At one of my mastermind meetings, we had a really great discussion about being selective with our time and energy to be able to focus and get really really productive. Quite a few of us had been wanting to de-clutter our time, so to speak, and some of us had made some great progress in that area. All of us knew that we could improve even further.
We thought it would be useful to put our heads together with any tips and tricks that we had that could help others in the group in this department. Towards the end of the session we had quite a number of great suggestions and I figured these tips would be useful to so many others. It made sense to make a blog post out of it – so here it is, courtesy of Nick Haines, Monique Blokzyl, Liz Foster, and yours truly.
9 ways to be selective with your time and energy for focus and optimum productivity!
1. Logging Your Day
Log everything you do during the day and categorize it to give it monetary value (for example $10, $100, $1000 and $10k). Once you have done this for a while, analyse the log to see how you are doing. Any $10 or $100 tasks and activities should be either automated or delegated to free up your time to focus on the high value ones ($1000 or $10k).
This drastically changed how I worked with my VA. I delegate a lot more to her and get a lot more time to focus on the high value activities. As a bonus, my VA gets more challenging and more varied tasks which she loves. :)
2. Is It “Hell Yeah”?
Wondering whether or not to do something? Ask yourself: is the answer a “hell yeah!” – if not, it’s a no. If you’re not sure, don’t do it.
3. Blocking Time for Tasks
Block periods of time to do one task – and one task only. Multitasking is sooooo unproductive!
This is a classic but can sometimes be a bit scary if you are, for example, doing something that you don’t know how to do, or something you just dread doing for some reason.
A great way to tackle dreaded tasks is to commit to doing just 25 minutes of the task. This is enough time to get something done and see results, but not really enough time to let you freak out about it.
The first time I did this was on a task that I had been procrastinating on for ages. I committed to doing just 25 minutes but as I got going, I ended up doing 3 times 25 minutes and got the ball rolling. From then on it was plain sailing! :)
4. Important vs. Urgent
This is a classic one attributed to General Eisenhower. Categorise your tasks according to whether they are important or not important and whether they are urgent or not urgent.The ones that are important but not urgent are usually the highest value activities. Make a decision to do them. Block time in your calendar and stick with it. These are the things that will really move the needle when it comes to your business.
The ones that are important and urgent you obviously need to tackle straight away. Just make sure they really are important and urgent – be really critical here!
The ones that are urgent but not important should be delegated if at all possible.
The ones that are not important and not urgent – are they really needed? If they are, try to see if you can delegate them, otherwise get them done – but not if you have any important and urgent ones to do, and they should certainly not get in the way of your blocked time to get the important but not urgent high value activities done.
5. No Distractions
A good rule is to eliminate all distractions to be able to work on one thing. Many find it useful to not open their email or social media at all until lunch – it’s amazing how much you can get done in the morning that way!
I have a rule of checking email and social media before I go to lunch, and at the end of the working day. This frees up my time in between and I can focus on tasks. This doesn’t always work, but boy, when it does, it’s awesome! I get so much done!
For some this can be tricky. Responding to messages from various channels may be a large part of your job, and if it isn’t email or social media, the phone might be ringing. See if you can’t manage to create pockets of time occasionally. The emails can wait at least an hour and so can social. Can you let the phone go to voicemail for an hour or two at a time or can someone else take the phone and you then call people back?
6. Say “No” a lot More Often than You Say “Yes”
Apparently Warren Buffet says “no” 99% of the time. It seems to have worked quite well for him. :) As a general rule, successful people tend to say “no” a lot more often than they say “yes”. Have a think about it – do you really really really have to say “yes?”. Go for the “no” if you can. ;)
I have a tendency to say “yes” way too often, so I am trying to train myself to say “no”. As an interim action, I am training myself not to give an answer straight away. Saying “let me think about it” is a perfectly good answer and it stops you from saying “yes” to something you then realise you shouldn’t have said yes to and makes it easier to say no because you’ve had time to think and evaluate.
This discussion came up at our weekly Mastermind meeting, and as we talked more about it we came to the conclusion that we should have a quota for “yes”s … Now, the ratio or form of that quota can be adapted to each individual.
