It’s vital to maximise your productivity.
Time is a precious resource and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. You can’t store it up and use it later, so every moment of the day should be spent wisely.
The chances are you don’t have enough time to do everything you need – or want – to do.
You always seem to be racing against the clock or playing catch up, sending your stress levels sky high.
Surely, there must be a better way?
And you’ll be pleased to know there is.
Be Clear About Your Goals
The starting point to maximize your productivity is to be clear about what you want to accomplish in your life.
Take some quiet time to think through what really matters to you and what you want to do. And don’t just think about one area of your life. Consider all aspects: your health, family and friends, career, finances, home, leisure interests, personal development and spiritual needs.
Involve those close to you, because it’s likely there’ll be some things you want to work towards together. But whatever you decide to focus on, make sure it’s something you truly want.
The great thing about this exercise is that it provides a framework for your life. When you’re clear about your goals, you become more mindful about how you spend your time.
Make sure you have a valid reason for everything you’re doing today. Every task you undertake should move you in one way or another towards the accomplishment of your goals, whether personal, family or work related. If it doesn’t, then stop doing it.
The other thing I really like about this exercise is that it boosts your motivation. The result is that you get through difficult or mundane tasks more easily. When you’re absolutely clear about why you’re doing something, it spurs you on to finish even the most demanding – or demoralizing – tasks.
Draw Up a Plan to Maximize Your Productivity
Once you’re clear about what you want to accomplish, the next step is to draw up a plan of how you’re going to get there.
In practice, your plan is likely to cover different aspects of your life. You’ll have both short and long term goals, so take your time working out what needs to be done.
Motivation guru, Brian Tracy says every minute you spend in planning saves up to 10 minutes in execution. These are wise words, because the temptation is to get started without thinking everything through properly.
The great thing about a plan is that it also helps relieve any stress you might be feeling. You don’t use up valuable time and energy worrying about what you need to do next, because you’ve already worked it out in advance.
Ideally, you need to draw up a brief outline plan for the next year that reflects how you intend to achieve your goals. Then take your outline plan for the year and break it down into a slightly more detailed plan for each month. And finally, take your plan for the next month and break it down into a plan for the next four weeks.
This may sound a bit tedious, but it ensures that everything you’re doing on a monthly or weekly basis dovetails in with your goals. Not only do you maximize your productivity, but it also relieves a lot of stress, because you know your plan is taking you in the direction you want to go.
Identify Any Roadblocks
Another benefit of planning ahead is that it helps you identify any road blocks that might crop up. Forewarned is forearmed. You can work out how you’re going to deal with problems in advance, so they don’t cause unnecessary delay at the time. Sometimes, the road blocks are less clear-cut and take the form of things that might go wrong. If this is the case, it’s worth drawing up contingency plans.
Whatever the nature of potential problems, if you’re prepared in advance, you’re more likely to resolve them effectively so you can maximize your productivity and keep your stress levels under control.
Prioritize What Needs to be Done
As you start planning, the order in which different tasks need to be carried out is usually obvious. There is, if you like, a natural sequence of events that should be followed.
But life being what it is, road blocks crop up and the unexpected sometimes happens. So the rule of thumb is always to focus on the most important task at that time. The one that is going to have the greatest positive effect on your life.
More than likely, you’re working on several goals side-by-side. These may be personal, family or work related. So you need to make a judgment call about what to prioritize, based on what’s right for you.
Often sorting out a problem is the thing that needs to be prioritized. Not only does it stop you from moving forward, but it also ramps up your stress levels. So don’t be tempted to ignore problems and let them fester. Deal with them right away.
One of the difficulties in everyday life is getting side-tracked by things going on around us, especially other people’s demands. So, as you draw up your list of priorities, make sure it’s based on what’s important to you. Inevitably, this may mean saying no to requests from other people. And it also means letting go of unimportant things, simply because you don’t have enough time to do everything.
Once you’ve drawn up your list of priorities, don’t digress by working on things you find more enjoyable or less taxing!
That isn’t to say you shouldn’t re-order your priorities as circumstances change. But if you do re-prioritize, make sure that it’s because it’s taking you closer towards the fulfillment of all the things you want to accomplish.
Chunk Down Your Day and Schedule in Tasks
In the same way that you draw up an outline plan for the weeks and months ahead, prepare your next day’s activities the night before, so you can hit the ground running the following morning.
Make sure that your daily activities dovetail in with your weekly, monthly and big picture goals.
To maximize your productivity, follow Michael Masterton’s advice (author of The Pledge) and divide your day up into uninterruptable chunks of time where you focus on completing your most important tasks. Whether these are (say) one hour chunks or 20 minute chunks will depend on what you’re doing. But the key thing is to stay focused on the task for that period of time. Don’t be tempted to hop from one thing to the next.
If you have a single task that’s going to take four or five hours, then take regular breaks to refresh your mind and body, because this will help maximize your productivity. Find out what works best for you. Maybe it’s taking a five minute break at the end of each hour or a 15 minute break halfway through.
Productive or Just Busy?
Productivity is working effectively towards the accomplishment of all the things you want in life. So, you need to ask yourself a very important question:
Are you productive or are you just busy?
It’s possible to be both, but you need to be completely honest with yourself.
Being productive means working steadily towards the achievement of everything you want.
Being busy can mean the same thing, but it can also mean just filling your time with various tasks and activities that aren’t leading you in the direction you want to go.
If it’s the latter, then you’re at risk of not accomplishing all you want and ramping up your stress levels.
So, make sure you maximize your productivity rather than just filling your time.