When you look at your calendar what do you see? I’m sure there are client calls and meetings, project deadlines, perhaps a team meeting, new inquiries to deal with and maybe a few supplier-related activities.
Do you see any dedicated blocks of time scheduled in for the important but non-urgent business activities like strategy, planning, marketing, sales, team training, product development, finance + admin?
It’s so easy to stay busy, fighting fires and ticking things off your to-do list but can you show any real accomplishment that added value to your business by the end of a day or even a week?
Busy work involves switching often between tasks and although it might feel as if you’re getting a lot done, research has shown the exact opposite.
In fact, a study by Professor David Meyer from the University of Michigan’s Brain Cognition and Action Laboratory concluded that by switching tasks often we lose 40% or more of our productive time per day.
The reason we don’t get to the productive work isn’t because we’re not trying or because we don’t have enough time, it boils down to a lack of planning, processes and a lack of discipline.
Let’s look at how we can overcome these three barriers to productivity.
3 BARRIERS TO BEING PRODUCTIVE
POOR PLANNING + STRUCTURING OF DAYS
Better planning and execution is key to being more productive and getting stuff done. I talk about quarterly and weekly planning and execution in more detail here.
Create blocks of 1-4 hours uninterrupted productive time every day to work on what matters.
These various blocks of uninterrupted time should ideally be allocated to the important drivers that will move your business forward, like:
- client work
- creative work
- thinking time
- planning + strategy
- marketing + sales
- staff time e.g. mentoring, progress catch-ups and training
- admin e.g. finances, emails + phone calls.
By allocating dedicated time blocks for different activities, we won’t worry about missing things and we’d be less tempted to check things as they come in and stay in reactive mode.
NO PROCESS TO STAY FOCUSED
A process is simply a predefined way of doing something, it’s simple with easy-to-follow steps. You have a process for making tea or coffee, or putting the rubbish out.
Now it’s time to create a process to help you stay focused during your blocks of uninterrupted productive time when you work on activities that will move your business forward.
1. Schedule blocks of uninterrupted time
Schedule uninterrupted time in your diary every day and make it a non-negotiable appointment with yourself – see Point #1.
2. Remove Bright Shiny Objects
- Ensure you have everything you need before starting your uninterrupted productive time e.g. note pads, pens, reference guides, financials, client files, refreshments and set an egg timer/ phone alarm to track your time
- Turn off your phone, close all internet browsers and remove clutter that might distract you
- Let people in the office know how long you’ll be unavailable and appoint a person-in-charge to deal with emergencies
- Only have the document(s) you’re working on open in front of you. If you need to check something, make a note and do it after the dedicated time has ended.
3. Be Smart
If you struggle to say no to temptations and notifications, try the SelfControl app on your computer that blocks distraction websites for a set period of time.
4. Stop Worrying
- Set-up a permanent email notification to let people know the times you check your email in a day e.g. 8am, 1pm and 4pm and when they can expect to hear back from you. It’s about setting expectations and communicating clearly.
- Provide an alternative way of contacting you in the email for real emergencies e.g. a mobile number or calling the office.
When you respect your own time, other people tend to do the same.
Clients don’t have a problem with processes – they have a problem with their expectations not being met and vague communication.
Be clear at the start of a business relationship or new project about how things will work, agree deadlines upfront + provide regular status updates to stay productive and exceed your client’s expectations.
LACK OF DISCIPLINE
Self-discipline is a learned behavior which requires practice and repetition. It’s like any learned skill e.g. confidence, learning a new language or playing the piano.
The right mindset and the discipline to keep a routine are two of the most important qualities needed for sustainable long term success in all aspects of life + business. They are also two of the hardest things to master.
When we try something new and fail, we tend to beat ourselves up about it. This makes us feel crappy about ourselves and what we’re capable of doing, which in turn could lead to more failure.
Here are a few ideas to help you when establishing new routines.
1. Acknowledge That It Will Take Time
Change is not easy because our brains love operating on auto-pilot.
Be prepared and know that it will take time for new habits to ‘feel right’ and become natural. Help yourself by creating a process to remove temptations + distractions – see Point #2.
.2. Reward Yourself
Keep yourself motivated by scheduling rewards along the way e.g. plan ‘me-time’ into your weekly schedule and stick to it!
Do something you love in that time e.g. a hobby, reading a book or sitting next to the river.
It’s your reward for working hard, making changes + building a great business.
3. Forgive Yourself + Move Forward
There will be setbacks. Expect them, notice them + learn from them.
Ask: “What’s the learning opportunity in this?”
Dissect the hiccup, forgive yourself (you’re still learning), tweak your plan and move on.
Busyness is a disease that keeps us from working on the difficult-to-do but high-value activities in our business like planning, creating systems, building a team or doing marketing + sales.
Start saying Yes to being productive and focusing on activities that will move your business forward.
What do you do to overcome busyness and be more productive at work? Leave your comment below.
Author: ALICIA MENKVELD Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld, an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 16 years, loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to successful business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and effectiveness for individuals and teams. Design your business to live the life YOU want.
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