor). After breaking this habit, I became much more focused and able to get more done in less time…the very essence of productivity.
- Get Help
It can be hard to let go of tasks. We hold on to them for a variety of reasons: we like the activity; we want to learn; we think we can do the best job; we lack trust in others; we want to control the outcome; we want credit for successes, etc. But a high level of productivity cannot be achieved when we spin our wheels by holding on to tasks and responsibilities we aren’t fully equipped to accomplish. Delegating or hiring someone with passion and expertise will allow you to focus on what you do best (and more tasks will get done). If something is not important enough to pay someone else to do…drop it from your list completely.
- Create Systems & Deadlines
When I got involved in the property management newsletter business, I took time to develop systems that helped me run the back end of that business most efficiently. The systems include checklists for bringing on a new account, automated notifications & reminders, online purchases & renewals, and more. I also implemented deadlines because “deadlines get things done.” Systems create structures within life and business that prevent time waste. They create a predictability that eliminates forgetfulness and confusion. When you have systems in place, you just get more done.
- Close Loops
I admit it, I’m a finisher. I do like to dream up new ideas and start interesting projects, but real satisfaction comes from finishing. It is rewarding to cross a “to-do” item off of my list or deliver on someone’s request or expectation. Unfinished tasks (or open “loops”) create clutter in our brains. We waste a lot of time (and list space) keeping track of them and/or we forget and fail to get them done. You will be more productive if you complete tasks as they arise instead of procrastinating, especially the ones that are quick & easy to take care of.
- Be in the Know
You can’t put all of the tips above to good use if you don’t even know what needs to be done. Keep your calendar and task lists up to date. Coordinate responsibilities with co-workers and family. Assign clear ownership of each task to foster accountability. Encourage good communication (status updates, roadblocks, timeline shifts) so that you and your team can work together like a well-oiled machine – no mind-reading required.
- Let Go of Perfection
This is a hard one for me. I like to feel like I’ve delivered my best work 100% of the time – without flaws or imperfections. However, I’m learning that perfection is very subjective and that my vision of perfection often exceeds the vision that my friends, family, and clients have. I’ve had to learn to use the words “good enough” and to see when excellence has been achieved (even if perfection has not). Pursuit of perfection is a time-waster; it is a quicksand trap that sucks us down and paralyzes us. It prevents us from moving forward. Let go of perfection and you’ll accomplish more (and probably be happier with everything you do.)
I’ve used the same workout tapes for almost 20 years and during the cool down the instructor says:
“We all have the same seconds, the same hours, the same minutes. It’s who does the most with it that gets the most out of life. Here’s where you make a decision about how much you want and how good you’re going to be.”
I hope these suggestions help you get more out of your life so you can enjoy the work you do, play with your family & friends more, and dedicate time to helping others.
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