15 tips to help you get some of your valuable time back!
Organizing your desk and work area are very important to maintain an environment that enables top productivity while minimizing distractions and inefficiencies.
Our previous post shared 15 tips and hacks to help you organize your workspace more effectively.
While it is important to have control over your workspace, having control over your daily tasks is more important because it affects how you invest one of your most valuable assets. . . your time.
Your time is one of the most valuable resources you have to manage.
People can lose money and gain it back.
People lose jobs, fortunes and businesses and bounce back.
But, losing time is something that we often take for granted.
Working in a mess or being unprepared for the work you are undertaking can completely derail or delay your workday. The more times you start and stop, the less interested you become in finishing it and the more time you lose.
While getting organized and preparing by getting everything together that you think you will need takes time, it will ultimately save you more valuable time and headaches. A good organized game plan will always prevail over an unprepared and disorganized approach.
Start each day out right with a clear, simple plan.
1- Make a Daily Gameplan. Take a few minutes at the beginning of each day . . . get organized before you jump into work and you will see enhanced productivity. Using a productivity App like Focus 5 will keep all of this in 1 place. Also, investing about 10 to 15 minutes at the very beginning of each day will help you prioritize and move the most important things to the top of your list. Using the Focus5 productivity app to organize your daily and weekly tasks is a great way to organize your workflow.
2- Prioritize With 4 Categories. Everything in your workday will fall in to 1 of 4 categories, and you have probably heard of these categories:
A- Important & Urgent
B- Urgent & Not important
C- Important & Non-Urgent
D- Non-urgent and not important
When you are overwhelmed, attack your items in this order and you will get the most urgent and important things accomplished while reducing your stress level.
3 - Use Key Initiatives as Your Lighthouse
Many people do not know what key initiatives are and how they can help align focus for achieving more important goals in less time. Key initiatives are like a lighthouse for your daily and weekly goals. They are essentially the short term goals that may take 1 to 3 months to accomplish. When you prioritize your work based on key initiatives, broken down by monthly achievement benchmarks and weekly tasks, you will often cut out wasted time, effort and resources on tasks that are unimportant and not urgent. Your key initiatives will steer you away from the weekly rocks and rough waters of non-important tasks that will take you off track and sabotage your ability to achieve your most important goals in a timely manner.
After aligning your daily tasks using the 4-part grid using tip #2 above, figure out which task from A and B are actually the most aligned with your Key Initiatives. Then focus your energy on working toward those first. By doing this, your most important goals will be reached first, and often, the other goals and tasks might either get solved by the most important work, or they may no longer be necessary. Whatever the result of the secondary tasks, you will move much more quickly and efficiently toward achieving the goals that are most important to you and your company by prioritizing based on your key initiatives.
4- Use "Tacking" Like a Ship to Stay On Track
Review your Key Initiatives every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to make sure you are "tacking" your course properly. Tacking is a term used in navigating a ship. When a ship needs to get to a specific location, i.e. reaching a lighthouse, the ship will zig-zag because it is constantly being bumped off course by wind, currents and waves. By tacking, it is re-aligning itself to the desired end location. You can consider wind, currents and waves as those things that are constantly trying to steal your attention and take you off-course, whether they are internal or external issues. And, while your strategy is your overall plan, the tactics are the small movements or efforts that will ensure the strategy is a success. While tacking and tactics are not exactly the same word, they represent a very similar concept. Be sure to review each of your goals and tasks a few times each week to make sure your goals and tasks are aligned with your Key Initiatives. Remember that your Key Initiatives are like your lighthouse, helping you "tack" your daily and weekly activity (tactics) toward your most important achievements on the most effective and efficient course possible. When you remain flexible and continue to keep your eye on your Key Initiatives (your lighthouse), you will be amazed at how much better you become at achieving your goals.
5- Maximize Your Energy Cycle
Every individual has different peak energy cycles. Some people feel more creative first thing in the morning. Some people need 2 pots of coffee before their eyelids will even consider opening more than half way. Find out your best productivity periods throughout the day and schedule your work accordingly.
