There are many ways to improve your personal productivity, and the most effective of them require deep self-knowledge and good feedback processes. Self-knowledge asks you to be aware of your boundaries, resources, strengths and and limitations, and good feedback processes help you protect, respect, and reflect them. In a weirdly parallel way, you can say the same about your business.
Listen to your internal rhythms.
Some people are early birds – they wake up easy and early, and are ready to go first thing in the morning. Some people are night owls — they work best in the later hours. In between we get the bulk of humanity.
You’re busy. You’re swamped. You are terribly, terribly aware of all the responsibilities you have on your plate, and you push yourself to process the important and the urgent the best that you can. How are you doing?
It’s a serious question, and in this article it will be dissected several ways.
One: “How are you doing?” asks about you: your internal state of mind and external state of health.
Two: “How are you doing?” asks about how you accept, prioritize and process the various action items, tasks, and check-lists of running a business. This, in turn, gives you a baseline as to how (and where) you want to improve in terms of productivity. Let’s start with the first question.
When people are crazy-busy, sleep is often the most needed and yet least prioritized actual necessity. We all need to eat, of course, but we don’t always eat well, or eat healthy. And as for sleep, even the bare minimum isn’t enough when we work ourselves so hard we actually don’t get to rest even while we sleep.
Putting restorative activities like sleep and recharging activities down the list of your priorities puts you at risk for eventual collapse. Your body is you. Deprive your body of the rest, proper nutrition and activity it needs to even meet a minimum standard of ‘functional’ not only gets you that run-over feeling, it actually runs your immune system down.
You can run on fumes only for so long before you reach the break-down point. Getting by on the least amount of sleep you can get away with doesn’t really do you any favors. You are you biggest asset, and you should treat yourself with the respect and care that you deserve.
Related article: You: Taking Care Of Your Biggest Asset
Going on to the second question: Focus heavy work when you have the most energy.
Mental and physical work take a lot of energy to accomplish, and for many people, their energy levels are highest in the first half of the day, and taper out into the afternoon and evening. This is why many experts suggest “front-loading” schedules, meaning, arrange your schedule to put the heavy action items into the first half of the day and in the early half of the work week, so you can work on them first and leave the rest of the day or week with lighter to-dos.
“Where are you the most productive?” is often tied into which activities you get the most things done. It helps very much when there’s a heavy overlap between ‘most important tasks’ and ‘most attended to’ in this case.
Where are you least productive? What are the tasks you have to force yourself to finish? Maybe they’re no longer necessary and can be dropped. Maybe they take up lots of time but don’t leverage your energy into any real positive gains— any way to outsource these tasks to free you up for your most vital ones? You free up more time, and the admin work still gets done.
What do you need to be more productive overall?
A clear set of priorities will help filter and rate activities to ones which need your personal attention, and ones that can be off-loaded, scheduled, and dropped entirely.
Rest and recreation is necessary. Even the sharpest knife loses its edge if you don’t take the time to sharpen it. To get your edge back you need to spend time on a regular basis without your nose pressed to the grindstone. Have fun. Connect to your body. Connect with your friends and family. Live in the world.
Things that help:
For an online business, list-making is a powerful habit.
Just as an example, write down your most productive tasks helps externalize your work-flow — you now have externalized your working memory, therefore freeing up more space inside your head.
Writing out lists and noting their priority clears things out in your head and gives you something tangible you can refer to, right there in front of you, on your desk, in black and white. Writing lists creates order out of fuzzy chaos. For example:
Blogging – creating a writing calendar to track progress, editing and blurbs. Content planning calendars hep you track the following:
- Blog posts, Facebook announcements and posts, social media, email newsletters schedules and tracking, etc.
- Track published content.
- Plan and carry out creating a video from script to recording to uploading.
Lists aren’t just for making sense of content-creation. They’re good for people-handling as well — like for getting in touch with clients and getting their feedback, or asking for referrals, or scheduling lead-generation.
Get your baseline.
- What is your most productive time of the day? What do you do on a regular daily, weekly and monthly basis?
The problem with overload is that you’re so busy with things you might not take not that you don’t have to do all of them. So this isn’t a heavy requirement– you can check your Google calendar or tracking system of choice to see where your time went for the past month, few weeks and few days.
If you don’t have a calendar or planner– that’s already a big indicator that you’re not managing your time and energy well– which is what authentic productivity is. You put your presence, your energy and your time on the things that matter to you or get you to contribute to that.
Lastly, being more flexible with your attitude toward productivity can help make the load lighter. Let the following industry leaders have the last word.
“Do not believe that it is very much of an advance to do the unnecessary three times as fast.”
Peter Drucker, management consultant
“Doing more things faster is no substitute for doing the right things.”
– Stephen Covey, motivational author and speaker
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