You sit at your office or working table at your working hours, but do you really do something productive? – That’s a million dollar question, right?
With all the web-based tools and technologies and social networking tools/sites it is really hard to be productive these days. Sadly all those technological gadgets and apps were invented to make us productive.
In general we are often prone to be dragged by these sophistication and the ultimate victim is the our productivity. Even though we easily cast the blame on technological advancement, we are solely responsible for what we are able to achieve and what we are not able to achieve.
We are accountable for our time. I strongly believe that by having an inventory of how our time is spent, we can have more control over it.
Rather than getting frustrated over incomplete projects and worrying at the end of the day about not getting anything done, its better to analyze how our time is spent!
Here are some pointers to help you analyze your time!
Identifying essential Vs non-essential tasks
We come across various kinds of tasks in a given day. There are tasks that need to be done now or the sky will fall. There are tasks that are quite complicated but don’t have to be done right now.
But those complicated tasks need to be started right away so that you may proceed with the baby steps!
There are tasks that are quite simple, but might not need to be started and completed right now.
Only you know what tasks are important and need to be started right away and what tasks can be postponed for tomorrow or next week.
Stephen Covey’s four quadrants of time management come in handy to help you identify your essential and non-essential tasks!
Having a systematic schedule (usually requires a strategy)
It is normally advisable to plan a thing ahead and depending upon its complexity/toughness it can be broken into easy-to-do pieces. Fix a time, place and a deadline for any task.
You cannot be creating a plan for each and every task; rather, having a time management strategy in place will help in having a systematic schedule.
Have a plan for your typical day. Have a routine.
Of course many people think that having a routine will be boring. But you can always by pass that feeling by breaking your routine on weekends; or if you’re a work-at-home lucky fellow, you can break your routine for any two of the week.
Delegating helps with productivity
This may sound too formal or big, but an individual (not only a company) can also outsource those task-bits that are beyond their expertise. Of course, this may not always be possible for everyone, but whenever possible, don’t hesitate to ask your friend/teammate/expertise.
Asking help from your family is the simplest and smallest form of delegation you can think of.
And you can go up to hiring Virtual Assistants, In-house assistants, Managerial staff, outsourcing tedious/boring tasks on Odesk, Fiverr etc.
Delegation helps free up a lot of your time where you don’t necessarily have to use your hands on a task. You give instructions to the person who helps you with it and then you move the task off your desk.
Keep distractions away if you want to be productive
Here’s a presentation which briefly summarizes the post:
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Sounds as a no-brainer, right? But how many of us actually DO it? We read about it all the time and nod our heads in agreement but do we really switch off the instant messenger or cut off the internet connection while dealing with something very important?
This is the vital part and it can consume a lot of your time. Distraction comes in any form, a long phone call from your friend/family, an email notification, visitors, social (online and physical) pinging and so on.
It is your own responsibility to allocate time for these things, if a complete cut-off is not possible.
For instance, you can avoid online socializing at the start of the day. You may lose 2 hours at the blink of the eye, just by tweeting/replying to tweets, adding contacts, buzzing around or replying emails (unofficial).
Rather you can set aside few minutes everyday for these kinda stuff.
And more importantly, in those few minutes use your online presence completely by responding to emails/social updates immediately without postponing or adding to your to-do list.
I find using social media and email in sprints work great. Allocating 10-15 minutes 4-5 times a day for handling emails and social media works great.
There are two benefits to this approach:
(i) Since emails and social media presence are part of my business strategy, I end up devoting adequate amount of time to the tasks relating to email and social media.
(ii) At the same time, I don’t feel that I’m carving out big chunks of time to be devoted to emails and social media.
and a bonus benefit – (iii) Logging in to social media and email accounts at intervals between doing heavy tasks helps me relax (and at the same time gets the work done ;)).
Also you need to keep away things that can make you unproductive. Here’s a list!
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Set up a productive mindset
It is normal sometimes to feel overwhelmed or nervous about the outcome of a particular task you are doing. Those are the times when you can’t completely focus on the completion of the task, because you spend a lot of time worrying about the outcome.
Depending upon your situation, you can either not care about the outcome or be prepared for whatever comes; even better you can just think in a positive way that your outcome will be positive (this won’t work always, because it is not right to be over confident:) ).
You know, but you get the idea.
There is no point in thinking over and over and procrastinating just because you don’t know what’s on the other side of the wall. If you start doing things you are going to find out what’s on the other side.
So why waste your time in unwanted thinking, guessing or worrying?
Take an inventory of your working time to know if you are being productive
It is easy to get lost with the millions of things that chase us every day! That’s why we need to stop often and take a nice look back. I do this every week, preferably on a Sunday.
I take a nice look at the past week, find out how the time was spent and also plan the week ahead.
Here’s a cheat sheet I use to improve my productivity just by analyzing the time I spent
Click here to download the Mindmap XMind Workbook file
Hope these tips and the cheat sheet help you with being productive.