When working with people, getting actual work done can be a task. Not everyone works on the same wavelength. Coordinating the work if you are a more efficient person than your peers, colleagues, employees can be frustrating. Phone calls at work, replying to emails, meetings are some of the things, though required waste a lot of time.
It is important to find workarounds and methods that will help you keep your sanity. Trust me, sometimes all you need, to relax in your routine, is to make a simple change. Some of the things that I am going to talk about has completely changed my life in terms of saving time and increasing efficiency.
So, the most insignificant tasks or the tasks that no one looks forward to, that pressurize us daily and make endless demands on our time are briefings, meetings, phone calls, emails. Meetings are believed to be the biggest collective waste of time by many people.
Let me show you some quotes about meetings from people who know what they are talking about.
“A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted.”
– James T. Kirk, Captain of the USS Enterprise
“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.”
– Thomas Sowell, American Writer and Economist
“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be “meetings.””
– Dave Barry, American Writer and Humorist
“Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.”
– John Kenneth Galbraith, Canadian Writer and Economist
Although our focus isn’t just meetings today, I just wanted to share my bit on the discussion with you. Here are some ways you can save time doing the mundane but necessary parts of your job/work.
Start out by creating lists. Make a list of all the meetings, briefings, discussions, you might have to be a part of. May it be for the day or the mandatory weekly, monthly ones. Lists help you get a clear perspective of your work. Note down what all will be needed for every meeting. If there is a scheduled phone call you need to make with a client, note down the particulars for it as well.
When making your list, eliminate anything that will hinder with your productivity. If there are too many meetings in a day, try to put them down for later in the week. More than one meeting in a day mean you won’t be able to get a lot of work done. You also need to know what times work the best for the tasks you have to do.
For example, some people find replying to emails in the morning better, while some people do it in the middle of the day. Find out what parts of the day are high-energy times for you. This will help you plan better, and also give you a designated time to complete certain tasks.
Let’s talk about the three main concerns here-
- Even if you are not going to reply to your emails now, sorting them can be a great idea. Take a look at your inbox every morning and then quickly categorize each email. Create labels like now, future, urgent, etc. Trash the not useful emails immediately. Whenever you go to reply to your emails, you will have your work cut out for you.
- When your employees send you emails, tell them to tell you the subject matter in a concise form. A quick look at the email should suffice to tell what the email is about. Do the same when you send emails to your employees.
- Use bullet points to communicate in emails with your employees, instead of paragraphs. This ensures only important information being passed, and the employees will start to follow the same soon.
- Before making a phone call or returning a call, write down the objective of the call on a post-it or a piece of paper and keep it in front of you. Use bullet points for ease of use, and you can also put in a check next to each point as you cover it.
- Writing down the objectives helps you cut the discussion time by not having to think about what next was to be discussed. It gives you a clear purpose, and ensures effective communication.
- Prepare a written agenda for every meeting. Like the phone calls, having a clear list to follow stops you from straying from the subject.
- If the meeting is based on going over some reports, plan, or written documents. Have the document sent to the people, who would be attending the meeting, prior to the said meeting. This gives everyone time to go over the material and form questions and opinions. This saves a lot of time in the meeting. All you have to do is discuss the points everyone came up with, and wrap up the meeting.
- Only the people really needed in the meeting should be in the meeting. Try cutting down the number to only the crucial people to that meeting.
Apart from these things, keeping your environment decluttered is really important to make it easier to find things as well as have a space you feel like working in. Make it clear to your colleagues that you are not up for a chat while working. Wear earplugs or headphones when working to drown the noise out. Honestly, all changes needed are really simple and small to make your current situation more workable.
All these things might seem small, and might seem like not a lot of time is saved, but trust me, it adds up. Also, this isn’t only about saving time, it is also about increasing productivity. These things can easily take a toll on one’s mental health. It can also sap your energy for the rest of the day. Which is why it is always advised to not spend much time on secondary tasks.
Automate or plan on making these tasks as quick as you can. You will see the difference soon enough!
