The Secret To Get More Done
It’s no surprise that a lot of new year goals and resolutions include get more done or be more productive. But the key to changing behaviors, such as time management, begins with recognizing the problem or need. If it’s one of your goals, you’ve taken the first step.
Fact, there are only 24 hours in a day. You can’t add more hours. But you can get more done when we improve efficiency and eliminate the time wasters.
Below are seven common reasons why people lose precious time each day along with some suggestions to correct them. The good news is that little improvements in any of these areas help you get more done at work and at home.
Disorganization. Whether in business or at home, getting organized is a key to getting more done. If you spend a lot of time ‘looking for stuff’ to start or finish a project or work in an environment full of clutter and distractions, tasks becomes a chore and take longer to complete.
Solution: Make getting organized a priority. Create a filing system (onsite or in the cloud) that works so papers and other important documents are off your desk and stored in a place that is easy to find. Take advantage of scan technologies to keep important information – without the paper! Instead of post-it notes, use a calendar and centralized to-do list (paper or electronic) to remind you of important business and personal meetings, tasks and activities.
Unclear Goals/Lack of Focus. Without clear goals, everything looks like a priority and it’s difficult to focus on the right stuff!
Solution: Set specific personal and business goals. Then identify what you need to do in order to achieve them. Chunk down the activities where needed and schedule time to work on them. Whether you call it an action plan or not, use this list of goals, activities and completion dates as the litmus test when faced with requests for your time. Is the task or request moving you closer to your goals or simply a distraction that holds you back? Say NO to things that don’t move you forward.
Too Many Text and Phone Interruptions. In the cell phone era, it’s become easy for people to connect with you at any time. Most people silence phones when in meetings – it’s the professional thing to do! But what about when you are working on projects or other important tasks? These little interruptions rob you of precious time.
Solution: Silence the cell phone or put it away so it’s not a distraction. Set expectations and boundaries, define your working hours (even if you work from home) and communicate them to clients, family and friends.
Poor Planning. If you want to accomplish more, you need to plan better.
Solution: As I mentioned above, a central to-do list and calendar helps keep you organized and focused. But you need to block off time and put tasks on the calendar to actually work on them. Most people assume they can accomplish things quicker than they can. Be reasonable, allow for some unplanned stuff and build in a little buffer time. Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t finish something. You’ll improve your planning and scheduling as you learn. Just start doing it.
Procrastination. This is a big time waster and often results when you are unclear on what you need to do or you are faced with doing something out of your comfort zone. You know, the tasks you don’t like doing, so you keep putting them off – even though they are important.
Solution: In his book, Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy provides 21 ways to stop procrastinating and get more done. One of the takeaways that I use often is to attack the ‘biggest’ frog first! Early morning is when I’m at my best, so I try to work on critical tasks at that time. It also gets the task off my plate early, so it’s not hanging over me all day long. I find this works and other suggestions in the book may work for you. The key – don’t let procrastination stop you from accomplishing what you need to do.
No Routines. While routines may be boring, they bring a sense of clarity that helps us accomplish more. Think about some of the routines you employ in your personal life – from getting up in the morning to homework and bedtime routines for children. These help you operate efficiently without a lot of thought. Employing routines, personally and professionally, contributes to efficiency and helps you achieve more.
Solution: What routines can you build into your day? Here are a few to consider: handling email, returning phone calls, working on projects or business development tasks, attending meetings or conference calls and going to the gym/exercising.
Lack of Training. When we do something new, it always takes longer. But as we learn and gain proficiency, the time spent doing goes down. Think about the first time you used email, text messaging or Quick Books? They took more time initially, but as you learned and used them, it became easy and efficient. Training is a way to shortcut the learning and improves efficiency sooner so you get more done.
Solution: If you lack skills in critical areas, from technology and financials to marketing and time management, get help or invest in training. It will save precious time now and money in the long-term.
Disjointed Processes. Systems are one of the best leverage tools out there for busy entrepreneurs. Streamlining and standardizing procedures to make daily operations easier, efficient and more effective are a key to getting more done – and getting it right each and every time. They eliminate waste and save you time and money!
Solution: Make documenting procedures a priority. Start with the most critical – those that impact your time or income/profit. Take it one at a time, but get started. Each system you build saves time and improves profit. It’s a win-win.
Surfing the Web and Social Media. The introduction of smartphones has literally put everything at our fingertips. It’s a great tool if used with discipline. Be cognizant of the time you spend online. We often think it will ‘just take a minute’ – and end up online for 10-15 minutes.
Solution: Take control of your web and social media time and you will have more time to spend on other things. Set specific times for these activities – preferably non-business hours. If you tend to get ‘side-tracked’ a timer can be helpful. Set it for 15 minutes and it will act as a friendly reminder to get done and move on!
If you are not sure where your time is going, then consider doing a personal time study. It’s easy. For one-two weeks, literally, write down everything you do each day – from the trivial phone call to project work and appointments. Note the amount of time you spend on each. At the end of the study, identify which tasks moved you toward your goals. So where are the time wasters (tasks and people) in your days? This can be eye-opening and should give you a good starting point to make the changes.
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