6- Eat The Frog
There is a saying about doing the hard stuff first in the day. They call it "eat the frog". Best-selling author, Brian Tracy, also wrote a book by a similar title called "Eat That Frog". The idea is that your day will be much easier by getting the difficult tasks done and not having to have the psychological weight of them be a burden in your mind all day. Why procrastinate the challenging things each day when you can tackle them first and lighten your load up for the rest of the day!
7- Tackle the Easy Stuff First
There are days when you just don't get out on the "right side" of the bed. Your mind is foggy, you didn't sleep very well and you have a lot to do at work. Sometimes it is better to prioritize the first 15 to 60 minutes of your day doing important but smaller, simpler tasks. You can gain momentum more easily, feel more productive and get the little boost or jump-start you need to get some positive momentum. Later, when your energy kicks in a bit, then you can "Eat That Frog". The key is to assess your energy level and adjust accordingly.
8- The "Night Before" Tactic
Plan your work and do a brain dump the night before. Not only can this help you have a jump-start on the next day, you can also sleep better knowing that you dumped your brain and took care of all the next-day items on your task list by writing them down, or putting them on your task list in your Focus5 productivity app.
9- End-of-Day Checkup
At the end of each workday, do a quick summary of the work you accomplished and make quick notes about the work that needs to be done first the next day. By using a productivity app or regular online calendar or planner, you will be able to get into a routine of getting a jump-start on your day by investing 5 to 7 minutes at the end of each day. Two major benefits of getting into this discipline are that you have the ideas fresh on your mind at the end of the day, and you can reduce that "I know I forgot something" feeling that we sometimes get after we leave the office at the end of a very busy day.
10 - Drop the Lowest 10% to 20%
The Pareto Principle is a natural principle that seems to govern nature as well as life. This concept was named after a famous economist, Vilfredo Pareto, and it specifies an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. The principle states that 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained. There are different fractions that govern input and output behaviors for different situations, but the idea is still the same. There is a small fraction of your work that accounts for most of your productivity, profitability, etc. There is likewise a larger amount of work that accounts for a small amount of your productivity and profitability etc. Focus on weeding out or outsourcing the lowest 10 to 20% of your tasks that do not produce very well. Focus on those 10 to 20% tasks that give you the best ROI first and foremost every day, and you will begin to get more done in less time. If you do not know how to determine these things, you might need to hire a professional consultant or business coach.
Once you have figured out your top 20% work that allows you to earn 80% of your income, figure out if you can afford to outsource the bottom 10% to 20% if your weekly tasks that are the lowest paying tasks. For example, if you make $40 per hour, you probably have several hours per day where the tasks are worth $5 to $10 per hour. On the contrary, one hour each day may be work that is worth $200 per hour or more. Find out what your most valuable tasks are, and try to adjust your work toward the more valuable tasks while outsourcing a few hours of the $5 to $10 per hour work. You can use communities like Upwork or Fiverr to find all kinds of virtual assistants that are happy to do this kind of work for $5 or $10. The more you can focus on the $200 to $300 per hour work while outsourcing the $10 to $20 work that is still necessary, the more time and money you will have to focus on what matters to your personal life, the growth of your business, or the position of your employment.
If your employer will work with this setup, you will make yourself more valuable to the organization. If you are not sure, set up a good presentation and request a discussion with your employer. Best-selling author, Tim Ferriss of the 4 Hour Work Week shared a similar strategy of negotiating a portion of your work to be done remotely from your home office. If you are employed and are able to negotiate a portion (or all) of your working hours from home, you can figure out how to outsource some of your work while getting your priority work done in less time. He has an entire negotiating strategy in his book, and teaches you how to negotiate a trial work-from-home period with your employer so that you can prove your effectiveness. He even explains creative ways to prove to your employer how you can save time and money for the company by working from home. While this won't work for every job, it is worth reading about to generate creative work-hacks to make your work and life better.
