7 Key Tips to maximize your productivity & minimize your busy workRick Selover
We all have a million things to do in our lives, and every day seems to fly by just a little bit faster than the day before… am I right?
If you’re one of the fortunate ones still employed or still running a business right now, as the last year had taken a bite out of the blue-collar world, you’re probably a few employees short of what was normal before, so you might be (or at least it feels like) you’re even busier than ever.
But when it gets right down to it, are you busy or productive??
Do you know what the difference is?…… are you sure? …. if you don’t know, that’s OK, most of us plow through every day not really knowing.
Well today I want to try to clear up that confusion, demonstrate what the difference is & give you 7 tips on how to effectively decrease your “busy work” and increase your productivity.
First of all, I want to share some absolute facts with you, some of this is simple math (like the kind I understand after 20 years of paint fumes and partying!)
I think we can all agree we each have the same of amount of time every day, not one person has any advantage, right?
365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, or more accurately 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds each & every day… no more or no less…. We are all even…. Yet some people we know in our lives seem to accomplish 2, 3 or 4 times as much as we do any given day… how is that possible?
Well, first we need to figure out how much time we really have available to us each day… yeah I know, 24 hours … yeah I get that, but what out of that 24 hours is available to use effectively or waste, based on our daily decisions?… I mean we all have some time that is not negotiable, it gets used each day for certain things like sleeping, eating, pooping and working, but what about the rest of our discretionary time?…. well, let’s break it down:
If we take 24 hours & break it down to minutes, it’s much easier to track.
So we have exactly 1,440 minutes a day, or 7,200 minutes in a work week (5 days). Out of that we spend on average 7 hours sleep each night (2,100 min) also on average 40 hours at work (2,400 min) and we’ll count an average 20 min commute each way to work (200 min) plus another (225 min) each week for bathroom or S.S.S time (shit-shower-shave)… yes ladies, I’m including you here as well…. The only thing I’m not factoring in for averages is hair & make-up time, because that is all over the board, right?…seriously that could range anywhere from 5 min to 1.5 hours (after growing up with 2 sisters & raising 2 daughters, I know this to be fact!) so if we spent an hour each for dinner, and for lunch, and allow 30 min/day for breakfast (because most people grab-n-go) we would have a total of (750 min) work week for eating.. for a grand total of (5,675 min per work week) subtract from the (7,200 min) we started with, leaves us (1525 min/ work week) or 305 min/day (5.8 hours) ….. holy shit…. almost 6 hours to do what the hell we want every day (beyond the basics) …WOW…. And almost everyone seems to always say…what? “I don’t have enough time” … or “there just isn’t enough time in the day”….really?? So why is that?
Because we are all “busy” right?…. busy doing things or tasks, but it that the same as being productive?…. well let’s take a look.
In my opinion, most things we do would fall into one of three categories:
- NEEDLE MOVERS: Things that move us closer to a goal (contribute to or increase our income/ help us lose the weight/ motivating employees at your team release meetings/exercise to gain the strength/ launch the new business/ sales & marketing/ expand our shop/ sell our business or home… you get the idea –these are the items that should be at the top of your list and should get the most time allotted to accomplish
- HAVE TOs: Those things that are needed to do in life, that if ignored cause some degree of pain or are necessary to accomplish a NEEDLE MOVER like bathroom time, commuting, paying the bills, Dr visits, replying to urgent or business emails, home or business maintenance, dealing with insurance, listing a property, signing up for the gym membership, research on buying new equipment, etc – these items while important to the bigger picture, should be scheduled around and not interfere with your high-value/ higher energy focus times
- TASKS: pretty much everything else on your to-do list ends up in this bucket – there will always be dozens of these items on your list, schedule these for your lower energy times, outsource, delegate to someone else or simply eliminate… say no to some things, you will be amazed at how liberating that is and how much extra time you will gain!
Now I have personally been using “todo” lists for decades, and up until the last couple years didn’t realize although I was writing down & then crossing off lots of tasks, I really wasn’t moving the needle on my important goals in life. Sure I was busy… busy as hell, and every time I crossed off another tasks, I got that dopamine hit, it made me feel like I was really kickin ass & taken names all day…. but, I wasn’t being productive.
I was recently was listening to a podcast host interviewing the CEO of Todoist, the #1 todo app in the world, as he was explaining how he created this app for himself, to help him keep track of everything he wanted to do, every task, every creative thought and wanted a quick easy way to record it electronically, as many of those things can come to you at times when you just don’t have access to pen & paper, but you always seem to have technology close at hand.
Task lists or TODO lists are great for housing all the things that pop into your head that you want to remember to do, and when you write them down, your brain can release the need to hold them in your “memory” (kind of like the RAM in your computer, when you have too many tabs open & processes running, the system slows down, right?), but as you just accomplish the “tasks” and not the needle movers, you won’t get any closer to making more money, losing the weight, increasing your physical strength, building the addition to your shop, buying a new location.
Quite simply, all the “tasks” that you have on your todo list, whether written down or just in your head, are either PROACTIVE or they are REACTIVE. If you remember nothing else, an action you take that is PROACTIVE will probably help move the needle towards a goal, it is something you are intentionally doing to better your life or situation, and all of your REACTIVE actions are merely everything else you do in the course of your day.
If you’re listening to this right now, you are probably one of those that are ambitious & like to GET SHIT DONE, and tackling the little tasks on your list & crossing them off makes you feel productive, but you’re really NOT moving the needle on your big goals/ objectives & actually wasting your limited, valuable time.
If we look at this through the lens of the 80/20 rule, it becomes much clearer.
80% of our activities will affect only 20% of our goals (more money/ better health/lose the weight/expand our business)
But 20% of our activities…. Using as many of our available 5.8 hours/day on our needle movers, affects 80% of our goals (more money/ better health/lose the weight/expand our business)
So that begs the question…. Where do you want to spend your 305 available minutes each day?…. it really is completely up to you!
So here are my 7 Tips or Habits to both increase your productivity & decrease your “busy-ness”
- Commit fully to making a change- if you truly want to see an increase, move the needle and be more productive, you have to fully commit to re-evaluating & re-adjusting your available time each day to focus on what gets you closer to your goals & start eliminating or delegating those tasks that rob your day, every single day- make a deal with yourself & set-up a reward system for reaching certain milestones (when I focus undistracted everyday this workweek for x_amount of minutes of a NEEDLE MOVER, I will treat myself to 2 hours of binge-watching Netflix this weekend!).. something like that…
- Take Action-Move- talk is cheap, motivation is awesome, planning is nice, visualizing paints the picture in your mind, but without ACTION… without immediately taking ACTION towards your NEEDLE MOVERS, all those other things are useless! Action causes more actions, inaction breeds more inaction… start moving, soon as you wake in the morning, don’t hit the snooze, get the hell up!..do something that gets your body moving, your brain will follow… results will follow
- Use available time for education- best use of some of those 305 minutes a day, is to utilize the time you are doing HAVE TO’s for self-improvement & growth. A stronger, sharper, more developed YOU, will have quicker success in attaining what you want to attain.. use the time in the bathroom, or the time spent commuting, or the time spent exercising at the gym or walking/running to learn a new skill or improve your mindset by listening to educational podcasts or sales/ marketing programs, learning a new language, improving communication methods or just gaining a better understanding of how YOU can become a better YOU
- Implement the Pomodoro Technique- this is an easy technique to implement & can make your dedicated focus time much more efficient and achievable. When you try to spend a long time on completing something that will move you towards your goals, or complete a large project, most of us think “well, I’m just going to work longer on this, put extra hours in on this, work thru the weekend if I need to”, but we just end up getting burnt-out and really wasting more time than we think. Our brains aren’t very efficient when we work this way, we will get distracted, off-course, sleepy, irritated, frustrated and basically non-productive after a surprisingly short amount of time. But there is great system for getting maximum performance out of our minds… it is called the Pomodoro Technique (you can Google this for more details), but quite simply, what the Pomodoro Technique is a time schedule when focusing on a high-value task, something that takes great focus, spend 25 minutes uninterrupted on the task, then take a 5-minute break, another 25 minutes uninterrupted on the task, then take a 5 minute break and repeat until task is completed. During that 5-minute break, get up, move, take a quick walk, do push-ups or jumping jacks, do something physical, as that helps your brain recover quicker & then your mind can focus again sharply for another 25 minutes. *Secret hack* – Plugin headphones to your phone/ iPad or computer, go to YouTube and search for “Binaural Beats”, these are awesome sound & music/sound combo playlists (usually 2-4 hours in length) that have certain sound wavelengths that allow your mind to focus intensely and when played through earbuds or headphones, does an incredible job of keeping out all other distractions. Follow this process & you will save countless hours on those big projects and goals
- Plan your energy, not your time- we all have different times during the day where our energy, or creativeness or “flow state” is highest… where we’re “in the zone” and we can just seem to bang out the work, or be super creative or simply kick-ass & get shit done, right? …and there are other low-energy times, down times, lazy or tired times where just don’t do our best work. Some of us are early-risers and some are night-owls, so we all have different times where our energy is peak or off-peak. The secret is to recognize our high-energy times and plan on using those times for our work on the NEEDLE MOVERS. If your high-energy time is 10am-2pm, then don’t waste that time grocery shopping, answering emails, mowing the lawn or researching what the best shop equipment is… spent that time focusing solely on the big stuff, the things that bring in the income, building your next level of business or your sales & marketing… save the emails, errands and admin tasks for your lower energy times during the day.
- Create deadlines for yourself & stick to them- Best way to ensure your bigger projects, your NEEDLE MOVERS get done, is to attach a deadline and stick to those deadlines. This will work for any type of task, large or small, but best bang for the buck, is to focus on the big stuff! Set deadlines for when you want to stop working on something & stick to that as well, we all need recreational time, down time, time with our families and time for our own selves, and these times are just as important to have not interrupted ..just like your work times, so make sure you build in enough “you” or “family” time, because all your progress won’t be worth a damn if you’re too worn-out, sick, and don’t have anyone around you to help celebrate the victories, that focused hard work That precious time you are saving by being super productive, is usually best spent enjoying life with family & friends!
- Prepare in advance- lastly, to make the most out of your available minutes, a little pre-planning & prep work can save even more time. Simple examples are like if your going to work out first thing in the morning to get your day moving, try putting your workout clothes, gym shoes and earphones right in the bathroom at night, so when you get up & take care of biz in the bathroom, your stuff is right there & you can immediately be ready to hit the gym, get running or walking with making extra trips or spending more time stumbling around in the dark looking for everything. Have an automatic coffee maker scheduled to automatically make your coffee at the right time, so when you get out to the kitchen, it waiting there for you, hot & ready!… or food prep for your lunch (if you take one to work), make it at night, that way you can just grab & go out the door….there are lots of little prep tasks that you can handle in advance to save time.
There are several more ways & methods to maximize your available, negotiable time, but hopefully if you understand and implement these 7 key tips… and make them habits, you will start finding your productivity will dramatically increase, while your “busy work” .. all that time you spent tackling little, non-critical tasks on your todo list, will definitely start to decrease and open up a much clearer path to success and the time to enjoy more “you” time, more “family” time and probably some much needed, much deserved “chill” time!😁