Getting more done with less. Productivity. Time management. These buzzwords reflect our constant desire to increase efficiency and cut waste. Countless self-help books exist claiming to have systems which will revolutionize our lives. In reality, the best approach often involves a hybrid approach. Here are some tips which have worked well for me (or for others close to me) at different phases of life:
Develop a clear sense of purpose.
If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you get there? A clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve allows you to work to align your actions with your purpose. I have a friend who engages in an annual reflection about her goals and values. She asks herself whether someone who observed her for a month could guess her goals and values. If the answer is no (or only somewhat), she realigns how she spends her time.
Understand how you actually spend your time.
There is often a vast gap between perception and reality when it comes to how you spend your time. Tracking your time for even one week can result in some eye-opening revelations. Understanding what you’re working with will help you make intelligent adjustments.
Stop switching gears all the time.
The myth of multitasking is one of the greatest enemies of productivity. Many people pride themselves on being great multitaskers. In reality, they often end up being far less efficient than their colleagues who focus on one task at a time. Many reformed multitaskers have found great success using “chunking” or “calendar blocking." They do not, for example, respond to e-mails all day. Instead, they block periods of time for managing e-mails. This allows them to focus on each task with intent.
Know which tasks matter most.
Don’t mistake activity for results. In my earlier blog post on deep work, I noted that endless strings of meetings can get in the way of longer-term goals. If you need help identifying which tasks to drop, try the Covey Time Management Matrix. Some tasks are “urgent and important” while others are "not urgent and not important." Some are “not urgent but important” and some are “urgent but not important.” Your goal should be to get rid of as many “not urgent and not important” tasks as possible. In fact, those are the ones you can afford to ignore altogether. You want to be the dog wagging its tail, not end up as the tail that is being wagged.
Do a commitment audit.
Make a comprehensive list of your deadlines, obligations, and projects. Do you have too much on your plate? Do you need to work on saying no more often when asked to assume a new responsibility? Do you need to learn to delegate more? Do you need to renegotiate, asking your boss which projects can fall by the wayside?
When overwhelmed, identify the next action for each project.
This is a classic step from David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system. If thinking “I have to hire a graphic designer for Project X” paralyzes you, break it down. Start with “Draft clear description of what we need the graphic designer for Project X to do.”
Review and realign on a regular basis.
Periodic reflection ensures that you make the best decisions about how to use your time. The methods of David Allen and the late Stephen Covey both include a weekly review. Others prefer using a Kanban board to plan in 100-day or quarterly cycles. Whatever the frequency, it is crucial to review progress and adjust as necessary.
Productivity gurus often overlook this option. What are your weaknesses in your job? What are your greatest needs? Scour your networks for potential partnerships. You may be uncomfortable with social media but are an excellent editor. A natural on social media who struggles to draft might be willing to trade services.
The above tips can help individuals perform better. We at Abundiant specialize in helping companies – and the people who work in them - perform better. Let us know if you’d like to learn more about creating abundance for your company.