Think about that person you know…
The one running a successful business, juggling a gazillion passion project and still finding time for family and friends…
Have you ever thought how on earth do they do it?
At any given time, they have a lot more going on than you do. But they sure aren’t working harder!
Quite the opposite: they wrap everything up by 6pm – while you pull all-nighters and consider sleeping under your desk when things get extra hectic.
Well, enough is enough. Today, we’ll talk about what YOU can do to reclaim YOUR day and “get a life” without pissing off your clients and letting down your employees.
These 3 strategies can double your daily output as a business owner while halving the time you actively spend in that role. Let’s look at them in detail.
1. Prioritize ruthlessly by using the Pareto principle
Do you want to be a forward-thinking strategist… or a professional email responder?
Do you want to be a confident team leader… or a troublesome micro-manager?
Not all business tasks are created equal. And your effectiveness isn’t tied to how much you work. To grow your business, you have to be ruthless about your time.
You know this – but it can be daunting to bridge the gap from knowledge to action.
If you find yourself answering angry customer emails or picking out typos in the 8th consecutive draft of your About page… something’s gone wrong.
When you run a business, there’s enough stuff to deal with to keep you up and about 24/7. Always. And there will never be any less of it.
But most of it won’t make you money, or keep the business growing. When everything is urgent and important, nothing is. Challenge yourself to identify 20% of the critical tasks that produce 80% of your results.
It could be anything:
- Communicating with your most loyal clients who keep the bills paid for years ahead.
- Publishing content that gets people raving and signing up to your list by the thousands.
- Spending time training your team and showing them how valuable their work is.
You get the idea.
Prioritize your biggest game-changers and focus on them every day. Learn to love the word “no”, and get used to saying it frequently. If you only say “yes” to high-value things your business can’t do without, you’ll have all the time you need to implement them.
Now that you’ve nailed down your most important tasks, how do you do them efficiently? Here’s the answer
2. Use the greatest productivity tool ever
Do you want to do something faster – and (very often) better?
Set an unconditional deadline. You will accomplish your goal faster, better, and with time to spare.
Deadlines are the engine of the world, thanks to Parkinson’s law: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
For example, you could set a deadline of, say, 6pm to finish all your daily work, like researcher and entrepreneur Cal Newport does. Sure, it will be tough, and it will push you to maximize every minute you have available.
But ultimately, it will be much better for your productivity in the long run.
Of course, there’s a catch – we love to weasel our way out of pacts we make with ourselves. It’s just human nature. So how do you weasel-proof your deadline?
This brings us to strategy #3…
3. Block any means of escape
Do you know when an average person is at their most productive?
When they have no choice in the matter! This is the whole point of strategy #3.
Don’t give yourself any wiggle room for distractions. Block time-wasting sites and software, turn off phone notifications, make your computer boot up everything you need for work automatically, and enforce your deadlines with an iron fist.
Fun fact – famous French writer Victor Hugo did something similar back in the 19th century. When he had less than 6 months left to write “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (having goofed off the whole year before that), he got rid of his entire wardrobe.
That way, he couldn’t go outside and was forced to sit and write the book!
Note: to make sure you honor a time-sensitive and important deadline, you can set up high stakes that will put a price on being unproductive. Let’s say you missed an important project completion date. Well, tough luck – now this website will charge your card and give money to charity you despise.
(You can accomplish similar results with much less sophistication by asking a friend to mail your check if you fail to meet your goal.)
Note #2: leaving no room for distractions doesn’t mean you can’t take short breaks, or steal away 5-10 minutes of every hour to procrastinate. As long as you plan for interruptions, as opposed to just letting them happen to you, you’ll stay in control – and on track!
We wrote about productivity before – but back then we described huge mindset shifts, along with tiny hacks you could implement right away.
These 3 strategies are different – they are processes you can apply to any routine or type of work to make them much more effective.
And if effectiveness and productivity are something you could use more of in 2016 (I’m sure we all could), we hope you will give these a try. Enjoy!