I recently carried out a short, free Udemy course on productivity and getting 10 times more done in half the time. The course highlights the top time killers, with an indication that following these tips could gain you 8 hours each week. I decided to implement one strategy each week, and see how more productive I felt by the end of the ‘experiment’.
1. Check email 2-3 times per day – This was a big game changer for me. I was guilty of checking my inboxes for clients when I was off duty. This meant that once I had read the email I was thinking about responding and was tempted to quickly reply from my phone or actually log on the laptop to deal with it – even if they were not urgent, but because I knew they were there they were on my mind and I wanted to deal with them. Firstly, I took notifications off my phone but left the widget there. Then I decided that the widget needed to go. Now I check my own business emails first, and then each of my client inboxes 2-3 times per day. I have noticed that this has reduced my own anxiety levels and I have still been able to deal with all emails in a timely manner .
2. Only do it once – It is a fact that switching between tasks reduces productivity and produces a loss in concentration. By ensuring that I stuck with one task for at least 30 minutes, and am not distracted and tempted to jump to other tasks, I found that tasks were finished and more tasks were completed each day. Blocking out segments of time for each task on my calendar also helped.
3. Take action immediately – this links into #2 for me. If I am not in a position to deal with emails, I don’t open them. Once they are open, I deal with them and then file them away and forget them (within reason). I also use an inbox filing system, so on the odd occasion that there are emails that can’t be dealt with easily, they can be easily retrieved and dealt with when the time arises.
4. Reducing Travelling – 99% of my meetings are via Skype or Zoom as my clients are not based locally to me. However, if you travel often for meetings with colleagues, ask yourself whether any could these be carried out via Skype or Zoom.
5. Stop Multi tasking – It’s great to think that you can multi-task, but do you really want to ? Jumping between tasks loses you time as you have to refocus. Try blocking out your time using the Pomodoro Technique – 25 minutes of intense work followed by a 5 minute break. The Clockwork Tomato app automates this for you. Every day I block out segments of time on my calendar for each batch of work I need to complete and then get a reminder on my phone and laptop.
6. Remove disruptions – Facebook, emails, internet, phone, children, chores. All these things distract from the job in hand and even if the tasks /distractions are important, they reduce the time spent on billable tasks. For me, putting my phone into my drawer whilst working reduced a lot of my distractions. I also re-ordered my working day so that I don’t need to work when there are likely to be others in the house.
7. Set limit on social media – it is easy to become lost in a cycle of internet and social media. While some articles can be of use and can be shared with your own audience on social media, set a time limit and read work related content first.
8. Time boundaries – if you set a start and end time, you work will expand/contract to fit the time available. By putting time aside for the task, you can implement the other strategies to ensure that you are as productive in that time as possible – and get the job done. Blocking out time in your calendar to complete certain tasks will keep your available time clearly visible.
9. Set limit on internet surfing – why not add research on the internet to your diary/calendar to ensure that you don’t spend more time than you need to.
10. 15 mins evening review and set up to do list – always look at what needs to be done the following day and put together a to-do list. Review what wasn’t completed and why. That way each day starts with a clear plan of what needs to be done.
11. Set home working boundaries – This could include family members not coming into your office when the door is shut, or finishing work at a certain time each day.
By ensuring that I followed these strategies, I was easily achieving (and often exceeding) my daily income goal. I was also getting many other tasks completed, things that had been on the to-do list for a long time but I never quite had enough time to do. I had become focused and clear every day on what I wanted and needed to do (and not do).
The majority of these strategies are simple things that can be implemented on their own to make some progress in productivity, but I would certainly recommend trying a new one each week to see how much time you can save. I’m not convinced that I’ve found an extra 8 hours per week, but I am certainly feeling less stressed and am getting more done.