According to a study compiled by H&R block – the average person has just four hours and 26 minutes of time to themselves per week.
Chances are, everyone reading this article will be busy with multiple responsibilities and things to do every day.
But, being productive isn’t the same as being busy.
Taking 5-10 minutes to adopt a few of these habits, and you have the rest of your life to be more productive.
Rule number one is being clear about what it is you actually want. Having plans will give you some direction (and a push) to do what needs to be done in your personal or professional life.
Yogi Berra, a well-known figure in the world of Baseball, says “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” Having priorities will help you make it to where you want to be.
Most, if not all successful people will know what, when and how they will do things to help them achieve their goals.
To do this more effectively, select your ‘most important tasks’ (MIT’s). Separate urgent tasks from important ones and order them by importance. You should also add an estimate of how long it will take to complete these to your list. Make your to-do list short.
Call it a “success list”, says Gary Keller, author “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results”.
“Long hours spent checking off a to-do list and ending the day with a full trash can and a clean desk are not virtuous and have nothing to do with success. Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list — a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results.
To-do lists tend to be long; success lists are short. One pulls you in all directions; the other aims you in a specific direction. One is a disorganized directory and the other is an organized directive. If a list isn’t built around success, then that’s not where it takes you. If your to-do list contains everything, then it’s probably taking you everywhere but where you really want to go.”
2. Get everything out of your head
Don’t rely too much on your internal memory.
Why? Because, it may fail you when you need it most.
Instead, write things down, all day every day.
From post-it notes and notebooks to Evernote and Wunderlist – there are so many options for taking notes.
Making this a habit will give you a holistic idea of everything that needs to be completed, and refer back to habit 1 to prioritise these in to a success list.
3. Ignore what is important, complete what is urgent
Every task is important, to some extent. But, what is urgent today, shouldn’t be important tomorrow.
It’s on you to know what is urgent and should be completed ASAP, and what is important which can be done tomorrow.
When tasks are separated like this, you are more likely to give them your attention – and therefore get them done sooner.
Don’t be afraid of asking someone to take a message, or to wait until tomorrow to answer an email. If it means completing your tasks more productively, it’s a small sacrifice to make.
18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, Peter Bregman writes, “To get the right things done, choosing what to ignore is as important as choosing where to focus.”
Reduce your commitments. You probably have too much on your plate. If you edit your commitments, you can reduce your workload and the amount of time you need to work.
4. Focus on one thing at a time
The ability to focus is undervalued as a skill. Mono tasking changes everything.
There is a possibility to increase your output by 2-5x if you can mono-task on purpose, without any (or very little, depending on your circumstances) distraction.
When you have one clear priority, mono tasking is the most productive approach to take in order to get things done quicker.
When you focus on a singular task at a time, you will find that more things can be accomplished with less stress in less time.
5. Live 80/20
The Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule – is focussing on the few things that get you the most benefit.
You probably have too much on your plate every work day, and your too busy juggling everything to take a look at what’s urgent, essential, can be delegated and what is a waste of time.
When you are forced to focus on essential tasks with a big ROI – you will be more productive. You will simplify your life in this process, and also achieve more.
How many of your activities got you closer to your goals?
How many were a waste of time?
How many could have been delegated?
Pick the 20% of your tasks that yield 80% of the results and outsource or simply discontinue the rest.
To effectively pursue less and achieve more, use the MITs rule:
Choose three Most Important Tasks for each day, and focus completely on getting them done within a specific time. Any more than 3, you may not get them all done, and achievement is a huge motivator.
By restricting yourself to a small number of things, you force yourself to focus only on the essential.
6. Own and defend your time
Taking ownership of your time, and deciding how to much you allocate to your thoughts, conversations, actions and purposeful distractions that lead to your success is down to you.
“You can’t let other people set your agenda in life” says Warren Buffett.
Your time is a valuable investment so should be treated like one.
Ultra-productive people focus on using every minute at their disposal to get things done.
Allocating a time frame to your tasks consistently will help you ascertain what is attainable and realistic in a day. It will also help you visualise what else will help you advance your goals for the day, week, or month and the time constraint element will push you to be more efficient and focus.
Start to defend the time you have left over, and you will be free to spend more time with family and friends, on your life goals, to relax and de-stress yourself, to read, to improve yourself, to work on a passion project, to exercise.
Owning your time is not just about having more of it spare though, it’s also about knowing what you want and using the time you’re given productively to get there.
“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will” says Greg McKeown.
It’ll be one of the most important things you do.
7. Stop being a perfectionist
In order to be productive, the idea of everything being perfect needs to be scrapped.
By trying to make things perfect, each thing you do will take longer and therefore, other tasks may not get completed.
Striving for perfectionism tends to be even higher when you don’t account to anyone but yourself, as the fine tuning never ends. So, if you own a business or freelance, this could have a big impact on your productivity.
“Perfection can ultimately be the enemy, and is often an illusion, especially if you keep pushing to improve something that is already good,” says Larry Kim, founder and CEO of MobileMonkey.
8. Measure your inputs and results
Don’t just measure yourself by what has already been accomplished, but what you could have achieved if you used the best principles to work.
If you don’t assess results and figure out how to do more of what works, you may be wasting a lot of time on things that have very little impact on productivity – so examine your inputs and outputs.
John Maxwell once said, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”
Are you getting the results you expect, for the commitment you make to each task?
Once you see how valuable performance data is for getting doing better in life, you’ll start measuring where the week has gone.
Hopefully taking a few of these habits on board will help improve on the near four-and-a-half hours a week of free time the average person gets and help you feel like your goals are more achievable.
This blog was adapted from an article by Thomas Opping.
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