One of the group figured it would be good to take Warren Buffet’s lead and say one “yes” to each 99 “no”s.
I thought it might be an idea to limit the times I could say “yes” during the course of a week (you could say a day, or a month, but with a month this following trick won’t work as well). That way, I can say “let me think about it” and then collect all the things I need to think about until the end of the week, and select the one “yes” out of my options.
In order for you to make great choices you’ll have to be clear on your available time, what’s important and valuable to you, and how that fits into the bigger picture.
Remember 99% of the time you’re in charge of when you say yes!
Find your own variation of this and try it out. I know I’m going to do that! :)
7. Keep asking: Can I eliminate – automate – delegate it?
Whenever we take an eagle’s eye on our business, we spot things we keep doing that we should have stopped doing long ago. Just keep asking yourself on a regular basis… can I eliminate doing this?
If the answer is ‘no’, keep asking: can I automate this? As an example, arranging calls or meetings with your clients can be done by an app. There are also apps that help you copy contact data from a business card into your address book.
Keep an eye out for software, tools and apps that do things for you. Whatever cannot be eliminated or automated can possibly be delegated to someone else. Only the activities that have a major strategic impact and that generate the biggest part of your profit should be done by you!
8. The Effort-Result Matrix
Whenever you are not sure which projects to keep on your agenda, keep asking yourself two questions: 1) Will this require a lot of effort? AND 2) Will this create a big result? Make sure you focus most on the low-effort-and high-result projects. When you still have some time left, go either for your high-effort-high-result projects, or even for your low-effort-low-results ones. Definitely cut everything from your agenda that requires a lot of effort and that only gives you low results.
Of course, you often underestimate the effort and overestimate realistic results. But this rule of thumb will help you make a rough decision of what to say ‘no’ to!
9. Have a Clear Vision and Goals
Don’t we all wish we could cross off all of our ‘do to’ list in one day! Imagine if you were so selective that you got everything done! How would that feel to you? Does it seem possible or ‘just a dream’?
In order for that to have any chance of happening, you have to be certain about where you are headed, you have to be clear about what you want, you have to really know what’s at the end of the year, quarter, month and day.
What is your Vision?
It’s so important to have a vision of what you actually want to achieve. Imagine getting in you car and you have a rough idea of your destination but you haven’t taken the time to really plan it out… how much longer do you think it would take for you to actually arrive? You might get there in the end, and it could be an interesting journey, but wouldn’t you rather get there sooner rather than later?
So the first thing is to have a vision that is inspiring but clear! What do you actually want? Make it big – don’t play small! Make it exciting so that every single morning you wake up you on fire. With an inspiring vision it’s so much easier to ensure that you use your time in a productive way to reach that vision.
Break the Vision down into Goals
There is a coaching saying… Q: “How do you eat an elephant?” A: “One bite at a time!”
Now that you have your vision (which is the big picture) then you need to break it down into realistic goals – bite size. So make sure that your goals are lined up with your big picture vision and make sure they are SMART!
SMART is a coaching acronym which helps us keep on track :
- S = Specific (Where, How, When, With Whom etc)
- M = Measurable (how will you know when you’ve done it)
- A = Attainable (no problem with shooting for the stars – just make sure you have the necessary tools/knowledge/ability to get there)
- R = Relevant (do you actually want to run a huge business/ be famous?)
- T = Time-based (time is money! when you set yourself a deadline it’s much more likely to achieve it)
And, of course, the best way is to have someone hold you accountable – there’s no greater impetus to getting something done than when you have to tell someone you didn’t do it!!
So if you truly want to achieve, then ensure your vision is a big one and that your goals are in alignment with it. Once these are in place then you just need to ask yourself “is this action going to take me towards my goal?” Be truthful – you have a choice – once you have your answer then take the necessary action.
Knowing that you are progressing towards your goals will keep you on track. Keep a reminder of your vision/goals somewhere near so you can see it. Create a to do list that has no more than what you can actually achieve in the day and tick things off – nothing worse than seeing a list that you can never get to the end of!
Have you tried any of these tips before? How did you get on? Did you get any new ideas that you want to implement? Which one is your favourite? Tell us in the comments!