5 Steps to Keep Social Media from Ruining Your Productivity
With busy lives, constant deadlines, and chasing targets, we often find solace in the online world – social media. While they are great to distract you from your not so happening life, the distraction is also the main problem associated with their usage. The added stress of social media and the FOMO makes going about your day very difficult.
One notification is all it takes for you to fall down the rabbit hole and spend hours lost in the wonderland. As a result, productivity stays at a standstill. You again turn to your phone for help on how to stay away from your phone – ironic, isn’t it? Reading and watching for ways to increase your productivity and decrease your distractions, but then somehow again end up on sites that do nothing more than help you waste your time.
Social media use is rampant, and the statistics are mind-boggling. As of January 2017, there are over 1.8 billion active Facebook users, 1 billion people using WhatsApp, and a further 600 million individuals using Instagram.
Perhaps even more frightening, research by Common Sense Media suggests teenagers in America now spend on average 9 hours per day on social networks for enjoyment. And we haven’t even mentioned YouTube yet: people consume roughly 1 billion hours of video per day on the media giant.
The growth forecast is exponential, and the message is loud and clear: social media is here to stay, and it’s going to become even more of a part of our daily lives in the future. With such staggering statistics, it’s no wonder digital marketers are finding that an increasing part of their daily routines is spent navigating the major social platforms.
And while Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube present significant opportunities to our profession, they also can be productivity killers with their addictive powers zapping even the most diligent workers. This is a big reason that many people have started doing social media detoxes where they don’t use any specific or all apps for a specified period of time. I took a break from Facebook myself, and it put a lot into perspective for me.
All of this presents the question as to what steps can we take to mitigate social media from ruining our productivity, whilst still benefitting from its capabilities?
Put succinctly: how can we take advantage of the statistics without becoming one in the process?
Step 1: Define Your Priorities
First, it’s essential to identify what’s genuinely necessary and what’s an obvious distraction.
You may have a real need to be active on Facebook Business Manager throughout the day, but do you really need also to be scrolling through everybody’s food every half hour as well?
And are Instagram & Pinterest really essential to your tasks, or are they just another platform which serves to whet your appetite with more brunch pictures?
Deciding which social media platforms are crucial to your work and which aren’t is the obvious first step.
Make a list of what you need to use on a daily basis, and also of the platforms which swallow up your time often without you even noticing as well.
Step 2: Uninstall the Clutter
Have you got that list handy? Good. Now it’s time to get ruthless.
Uninstall all the apps from your smartphone that serve as a distraction immediately.
It may hurt at first, but ask yourself this: “Is this really contributing toward making me a more productive person and enhancing my capabilities?”. If the answer is no, then cull it.
The reason for starting with your smartphone is because it often sits right next to your laptop or computer when you’re working. All those notifications buzzing off will constantly divert your attention from more critical tasks that warrant serious attention.
In fact, I often keep my phone completely away from my workstation and check it at certain times, but more on that later.
Now turn your attention back to your desktop.
Which websites are eating away at your productivity?
The Chrome Extension Stay Focused is brilliant for this and highly configurable. Allocate specific times you can use your favorite websites so that they fall outside of your committed working hours. Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator also gets a special mention only due to its sheer simplicity and effectiveness. Facebook’s Newsfeed Eradicator replaces your feed with a simple motivational quote.
Step 3: Choose the Right Software to Streamline Your Workflow
Now that you’ve started to clear space, it’s time to streamline your daily social media usage to optimal levels.
This is where intelligent software comes into play.
Software like Hootsuite & Sendible allows you to configure & integrate multiple social media accounts in one convenient setting where you can create content, analyze statistics, and bulk schedule your work for clients.
The beauty of this is that rather than having multiple windows open distracting you at various times of the day, everything gets condensed into one window for maximum productivity.
Both platforms offer free initial trials so you can test them beforehand, but the reality is that software like these save you massive amounts of time and increases your productivity on other tasks for a small monthly fee.
Step 4: Create a Routine
The next step requires discipline, and it’s one you’re going to have to challenge yourself to be faithful to creating a routine.
