It seems like last week we were celebrating the beginning of a new year. But spring is already here, and that means ⅓ of the year is gone. At the beginning of the year, you had a plan that would keep you on schedule and accomplish your goals.
Your goals probably include growing with the company. Maybe you are in line for a promotion. That may include spending more time with your mate or taking on the coaching position for your kids’ Little League games.
Time doesn’t stand still. Every day brings new challenges. The more you do, the more you have to do. This is the normal progression of things. But, it doesn’t have to be.
Below you will find some tips that will help you master your time. They will allow you to do all the things you want to do, without sacrificing anything that is important. You will make progress and still have time for everyone that is dear to you.
Before you begin any project, you must take inventory. This means identifying the tools you have at your disposal. It means taking an honest look at your lifestyle, health, and ability. It also means looking outside the box and identifying new techniques with an open mind.
Multitasking is impossible. In researching the word, we found that it was a word formed to describe a lawnmower in the 1960s that did more than one job at a time.
In that case, it would be appropriate. But the human mind is not a machine. It does not suck in fuel and spit out work in multiple directions.
There is no human that can do more than one thing at a time and do it well. You can accomplish more by putting 100% of your effort into the project at hand before moving on to the next one.
This is the key to controlling your time. A project that should take 1-hour will end up unfinished after 4-hours if you allow another task to take your attention.
Some people begin to organize their time using the Pomodoro Technique. This is simply breaking up your time into 25-minute blocks, then taking a 5-minute break. After 4 of these increments, you then can get up and relax for 15 minutes.
This may be unrealistic for you. It depends on the type of work you do. Obviously, you cannot stop a conveyer belt or step out of your college class because it is time for your 5-minute break.
But you can use the technique as a starting point. The point is to take a break after a certain amount of time to recharge.
This is a good time to have a cup of coffee for an energy boost. Coffee has long been known for its ability to put some pep in your step.
If you use it correctly, it will improve your focus and keep your energy high. You won’t get this kind of coffee from the break-room. Learn about specialty coffee and keep some high-quality coffee on hand.
One of the worst habits a parent or business manager can have is the inability to trust others to do something. As a parent, we may rush around looking for laundry, try to cook dinner and change the baby.
As a manager, we put our energy into all the details of a project and never let someone else do even the most minor parts.
Your assistant can research data you need for your project. Your secretary can hold your calls so you can go incognito for a couple of hours.
There are people around you who want to help, but you are afraid to release any of your “power” to them. This leaves them inactive and you frustrated.
Everyone learns differently. Taking the time to understand how you process your work will be a giant step toward improving your productivity.
In general, there are 3 types of ways people process information: visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. You may use one or two of these things.
For example, you may be a person that can read something several times, but not fully understand it until you do it. You may be someone who is much more productive if they are told what is needed versus reading about it.
There is nothing wrong with any of these things. This is why so many companies use cd’s, lectures, and video to explain a project or put a program into action.
Visual learners tend to color code calendars, files, and work. They may need to highlight something once it is complete.
As for auditory, this is the age of technology. You can record your thoughts from a meeting (or record the entire meeting) with your smartphone or android. There are plenty of free apps to help you.
Kinesthetic learners stick with the old-fashioned date books. They do well, writing things down. You can easily learn to type things on your laptop or tablet, but you will still maintain better control if you do what makes you comfortable.
Look at your day as a game board. There are some things that you must do at the same time and in the same way every day.
For example, you must leave your home at 7:30 AM in order to reach your office and be ready to begin the day at 8:00AM. Your first order of business may be to check your email, dispatch employees, and begin your daily report.
Whoever you are, you have steps that are repeated daily. If you are a doctor, you must be ready to see patients at 9:00AM. You must have a set time to review charts. Whatever it is, make a note of it.
Setup a normal routine for mornings and evenings. You can deal with anything that happens between those points but, you cannot miss those points.
Of course, everyone has things that interrupt their normal routines. That is acceptable unless you are allowing those interruptions continually.
If you have missed picking up your child for 4 Mondays in a row, you have established a new routine that avoids that responsibility.
As an adult, you are allowed to make those choices. But, you have to own them. Don’t put a responsibility on your calendar that you are not sure you can make a routine.
There is nothing more frustrating for a business person, client, or employee than not being able to get something accomplished that should be available.
This comes from an office where everyone knows their own job, but they don’t know anyone else’s job. There are a couple of reasons why this does not work.
Clients and customers
A client does not care that Joe is in control of his project and Joe came down with the flu. They are not going to pat you on the back because someone other than Joe managed to fumble through the files and find what he needs. He expects prompt and professional service from your company. Make no mistake about it; every employee is your company.
When employees are only exposed to their small part of the puzzle, they begin to feel like the big fish in a small pond. They get a mentality that no one can manage without them. They think they are indispensable, and that they are the hub that makes the wheel turn.
This is counterproductive. Your company will stagnate, and good people will leave if they feel they cannot grow past a particular point.
You combat this problem by cross training. Make sure the entire department knows how to work a clients project. There should be a basic program that allows anyone who can access a clients file to know exactly where the project is and what is coming next.
When you cross-train, employees discover what work goes into getting the job to them and what work goes into processing the work after them. They need to get a picture of the entire process. This shows them that they are part of a team and a network and they are no more, and no less important than anyone else.
If you have people on your payroll who refuse to look past their own work and refuse to teach others what they know, you need to remove them. This includes managers, engineers, and anyone else in the line.
Everyone has a place, but no one should be glued to their chair. If they are not willing to grow, they will suck the life out of others who want to grow.
As your employees learn more and become more effective, they will find free time. Be sure you have a map for the future. Show them where to spend their time and in which direction you want them to grow.