12 - Know Your Weekly Rhythm and Optimize It
You have more control of your life than you might think. Most people go through the work week either by punching in at their job and just grinding it out from 9 to 5, or going to their place of business and tackling whatever issues seem to be the most urgent. Knowing yourself and your weekly work cycle a little better can help you optimize your productivity throughout the week. By using some of the other productivity tips on this page, such as planning early each week and each day to have an outline of what needs to be accomplished in priority order, you can significanyly improve your productivity and have less wasted time and energy each day.
In order to truly know your weekly rhythm, you have to track it somehow, and track it accurately. You could do this by using a calendar or task list every day and then review your days and weeks by charting out your most productive days and looking for trends over the long haul. This would be too time-consuming however, and probably feel like a part-time job. The best way to understand your weekly flow / rhythm is to get into the daily habit of using a productivity app that tracks behavior trends and gives you flexible reports. When you get in the habit of using an app that shows behavior trends over custom time periods, you can fine tune your week by knowing which days you perform your best as well as which times of the day you perform your best. Then, whenever you are able to use the reports to make adjustments to your daily and weekly schedule, you will have more control over your work-week and your energy / productivity level. The Focus5 productivity app has this feature built-in. You can look at trends by having the app show you reports over custom time periods. This will paint a simple, clear picture of your energy levels and performance cycles. By knowing yourself better, and prioritizing your week based on your personal performance cycle, you can be much more productive while reducing wasted time.
13 - Reward yourself
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! This famous quote means that life is not all about work. Balancing work and play is essential for living a full life. However, during the workday and workweek, find your small rewards and pleasures that do not detract from your goal achievement, and allow yourself appropriate rewards for achieving daily, mid-week and weekly goals. You could set up a nice small treat at the end of each day, depending on whether you reach your goals or not. You can also set up a small "hump-day" reward for lunch if you reach certain goals. Have fun with your daily and weekly grind by rewarding yourself with small incentives and motivational treats that will spur you on toward more personal success.
Dr. Henry Cloud wrote a best-selling book called "Boundaries". While this book is geared toward learning how to establish healthy relational boundaries, it will certainly help your work-life. Boundaries are getting broken or bent by co-workers, clients and colleagues all the time, often without us even realizing it is happening. Learning how to say "No" in the right way under different circumstances is necessary to maintain a good personal and work-life. Many things can get dumped on us in our work and personal life that should not necessarily be our responsibility. And, while everyone doesn't struggles with setting healthy boundaries, you might be surprised at the tasks or obligations that you have accepted that will only distract you from your most important goals. Reading through the book "Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud" is a great foundation for building all personal and professional relationships and can certainly help you live a more balanced life that is not infringed upon by the agendas of other people, whether they mean well or not.
15 - Get a Goal Partner or Coach for Accountability
One of the best resources anyone can use is the wisdom or insight from another accomplished person. You can get better at organizing your work week and reaching your goals if you get in partnership with an accountability partner or coach. An accountability partner is best if they will be honest with you while also encouraging and helping with some outside insight. Reading books are amazing resources because you can get someone's life experience and success ideas for the cost of an average dinner. You don't have to live decades in other people's shoes to learn lessons they learned by paying the price of years, failures, experience and money. You can buy a book they wrote and learn life-long lessons in a few days. Likewise, having an accountability partner to help check in with your goals, distractions, failures and achievements each week is an invaluable resource. If you can't find a person in your circles to do this with, consider hiring a personal or business coach. A coach should have proven experience while also exhibiting a good balance of accountability and encouragement. If you decide to have an accountability partner or coach, start on a trial basis and have an outline for your boundaries and requirements. Do a little research and work beforehand and write out the description you would like in a coach or accountability partner. It will pay huge dividends!
These 15 tips and lifehacks on organizing your workday and reaching your goals are critical to creating a daily and weekly rhythm while continuously improving your ability to achieve personal and professional success.
Do you have other work-organizing and achievement tips that have helped you?
Please share and comment with your ideas below.
Focus Fixes are designed to help you get your day, your week, your career and your life back and on track with what matters most to you. While each Focus Fix, by itself, is a very simple step, when you apply each of them, they will become powerful tools that will help you take charge of your journey. Let me know how they have impacted you and share your tips with me so together we can help others make the most of their own adventure!