A routine leads to habits, and excellent practices performed consistently lead to brilliant results.
If you want to get the most out of your social media usage, then you’re going to need to create a routine you can follow.
This may mean limiting checking your social media either in the mornings and the evenings, but whatever you decide to do, make sure you keep reminders to ensure you don’t stray off the task.
Using simple sticky notes reminding yourself by your work station is an excellent way to ensure diligence.
The software and plugins mentioned previously will also be useful in ensuring you stick to your routine. Be sure to take advantage of the technology available to you to mitigate social media at the right times!
Step 5: Be Consistent with Your Rules
Once you’ve implemented all the steps in this plan, you need to make a commitment to stick to them.
This one requires genuine heart and discipline. It’s incredibly tempting to get your daily hit of dopamine from Facebook Likes, but the reality is that it often does more harm than good.
You can always give yourself leeway on weekends and in your spare time when work is less intensive to use social media more frequently. But having a clear understanding and respect for your work at the same time is essential, and being consistent with the rules you’ve put in place is ultimately the best way to enhance your overall productivity.
Knowing how to curb your distractions will help you improve concentration and as a result, help you be more productive. Eliminating your phone as a distraction takes away a high percentage of unproductive time, leaving us with a lot more time to do things – something more beneficial like reading more.
How to Use Your Calendar to Increase Productivity and Achieve Big Goals
Are you tired of not accomplishing your goals or being unproductive at work? Are you tired of finishing things at the last minute for every project you have? You might have tried many systems and they just do not seem to work.
You may have noticed your peers excelling and getting things done although they have the same amount of hours as you do in a day. Fortunately, there is a great system which may help improve your productivity.
One of the primary reasons why individuals are not productive is because they are constantly interrupted or feel overwhelmed by the goal/task they need to accomplish. The feeling of being overwhelmed causes projects to be postponed until right before the final due date. To avoid this feeling, you must try and break the project into multiple sub-tasks. For example, if you need to repair a fence in your backyard, this can be broken up into the following tasks:
- Buy materials for fence repair
- Remove damaged fence parts
- Replace fence parts
- Paint fence
The overall project should be broken down into mini-tasks to make this more manageable. Although this process will make a project less overwhelming, it still misses another important point, which is getting interrupted by other higher-priority tasks. Therefore, it is important to write these down on a paper or on your phone or computer.
Many productivity specialists say that writing down your goals will make it more likely that you will accomplish them. I have written down goals before and failed to accomplish anything. At work, I was behind on projects and getting interrupted constantly – it happens sometimes.
After much investigation, I realized that I was missing a core element and that was a reminder system. I could write down my goals and put them on my computer but if I did not review them, the lists would be useless.
Fortunately, the solution to this problem was at my fingertips. I decided to take these lists and add them to my calendar on my phone. I would dedicate at least a 30-minute block to the tasks I wanted to do and set a reminder time at least 5 minutes before the task. Start your day doing this and block off all the hours in your day on your phone’s calendar. If you get interrupted, you can simply move tasks to other time blocks.
You can also combine it with the Pomodoro technique to increase your productivity along with your accountability that will come with setting up the reminder.
Why does this work?
This works because you are telling your mind that you need to work on a task during this time period. The reminder from your phone/computer reinforces this and allows you to focus. Paper-based systems failed for me because I did not review the tasks I had written down. As soon as a higher-priority task came up, I did not accomplish what I wrote down. Instead of relying on myself to do a “review”, the phone’s calendar does it for me.
It also gives me a sense of accountability, because I know that I am supposed to do the said things in the determined time block or else everything else will also suffer. It works like a pang of mini guilt for me. It also gives you deadlines to complete your work, nothing works better at making you feel accountable than a deadline.
Breaking down big goals into smaller goals is something that almost all of us know. It is one of the basic steps that anyone mentions when they take about achieving your goals. But, sticking to accomplishing to those smaller goals to achieve the bigger one is where people fail. This is one of the simplest ways to hold yourself up to the completion of the task.