Every business (and home) has grunge work. It is charting patients, data input, filing, washing dishes, cooking dinner, and processing reports. It is the underside of a successful operation.
It is important that you keep ahead of the game with grunge work. Do not let it stack up until it is out of control. It takes less time to file daily than to file weekly.
If you are pushing it to a monthly job, missing your deadline once makes you two months behind on having the work logged in.
Grunge work needs to be done every day. Unless you have an employee who has the job of doing these tasks for the employees, your entire team should be held responsible for keeping the grunge work done.
It does not matter if the job is done if when you go to look at it, it is not there. Remember, the client doesn’t care who does his project, but he wants to know where he stands every minute.
If you want to be productive, you must understand that there are times when you have to say no.
The more efficient you are at your job, the more time you will have. There are always going to be people who have not mastered their own workload who want to dump it on you or your team.
There are times when it is important to jump in and lend a hand, but if Manager Mike is always standing at your door at the end of the month with a load of files, its time to say no.
You can offer to help him run his department more efficiently if you want to, but more likely than not, Manager Mike is just a slacker and will always need “help.” Know when to say no.
For a week or two, start watching yourself. Are you a person who begins the day slow and builds up steam? Are you a person who comes in ready to take on the world, and starts winding down in the afternoon?
You must determine when you are most productive in order to plan your time.
If you are a morning person, use the morning to get your hardest work done. Save the easy stuff for late in the day when you are running low on energy. If you are a person who has to work up steam, arrange meetings, and projects for the afternoon.
When you are doing a project, set a specific time you will work on it exclusively. If you have to draw the plans to a building and you estimate it will take 4 hours, schedule one hour each day where you will not answer the phone, email, or have interruptions.
If you carve out specific times for a project, you will accomplish more, and the quality of your work will be high because you gave it your full attention.
We all have problems. Of course, you should be understanding and accommodate when an employee is sick, or their parent has died. People go through a divorce and financial difficulties.
However, there has to be a limit to compassion. The bottom line is, you have a department or house to run.
We are not implying that you should fire someone because they are having problems that are affecting their work or personality at work. But, if you want to keep productivity up, you must address it.
That can mean assigning some of their work to co-workers or bringing in a temp to do grunge work so your employees can share more of the load.
You invest a lot of time and money in employees. You do this expecting a return on the investment. These things need to be taken into consideration when an employee is having a problem and not performing at his peak level.
This old saying applies here. Your goal is to be more productive. The productivity of your team has a direct affect on your productivity. What can you do?
Unless you have supernatural powers, you cannot demand that an employee not grieve, worry, or come to work tired. If you do have these powers, we are sure they would like you to use them.
Before you go off the deep end, and fire someone think of how much money you have invested in their training and how much money you are paying them.
At the end of the day, you are running a business. If you had to replace this employee, you would get someone who does not know the job.
They probably would need a minimum of a month before they can do the simplest assignments on their own. You would probably have to start them at a higher salary than your current, and experienced employee earns.
You are competing for an educated and ambitious employee. It would take about 6-months to begin to see a return on your investment for the new hire.
Your current employee, who already knows the job, and is working at a rate you can afford would probably be over their crisis inside a month or two. From a business standpoint, it is smarter to allow them some time to get through their problem.
It goes without saying, what you eat directly affects your productivity. Food is fuel to run your machine.
Just like you use gasoline to power your automobile. If you put trash in your gas tank, your car will eventually stall and stop. The same is true with humans.
Here are some tips to help you stay productive by properly fueling your body.
Just because it is wet, does not mean it is water. Your body needs plenty of water to keep your muscles hydrated, and your organs performing.
Water leaves your body through the skin. It evaporates. It is also used up when you breathe and go to the bathroom.
You do not have to drink the recommended 8 glasses of water per day, but it is a good way to make sure you are taking in more than you are putting out.
Understand what your food does – all foods are not created equally
Before you put it in your mouth, know what it is.
If you are eating protein, you are giving your body long-term fuel. But, if you are giving your body carbs and sugar, that is what it will use for fuel first. Any excess (eating more than our body needs) will be stored as fat.
When you eat carbs and sugar, it affects the reward center of the brain. It makes you feel good for a little while.
But, when those sweets are used up, your brain is going to signal you to eat more of it. This is why people get overweight.
They respond to the demands of the brain to keep eating the fast-burning fuel. Your body is in a continual motion of sugar-highs and sugar-crashes. You do not feel well, you do not sleep well, and you are not as productive as you can be.
Eat a well-balanced diet. Eliminate sugar and excess carbs from your diet. Drink water and manage to work in a few extra movements throughout the day. Park far away from the office door so you can walk more. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Reprogram your sleeping habits
If you are not sleeping well and there is no medical reason for it, you may need to reprogram your sleep habits. You do this by mentally preparing for sleep at the same time every night. Here are some tips:
Exercise is important because it keeps your body strong and it keeps you mentally sharp. These things are needed if you are to be productive.
Find a form of exercise that you like. You might want to go to the gym twice a week or prefer walking or biking. Maybe you want to take a dance class or swimming. Find something you enjoy and do it regularly.
It is not one of these things that will change your world and make you more productive. It is a combination of all these things that will help you reach your goal.
These are not short-term fixes. These are long-term goals. Incorporate them into your routine a little at a time.
Do not put such a demand on yourself to be productive that you make yourself miserable. The slow and easy route is best.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. You are making changes that will change the way you look at the world. You will open the windows to opportunities that you overlooked before.
Step back and look at the whole picture. Filter out the noise of life and focus on the energy that you take in and project. This is the only sure method to a lifestyle of productivity.
About the Author:
Ashley is a super-connector who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition.