Ever get to the end of your work day and think “I was busy, but what the heck did I do”? I'll be the first to admit: I've looked at my watch and it's time to pick the kids up from school, while that blog post still hadn't been written let alone ready for me to add a photo and hit publish. Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, it's all coming back to me now.
Working from home means plenty of distractions as is, let alone distractions that we create. It's taken some time but I've dealt with the culprits and now sharing these with you.
5 relatively painless, quick tips to boost your productivity.
- Time Yourself. This doesn't sound like much fun but it's a real eyeopener. Use whatever method is easiest for you to see where your time goes (smartphone, stopwatch timer, online timer). Two methods you can use with this is to time tasks you need to do, and time tasks that aren't exactly work related to see where your time goes.For example, you can time yourself how long it takes to answer your emails or time how long you're loitering around Facebook. Both will be eyeopeners. You'll find that tasks that you thought would take an hour to do, can actually end up taking less than half the time. And yet other things that you think will be quick actually take much longer. This is also a great learning experience for scheduling time in the future, for example when you have 20 minutes to spare before you have an appointment but don't want to start anything major, you know you can do certain tasks and get them off your todo list.There's some cool online tools and apps to help you time yourself, these are also great if you're doing billable work for someone or you need to see how long it takes you to do a job to help you with setting pricing. Toggl is a free online time tracking tool which helps you see where your time goes. There's also an app version for your smart phone. Just enter in your task and press start then get on with your task whatever it is. When you're done you can come back and press stop. You can create projects and keep track of your whole day. Do you dare press start before you go onto Facebook?
- Shut it down. How many times have you sat down to write a blog post and while you were trying to think of the right words you decide to quickly have a look at your emails? Just checking to see if a customer has emailed you. You go back to your blog post and start reading the sentence again. You start typing a few words, “Ding!” Facebook notification. You spend a bit of time on Facebook then maybe, if you're feeling productive you go back to your blog post and re-read that paragraph once again. The easiest way to boost your productivity instantly is to shut down the open tabs on your computer. That customer who just emailed you can wait half an hour until you've finished typing your newsletter. While you're at it, turn the volume down on your phone, you don't want notifications beeping at you when you're trying to work.
- Take a break. You know you need to take a break when you can't concentrate on one task for very long and yet you think you don't have time to stop. That's when you need to get up from you desk, have a stretch and take a short break. Whether it's a walk down the street to get a coffee or doing a sequence of stretches, you'll find that short break will make you more productive when you go back to your desk. I'll admit there's been times I've been overly exhausted but “had” to finish stuff that I've put my alarm on and taken a nap. How could you sleep at a time like this? Sitting there holding your eyelids open isn't going to get the work done faster. Take the 20 minute nap if you need to and wake up to a more productive you, just make sure you schedule your breaks so you're not stop-starting at awkward times.
- Work on one thing at a time. Once upon a time multi-tasking was worn like a badge of honour. In fact multi-tasking was a term brought about by IMB for their computers being able to handle many tasks at once, needless to say we don't work like computers. Multi-tasking takes you longer to do a task than you would have if you had just concentrated on one job in the first place. Even worse, multitasking can cause costly errors. Concentrate on working at one job at a time. Talking to a customer on the phone and reading emails at the same time and I can guarantee you that the customer can tell they don't have your full attention. Cooking and trying to answer a customer's question on Facebook, don't do it.
- Batch your jobs. Stopping and starting different tasks that can be batched wastes time, instead
look at batching similar tasks together. If you have work that needs to be done on your computer and work that needs to be done away from your computer, batch it so you're not going back and forth between one job and another every 10 minutes. Let's say you need to answer emails, connect with your customers on a Facebook group, and post on your Facebook page, you'll want to batch that work together for whatever time slot you give yourself. If you have bills to pay, batch those together so you're not logging in and out of your bank account every day when you happen to see a bill lying on your desk. Do you mail thank you notes to customers? Spend time writing those all out in one block of time, address the envelopes and have them ready for when you're out doing errands.
And now it's your turn, let me know which of these tips you're going to try out. And I'd love to know if you have any of your own productivity tips that you'd like to share.