Creating a sense of accountability is very important. When we feel responsible for something, we tend to be more serious about it. Written goals make us accountable and constant reminders keep us on our toes, making us answerable to ourselves.
If you are tired of writing tasks down or wanting to do major projects and not getting anything done, then you may want to try breaking apart major tasks and add these tasks to your phone. You may find yourself accomplishing things you never imagined!
5 Tips to Increase Your Focus
Low attention span or difficulty in focusing is becoming a common problem for many. With so many entertainment options readily available, it has become easy to be distracted and to procrastinate. Our work takes the hit and that, in turn, makes us feel bad. Instead of dismissing your lack of focus as something you have to deal with, learn to increase it.
Like our body, our mind needs exercise too. The areas we consider to be weak can be built up if we put our mind to it. Just because our focus isn’t as strong as we would like it to be, doesn’t mean you have to accept the fact and do nothing about it. Try to better it. There are things, practices, and exercises that if done regularly, can help you increase your focus.
If you didn’t know, meditation has different types that focus on different areas. Mindfulness meditation can help you boost your attention span significantly. Not only that, meditation in itself can help you relax, and become calm and collected. Now, that your mind has relaxed and is free of a thought jumble, it becomes easier to focus on things that actually matter.
Meditation for just 10 to 20 minutes a day will help you increase your focus and attention span. Start your mornings by focusing on your breathing for a few minutes, followed by your meditation ritual. You can also do some light breathing exercise just before doing something that requires focus to clear your mind.
2. Include practicing mindfulness in your day
While mindfulness meditation helps you become more aware and helps increase your focus. Practicing mindfulness throughout your day will help you fight distractions and focus on the tasks at hand. Mindfulness simply is being very attentive to every aspect of the task you are doing, and also noticing every small detail about your task.
It can seem like it isn’t easy, but it is. What I do is that I imagine I am writing about whatever I am doing – not informative writing but descriptive. So, suppose I am eating my lunch, I will pay attention to the cutlery, the color of my food, the smell, the taste, the texture of each ingredient. I will focus on chewing and swallowing, on the feeling it gives rise to.
What we usually do is that we focus on distractions while eating, and our primary task somehow becomes secondary. Our focus shifts towards our phones or the shows we are watching. This is what happens with many of our tasks.
3. Don’t listen to music while working
Many of us have the habit of listening to music while working on something. While it helps people most of the times and can be a good thing, it does the opposite for people with poor focus. If you know the song, then you are most probably going to sing along, and that stops you from giving your all to the task at hand.
Let’s say you are doing something that is going to be using the same parts of your brain, then will doing those things together make sense? No, right? When you are doing something that uses motor functions like your household chores, then listening to music is fine, but not while reading if you don’t have a high focus level.
4. Build your willpower
Willpower will allow you to ignore distractions like playing songs or using your phone and will help you to stay focused on the task at hand. Consciously saying no to yourself whenever you feel like doing something else is very important and a skill that you should definitely develop if you want to increase your focus level.
Your attention span will be served well with intentionally trying to focus and also having strong willpower isn’t only good for building your focus but also for being productive. At the end of the day, what you do or do not do boils down to your willpower, saying no to distractions depends entirely on your willpower.
5. Increase your focus gradually
Like any habit, you need to start slow. Like when starting exercise, you are advised to start slow because your body might not be able to take it, the same goes for anything mental. The best way to stay focused is for you to start using the Pomodoro technique. This lets you start working in bouts so that you can start with a short amount of focusing time.
You traditionally work for 25 minutes and then take a five minutes break. After you have repeated this four times, you can take a longer break. Because you know that you have to work for only 25 minutes, it becomes easier to focus. This is a great way to start out.
All it boils down to is will power and persistence. If you are really dedicated to increasing your focus, then you will find it easier to do things to help. I would say, convincing yourself is the hardest part, so start out by taking small steps. Don’t decide to start being completely focused for the whole day, that isn’t going to happen. Use these tips to slowly but gradually increase your focus.
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