The run up to Christmas is a great time to be productive. Why? Because there are deadlines everywhere! Not least because most of us want to wrap things up in our businesses in time to allow us to enjoy the latter part of the festive season and be in the moment.
However, it’s also true that productivity is something most of us struggle with on a daily basis. A lack deadlines is something that often crops up when I talk to people about why they find it hard to focus. Other top-cited reasons for a lack of productivity include working from home; lack of clarity; not wanting to do the tasks in question and finally, feeling overwhelmed.
Before we get into my top tips on how to tackle each of these frustrations, let’s think for a moment about when we need to recognise what we need to change or improve in order to be more productive. If you look back and realise that you have been trying and failing to make the same systems work for years, it’s time to find a different way!
Note what doesn’t work about the systems you currently use. Now in a different list, write down how you would like your systems to work. When you know what you want, rather than what you don’t want, it will become much easier to find the right way. Talk to others. Do your research. Experiment with setting up something you haven’t used before until you find the right approach.
In the meantime, here are my own top tips for staying productive:
Work with Deadlines and Accountability.
If you are someone who responds well to deadlines, use that to your advantage. Often when working alone, we don’t have deadlines for a lot of what we need to get done. Our only accountability is to ourselves, and that’s when things slide off the radar. Find some accountability (ideally another person or a small business community like ours, who can offer this support) and set yourself a deadline.
Change your working location.
As mentioned above, working from home can be deadly for productivity. Suddenly everything, including the washing of clothes or hoovering of that mess on the floor, is absolutely a priority – more so than your actual work! We often find a change of scene is exactly what’s needed. The buzz of a coffee shop is a great example. It creates almost white noise allowing us to focus on the task in hand rather than be distracted by that magazine that arrived this morning!
Improve your clarity.
If you don’t really know where you’re going with your business, then how can you know what you need to get done? A great stumbling block when it comes to being productive is not knowing what to work on. Take the time to brainstorm where you are, and where you want to go. Once you have more focus around your future vision, it becomes easier to map out the different sections of your business that require some attention. Whatever the areas are that will lead to some progress for you, do some work to refine them and detail the actionable steps needed to take you forward. Then take one at a time. It will be a relief to see well laid out action steps to take the hard thinking out of goal setting, Your productivity will soar.
When you don’t want to do it, delegate.
This is something that always comes up when I talk about productivity. We know it’s not always financially possible to delegate everything you’d like to. But, if you can, and we look at the logic, the impact of doing so could be huge. So ask yourself what is going on. Are you afraid of doing it? If so, why, and what can you do to address that fear? Or do you just not want to do it? Does it feel like a waste of your precious time that could be spent on something you have the talent and skill to do? If so, ask around and find the person who has the skill and understanding to take this off your plate, leaving you to be productive with the tasks you actually want to do.
Be proactive, not reactive.
It’s hard to see any progress, or feel purposefully productive, when you are very reactive and just fighting fires. Be in control of your planning and goal setting structures. Work out your priorities, and set boundaries when it comes to your use of social media, email and messages. We actually waste a significant amount of time each day just from continually checking messages and emails and how many likes we have on social posts. Keep a track for a few days of exactly how you use every minute of your working day. It’s possible to claim back a lot of time and become much more proactive if you adopt this approach.
We hope you find these tips useful – let us know you you get on if you decide to try any of them out, and equally if you have some of your own, we’d love to hear them!