Everybody wants to get stuff done efficiently, but not all of us are great at managing time, our work, and our lives in an organized, satisfying way. There are emails to answer, phone calls to return, meetings to attend, goals to meet, and that’s only in the office.
That’s where the pros come into play. The experts below come from a variety of backgrounds, but are all experts in productivity in some way. Some are writers, business owners, and professional speakers, but they all bring to the table a wealth of experience from their respective fields and insight on managing hectic schedules. Here are some of their most helpful tips I found.
As a self-starting entrepreneur, public speaker, and author of a book called The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss knows a lot about getting stuff done. With this tip, Ferriss explains that “by working only when you are most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable. It's the perfect example of having your cake and eating it, too.” Read more of Ferriss’ productivity tips here.
The Productivity Pro, Laura Stack, has some great tips for busy road warriors: plan for your downtime. Stack recommends that you look at your schedule, and plan ahead the most reasonable type of work for each period, whether you’re in an airport concourse, on the plane, or in your hotel room. “It may be easiest to write a report in your room, with Wi-Fi and a stable work desk, while the concourse may work better for responding to email on your iPhone.”
Greg McKeown, business consultant, speaker, and author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, explains in a blog post that you can and should only participate in meetings and things that are meaningful for you, that you find valuable. The goal is to simplify your life and discover where your priorities are. “This simple rule ensures you don’t add an activity that is less valuable than something you are already doing. Hold tightly to this idea if you are considering setting up any regular or repeated commitment and think long and hard about all the things you would have to give up in order to take this new thing on.”
Knowledge Tree’s Shelley Cernel shares that many businesses are not consistently improving their productivity because they do not regularly track productivity gains and results. In her post on sales productivity, Cernel recommends determining which metrics are most important to you (such as call rate, sales cycle length, pipeline conversion rates) and using dashboards and analysis to gain insights into sales rep activity. “Then, take a step back and use this data to determine what makes top performers so successful, as well as what is inhibiting under-performers.” While her example is sales specific, you can apply that advice to virtually any job role in creating meaningful metrics to improve performance.
Speaker and leadership coach Neen James understands that we often pick out the less important things to do first simply because they seem easier or less cringe-worthy. However, she challenges us to actually take the thing you dread the most (sometimes it’s the most important thing on your to-do list) and tackle it first. “It will seem hard and unpleasant at first, but in reality, you are doing yourself a favor. If you get the most important task out of the way first, you will feel much less pressured and stressed to continue on and complete more tasks.”
Workplace productivity expert and author Carson Tate encourages people to listen to their bodies’ needs. “If you were already tired when you tried to do something taxing, you had to fight an uphill battle. Chances are it took you twice as long and you made some missteps,” Tate explains. Instead, she suggests creating an environment that supports your energy needs. It could be having healthy, energy-boosting snacks on hand, having soothing or energizing playlists to help you relax or recharge, or taking walk to blow off steam or wake up.
Lighthouse3 CEO, Mia Dand finds that smart people create their own hacks that work for them. “One of my all-time favorites is walking or biking 1:1's with my team. The conversations are so much more productive out in the fresh air and everyone gets some much-needed exercise at the same time,” says Dand.
The Productivity Expert, Cathy Sexton has worked with many executives, business owners, and managers to increase their focus, organizational skills, and productivity. Sexton explains that she often hears the mantra, “if you want something done right, do it yourself,” but this shouldn’t be to the point of a nervous breakdown. “If you delegate a task to someone else, you help develop that person and their skills, while giving them the opportunity to contribute and shine. You may even find that the project benefits from a fresh perspective – perhaps making it better. It really comes down to making the best use of your time and skills, while helping others on your team grow. This is a win-win,” she says.
If you work a Monday-Friday schedule, chances are you aren’t starting new things or even doing anything of much consequence on Friday afternoons. Time management expert and author Laura Vanderkam advises that Friday afternoons are great for reclaiming that less-productive time by making a short priority list for the next week. “If you've planned your weeks on Fridays, that means you don't have to plan on Mondays. You can hit the ground running, tackling your most important task for the week, rather than spending Monday figuring out what your job is.”
Productivity is a very personal thing that everyone approaches in different ways. Want to see how business leaders, best-selling authors, and even billionaires view productivity? Check out our Slideshare that captures 30 quotes on productivity that you can relate to, or at least get motivated with.