Are you making the most of the hours you've got?
Whether you're back in the office, still WFH, or heading towards a hybrid approach, it can seem like a real battle to make the time we have really count.
When you're on top of your to-do list and managing your time well you're in a better position to lead others, think strategically and make good decisions.
So how can you be more productive? Get more from less time? Feel like you’ve won the day?
Understand where your time goes
Before you can up your productivity you need to know what you're currently spending your time on. You might think you already know this but tracking what you do for a week could throw up some surprises. It will take a bit of those hard to come by hours to track it but it's worth the investment. It doesn't need to be exact, try setting a calendar reminder every two hours and just quickly log what you've done so the tracking doesn't eat into your day.
Identify what you want to spend time on
So you've established what you do, but is it what you want to do? Are you spending too much time working in rather than on the business? Are you getting the space to think strategically? To lead your team? List all your current responsibilities and think about whether you're the best person to be doing them. You could make a pie chart and think what % of time in your week you want to spend on each aspect of your work.
As leaders, especially founder-leaders, it's hard to relinquish responsibility. It might feel easier, more efficient even, to carry on doing things you've always done rather than explain processes and relationships to others. But in the long term this could be affecting your productivity where it really matters. Think about which tasks or projects you can fully hand over to another member of your team - delegation only truly works when you're not tempted to oversee or tinker with the process.
Eat the frog
Now you've understood where your time goes and you've delegated the things you shouldn't be doing, it's time to start doing the things you should.
If you're not sure where to start business consultant Brian Tracy says you should ‘Eat That Frog’. And by that he means identify your most important task (the task of greatest consequence) and tackle that first every day. This means you won't procrastinate over the big things or deflect from them by busying yourself with the little things, you'll focus on what will make the biggest difference to your day, therefore your week, and therefore your year.
Tracy talks about first identifying your goals, regularly reviewing them, and planning every day in advance. And when it comes to working out which is your frog each day to apply the 80/20 principle - if the task is in the top 20 percent of 'importance' it's in the running to be first on your list, if it's in the bottom 80 percent, it can wait.
Developing this sense of urgency towards the things that matter will help you develop a 'bias for action' and help you towards long-term productivity.
Avoid decision fatigue
According to Scientific America 'the brain is like a muscle, when it gets depleted, it becomes less effective'. It's not just time that can be scarce but decision-making energy too - especially when we're in a leadership position. And when we have decision fatigue there's a chance we'll get things wrong. So the key is to focus on the decisions that matter - and not sweat the small stuff. If there's a decision to be made and the outcomes are pretty equal don't waste your decision-making energy on it. It's better to pick one and move on with the day, storing the energy for when it really counts.
No meeting Wednesday
Or Thursday, or whichever day makes the most sense for your team. Meetings are a necessity, but they don't need to punctuate every day. When they do it's pretty hard to get the time and the space to focus-in on complex tasks or deep thinking. By designating one day a ‘no-meeting’ day, it gives everyone the opportunity to get real focus and when you ring-fence a block of time like this productivity can go through the roof.
Think about your surroundings
If you're really trying to knuckle down and get something done no-meetings is a good start but there are infinite other distractions around us. Give yourself the best shot at success by closing down your emails, putting your phone and other devices on 'do not disturb', log out of slack, chat, any other task management systems and block out the time in your diary so no-one is tempted to try and contact you.
Take care of your body and mind
Sitting hunched over a computer for 8 hours isn't the way to productivity. Less can be more, for every 90 minutes take a 15-minute break away from the screen. Move, stretch, have a chat, meditate, make a cup of tea, whatever it takes to switch things up and recharge your brain. And for peak productivity think about your body too, stay hydrated, take time to eat well and try to move as much as you can. No-one knows what gets you energised more than you, listen to your body and give it what it needs.
Practice your discipline
Becoming more productive isn't an overnight process. More time, more energy, more focus is something we'd all like more of, but it takes discipline and practice to really make progress. But if you can end the day, the week, the year looking back and knowing you've made the most of it, you'll feel motivated to push and on and achieve even more.