It is a fact of modern life that, for an ever-increasing number of professionals, being uber-busy is the norm. It seems like everyone these days loves to lament about how busy they are reading emails and attending meetings all day, with, of course, the standard rejoinder: “Well, better too busy than not busy enough, right?”
So it is no accident that the business book of our times is a step-by-step guide on how to work more efficiently, called The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. Just last week I was at a conference where attendees brought up Ferris’ book, and many people remarked that the idea of a four-hour work week bordered on ludicrous. After reading The 4-Hour Work Week I agree that the book’s title does seem to offer an unrealistic promise, but I can also say I learned some great tricks from it that have made me more productive and less time-crunched.
If you want to get more out of your day, here are 9 steps that can definitely help:
Step 1: Get up a little earlier: Starting your day even 30 minutes earlier has tremendous benefits. Mornings are a great time to exercise, read, write – whatever behooves you and your schedule – with little interruption.
Step 2: Get to work early: Part of the value of getting up a little earlier is that it allows you to get into the office or shop a little earlier too, and that in turn affords fewer interruptions, allowing you to get some work done before your colleagues and customers arrive.
Step 3: Create a daily goal: A day can easily get away from you if all you do is react – take the call, attend the meeting, clean out the inbox, etc. Instead, after you wake up and start your day early, a great next step is to set a realistic goal for the day – finish the PowerPoint, make 10 sales calls, whatever. Having a daily goal helps make sure that your day is the day you plan, and not the day you respond to.
Step 4: Prioritize: Aside from your daily goal, the other smart way to start organizing your day is to put your to-do list in priority order. Aside from your goal, is there one task that you need to get done today? Then put that at the top of the list.
Step 5: Get the drudgery out of the way early: It is so easy to put off the boring stuff for later in the day, except that later in the day becomes tomorrow, and tomorrow becomes later in the week, and then that important, albeit boring, stuff either never gets done or sneaks up on you when you can least afford to devote the time to it.
To avoid this, consider adding the drudge work to your priority list and getting it out of the way early in the day when you have the energy to handle it most effectively.
Step 6: Slay the email monster: As you may have guessed, this is my own personal demon, but I am not alone. Email can consume a day when you end up constantly checking it. Instead, set aside a certain amount of time twice a day – in the morning and afternoon – and leave the inbox closed otherwise. This simple step frees up a ton of time.
Step 7: Delegate: I recently interviewed a dozen very successful entrepreneurs over the course of a day (yes, it was a very long day – but a productive one) and they had two things in common:
- They all said having a great culture and clear corporate values was critical to their success
- They all said that learning to delegate was a significant step in their growth as a leader and entrepreneur
You can’t do it all yourself, so get some help. Use that extra time to do things that are more important.
Step 8: Stop wasting time (or at least waste less of it): Whether it is getting sucked into the YouTube vortex or checking out Huffington Post one more time or watching another episode of “Gilligan’s Island”, the blessing and curse of being your own boss is that you get to do what you decide to do, when you want to do it (usually). So I am forced to tell you that if you want to be more productive, then you probably need to be more self-disciplined.
Step 9: Have a check-in day: An efficiency expert I know creates a day once a month where he and five other people check in with each other via conference call every hour. They make hourly commitments and yes, it is very difficult to be anything but very effective that day.
Do you have any strategies to improve your daily productivity? Share them with us below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.