Improving productivity is a constant challenge. It’s something you’re always working on improving. The reason? You only get 24 hours a day and it’s what you choose to do with that time that defines you and your leadership. Here are 5 proven productivity hacks to maximise your leadership impact.
1. Focus on Productivity, Not Time Management
The theories goes that if you had more hours in the day, you’d be more productive. Yeah right! This is one of the biggest myths. Trying to mange your time is an exercise in futility. The facts is you cannot manage time, the amount of time we have is constant – 24 hours every day – time marches on with or without you. What you can manage however is your priorities, your focus, your habits and your energy. There is always time to get important projects and tasks done, the challenge is not time. The issue is one of focus and productivity, not time management.
Lack of time is not the problem, the problem is a lack of direction and priorities.
The first rule is understanding it’s not about getting everything done. The goal of productivity is not to shovel more work onto your plate. Rather, it’s about getting the right things done. Shift your focus from time management to improving your productivity.
2. Know Your Priorities
Productivity begins with getting to grips with your priorities. This means working on the most important things. Those activities that are going to move your business and vision forward. It means placing effectiveness over efficiency. You will never get everything that needs to be done completed. Instead you must focus your energy on those things that are going to move you vision and business forward.
A focus on priorities means applying the Pareto Principle – also known as the 80 / 20 rule. The Pareto Principle is a rule of thumb which “states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes“. This means that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your tasks and activities.
You must use this principle to improve your productivity by focusing your task list on those activities which really matter. The key is to identify and execute more of the 20% tasks – those tasks that move your vision and your business forward. Ask yourself “if you could only complete your three most important tasks today which would this be?“
So the question becomes “what do you need to do to achieve your goals?“. These are the tasks the deserve your focus and attention. The path to failure is trying to do too many things. Decide on your priorities and stick with them!
3. Manage Your Energy
How many hours you work every day is of little importance to leaders. What does matter is how you manage your energy. To get maximum results from the time you invest in a task requires you manage your energy, not your time. Let me explain.
In the 24 hour on-line world of the 21st century it’s easy to forget that we’re human and not machines. You and I are not make to work continuously for long periods of time. Our bodies have built in clocks that determine the best times for us to do creative work, to do routine work, to eat, sleep and exercise. There are times of the day that are more suited to specific kinds of work. It’s important that you schedule the right tasks for the right time of the day. So for example it may be better to schedule creative work for the mornings and more routine work for the afternoons.
The more energy you have the more you can get done. To manage your energy thinning about developing the following habits:
- Exercise regularly. Exercise creates energy and improves your energy level. Exercise is a the foundation of a productivity for leaders.
- Manage stress. Stress drains energy. The more stress the less energy you have.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is an essential part of a productive a work habit.
- Know your biology. Get to know what the best times of the day for you to do creative work, thinking work and routine work.
4. Work In Sprints
Your body is designed to pulse in a rhythmic way. To alternate on a regular basis between spending energy and renewing energy. Even your heat takes a rest between beats! Most people find that good work happens in short bursts or sprints and not as marathons. You’re at your best when you renew your mental and emotional energy at regular 90 minute intervals.
“The basic idea is that every hour and a half or so you need to take a rest break – if you don’t you may be well on your way to the Ultradian Stress Syndrome: you get tired and lose your mental focus, you tend to make mistakes, get irritable and have accidents – If you continue to ignore your need to take a break you can experience more and more stress until you actually get sick.” – The 20 Minute Ultradian Healing Response, An Interview with Ernest Lawrence Rossi, Ph.D.
The implications? Productivity requires that you only focus on working intensely for a maximum of 90 minutes at a time. Then take a 20 -30 minute break to allow for renewal. To renew go for a walk, give your mind a rest and allow yourself to recharge emotionally and physically.
The bottom line: Instead of thinking about what you can get done today, you need to begin thinking about what you can get done in a 90 minute sessions. Plan your day working around 90 minutes sessions taking 20 minute breaks to rejuvenate.
5. Start Your Day Right
Get your day off the right start. Starting your day on the wrong foot makes it difficult to focus and recover. When it comes to starting your day on the right there are a number of good practices to keep in mind.
- Start your day with a focus on your three most important tasks. With clarity as to your most important tasks you’re able to prioritise the large number of unplanned requests and demands that will interrupt your day. Without this focus your day can quickly get out of control. Leaving you, at the end of the day, wondering what progress you actually made. Keep your focus on the three most important things you want to do today.
- Leverage your mornings for creative work. Many find that the most productive and energetic time of the day is in the morning. Usually mornings are the best time of the day to schedule creative work. This is work that requires focus, concentration or creativity. This work should be tackled first thing in the morning when your brain is fresh. Your energy diminishes as the day progresses. Move your easier work, like reading and responding to emails for later in the afternoon.
- Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. Checking and responding to email first thing in the morning is a waste of precious energy. Nuf said!
- Don’t waste energy multitasking. Rather focus on a single task as much as you can. Our brains are at their best when we focus on one task at a time, multitasking wastes energy and diminishes your effectiveness.