The concept of being able to double your productivity conjures up visions of someone who goes from walking to running marathons or a business going from having a kiosk in the mall to scaling up to becoming an international corporation. Here I’m not discussing anything quite as dramatic, but the changes can be powerful on a personal basis nonetheless.
Years ago I head a saying that goes like this – “If you don’t have an assistant, you are one.” If you want to double your productivity in the next three days, hire a virtual assistant (if you work online) or a personal assistant if you need help in person.
I first want to introduce you to something you may or may not be familiar with. It’s called the Eisenhower Box, and is also referred to as the Eisenhower “Matrix” or simply as the “Decision Box.” The “Eisenhower Box” was derived from a quote attributed to former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower (he was the President when I was born) who said “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent!” I wrote about this concept here in regards to time management.
Every task and activity we engage in, whether for our business or in our personal lives will fall into one of these four areas, under all types of conditions and circumstances:
It may be both urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately). This would include crises and deadlines.
Perhaps it is important, but not necessarily urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later), including those around relationships and planning.
It could be urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else). This could be for meetings and interruptions in general.
And it turns out most of what we spend our time on is neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate). I think of this as time spent on social media (at least for the most part) and watching television (again, not all viewing falls into this quadrant).
Think of some examples from your own life or business and be as objective as possible in placing it into the proper box. Which tasks and activities can you replace with ones that will better serve you, now and over time?
Now let’s get down to the steps that will enable you to double your productivity in the quickest amount of time possible.
Double Your Productivity with a Dynamic To-Do List
1) Use a notepad (mine is a mini legal pad) that sits to one side on your desk. On it are no more than five of the most critical and important tasks you want to focus on that day. Using paper, a tangible item which is also intellectually uncomplicated and easy to interact with, will direct you forward more easily than the noisy chorus of tech-based checklists. Having the paper next to you is like having both the kindest and the toughest boss you’ve ever had. It gently and repeatedly directs you to use your time for what is most important. I refer to my mini legal pad as my dynamic “to-do” list and love interacting with it throughout each day, crossing out items, delegating some to others, and eliminating some for good.
What are you working on today? For maximum productivity I like to start two tasks, finish another two, and complete one from start to finish each day. You must find your own rhythm and stride for best results. This is the first step that, if followed will help you to double your productivity very quickly.
If You Don’t Have an Assistant, You Are One
2) Eliminate all activities that are not a good use of your time. This gets back to the quote I shared at the beginning of this post – “If you don’t have an assistant, you are one.”
There are so many tasks and activities that fall into this category. Recently I was invited as the guest presenter for a new series of webinar trainings. I’ve known the host for a few years now and have the greatest respect for her. She intelligent, knowledgeable about the online world, and very kind. But she is attempting to do everything herself in her business and that is always a red flag. It’s not possible to move from where you are right now to closer to where you would like to be without asking others for help.
On the day I was to be the guest she sent me the link early enough for me to have it at the ready when the time arrived. But she had not tested out the technology she was using, or better yet have her assistant try it out with her. Instead, she chose to practice with something that should already have been tested several times. The webinar did not take place and I had to move on to the next item on my to-do list at the end of one hour. I spend time almost every day volunteering in my community and I was scheduled to help serve lunch to the veterans that day. My schedule is very tight during the four or five hours I work each day and I do not make changes unless there is a very good reason to do so. And no matter where I am at any given time there are people working in the background on my behalf.
I’m sure she was frustrated and embarrassed by what took place, and perhaps she does not realize how this affects her reputation with me and with everyone who had signed up to attend, or to at least be able to watch the replay. Will I work with her again? Of course. But I will make every effort to encourage her to step up and into the entrepreneur I know she is capable of being. If you want to not only double your productivity but also move up to the next level in your business, find someone who is smart and more competent than yourself to help you.
This was a concept I learned and internalized decades ago when I got started in real estate, from a man who had done just that and built an impressive empire as a result. I followed his example and currently have over a dozen smart, tech savvy assistants who play at the things I work hard at doing. That’s the secret to getting to seven figures a year by working around twenty hours each week.
Take Regular Breaks Throughout Your Day to Double Your Productivity
3) Taking breaks during the day is popular advice, but knowing when and for how long can be confusing. For example, the Energy Project tells you to follow the circadian rhythm of your body and take a break every 90 minutes, while the Pomodoro Technique suggests taking a break every 21 minutes. Timed breaks do not always fit well with your work schedule and activities so you must plan ahead to make sure you get them in.
I think of my breaks throughout each day as the equivalent of a young child taking a nap or of an adult making sure they get enough sleep each night. Even though your daytime breaks are not intended as nap time, they do serve the purpose of resting your brain and giving you a chance to step away from your work so you can think about it in a different way.
You may also wish to study the Pomodoro Technique. This is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s and involves using a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, and separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for tomato, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer used by Cirillo at the time.
Only Check Email at Three Intervals Throughout the Day
4) Keep email to intervals to double your productivity. I recommend that you only check emails three times a day. This is something you can have a virtual assistant (VA) help you with. They can sort your emails into a few different folders so you will know what is a priority when you come back online throughout the day. Your inbox can derail your productivity if you let it. Instead of keeping the gateway to your email open all day long, productive people decide when they indulge and when they abstain from email.
I also have a private email address that is only for family members, close friends, and my mentors to reach me whenever necessary. You can check at the top of every hour, for instance, or at the top and bottom of every hour, but that is typically too frequent for maximizing your productivity. When I am writing or creating I need to be a state of deep thought and work flow and for that I cannot afford to be interrupted. Instead, go into a vacuum where you are at one with yourself and do the work that will bring the results you want.
Punctuality and Clocking Out as a Way to Double Your Productivity
5) Create a clocking-out ritual to end your day officially.
Here is where I will talk about punctuality as an integral part of productivity. I will tell people who do not yet know me well that if I am not where I said I was going to be five minutes before the appointed time, something could be wrong. I see procrastination and perpetual tardiness as forms of passive aggressive behavior and no longer tolerate it in my personal or business life. While I was an employee of the school district it was an ongoing issue and this also crossed over to my personal life. Now it does not exist because I have zero tolerance for those who do not value their own time or mine.
Productivity can hinge on compartmentalization, which is a vital habit of work-from-home professionals. Anytime you can put a situation into a box, literally or figuratively, it helps you to better focus, Everything I’ve been sharing with you here is compartmentalization, including your to-do list, email, writing, and creating.
Use this concept to end your day visually by opening a literal compartment, such as a desk drawer or a filing cabinet, and placing all of your work-related items inside. Tuck them in and clock out in your mind. Just because the internet is open 24/7/365 does not mean that you need to be as well.
You may want to take a look at Jason Fladlien’s Double Your Productivity training course when it’s next available. It’s thorough and thought provoking and at a fair price.
I’m bestselling author, marketing strategist, and entrepreneur Connie Ragen Green and I would love to connect further with you to help you to achieve your goals. If you are interested in learning how to optimize the syndication of your content, please take a look at my popular Syndication Optimization training course and consider coming aboard to increase your visibility, credibility, and profitability.