3 techniques I use to be more productive
and eliminate time wasters.
There is a massive struggle humans have wrestled with from the dawn of the working day. It has seemingly become an even greater challenge over the past two decades since the advent of email and social media. The struggle is, of course, time management.
Most people I meet and have the time management discussion with, find themselves overwhelmed by the demanding nature of email, instant messaging and mobile phone as well as the distraction of social media. Many people complain that having their email on their mobile phone, their watch and every other device known to man all adds massively to the pressure to respond immediately, even out of work hours.
I know, as do most of you watch right now, what it feels like to be so busy with email and other demand driven challenges that I literally don’t have time to do anything else.
I was talking recently with a prospective client who was drowning in email and the stressful demand it drove. She was fast becoming unproductive and was on the verge of closing the business she had worked so hard to establish and make profitable.
From 5 a.m. in the morning through the children’s breakfast and the school run until 10 p.m. every weekday she was dealing with emails from clients. On weekends it was not much better as the flood of emails overflowed into Saturday and Sunday was taken up with catching up on what had not been done in the week. I honestly could not believe what I was hearing and what I saw.
When we did a dive into the emails she was spending so much time on, we very soon discovered that over 70% was single question queries which the client could easily have found the answer to or they were queries which had been answered by her to them specifically in the past 12 months. The vast majority of which would not be billable time nor had the answers changed.
She had cultivated a dependency on herself for answers which was becoming detrimental to the business. She had inadvertently created a never ending to do list for herself which was both unnecessary and destructive.
While I understand that hers was an extreme case, there are many people who watch this program who feel the same sense of overwhelm and don’t know what to do. In many ways, I have been there, done that, got the t-shirt and I’m working my way out of the time management and overwhelm challenge. I can understand how easily she and other people get caught in this type of trap.
So what am I doing to be more productive, eliminate time wasters and what do I recommend to my clients?
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge we can’t really manage time but we can manage ourselves within the time we have available to each of us. This gives us the freedom to then implement processes, tools, and techniques to maximise efficiency and productivity and to eliminate the time wasters.
With that in mind I want to share with you a few tools and techniques which has made me far more productive than I ever thought I could be.
You may have heard the name Dwight D Eisenhower from your history lessons of the Second World War. You may remember he was the US General who served as supreme allied commander in the latter part of the war and went on to become the 34th president of the United States. Eisenhower, however, is also legendary for his leadership skills and his incredible ability for sustained productivity over many decades.
His most famous productivity strategy revolves around what has become known as the Eisenhower matrix or the urgent / important Matrix.
Over the past 50 years or so, this time management technique has evolved in a variety of different forms, although the basics remained the same. So today we will talk about the basics, which revolve around the theme that managing yourself within time is not only about being efficient but also effective.
The Eisenhower matrix separates activities and projects into 4 quadrants:
Quadrant #1 – urgent and important
These are the things which are both urgent and important for a variety of different reasons. I have most often found that people live daily in this quadrant because they have procrastinated on tasks, jobs and activities which have now put them under time pressure.
There are, of course, many tasks and actions in this quadrant which are there due to the nature of your business and we have to recognise that fact. However, most people misunderstand the urgent/important debate, making tasks which are in fact not important, important!
This is also the highest stress quadrant in your work day. You can deal effectively with the urgent tasks which have been put off by using the tip I spoke about in last week’s show and that is nailing the one big thing first everyday. This will help you reduce the number of urgent task to an absolute minimum.
Quadrant #2 – important but not urgent
These are tasks, jobs and actions which are important to the success of your business but have not yet become time sensitive or urgent. You have control over when they get done but they are important and need to be done. This is the quadrant you want to spend most of your time working in. And the reason is this is the least stress and most productive area in this process.
Here you get the stuff done that makes the most difference to your business and you can get it done without the urgency that time pressure creates. If you focus here, these important jobs don’t become urgent and are therefore less stressful.
Working mainly on tasks that fit in this quadrant will help you raise your game to levels that your competitors could only hope to achieve.
Quadrant #3 – urgent but not important
These are the types of tasks you should be delegating or outsourcing to other people. However, it is easy to get stuck here because of the urgency or perceived urgency of the task, but these are ultimately not important to the success of your business. The tasks that fall into this category are often almost as high stress as those in the first quadrant, the urgent and important quadrant, and are generally low productivity and low impact.
Quadrant #4 – not urgent and not important
These are the time wasters. Those time sucking activities which contribute little to the value of your business easily suck you into their grasp and ultimately make you really unproductive.
For me this is what I have often called research. You know, looking up additional stuff because you want more useless information to impress yourself with. These are also those things which are distractions like social media interaction to stay informed. Whatever this is for you. I suggest that you plan it into your day and don’t let it be a random series of events.
I have attached below a worksheet which will help you use this matrix to great effect. It is a free to download worksheet so grab it at the end of the program.
The second technique I want to share with you is the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique
was developed in the 1980s and is designed to divide your available time into 25 minutes segments with a 5 minute break in between each segment.
Most of us can focus for 25 minutes at a time and get stuff done, in the knowledge we have a five minute break coming. In the five minute break you could, for example, do those things we spoke about in quadrant 4. The non-important and non urgent things which would otherwise waste your time.
To help me with this process, I use a tool called Kanbanflow
which incorporates the Pomodoro technique and this is the 3rd tool I want to share with you.
The kanban model or board has been around since the late 1940s when it was used by Toyota to enhance productivity. There are a whole load of psychological and scientific reasons why the visual cards work, which I don’t have time to go into here but do so in our time management course which will shortly be available on our website.
In short, it is the system of developing a visual reference workflow which using a program like Kanbanflow allows you to measure your activity and be highly productive.
I have used Kanbanflow to organise all of my repeat tasks, whether daily, weekly or monthly, into boards which give me a clear visual reference for every day. I have, for example, created a daily board of all the repeat and must do tasks which need to be done on a Monday. So when Monday comes, I am well on my way to having a productive day because much of the planning is already done.
So there are three tools or techniques of how you can be more productive and eliminate time wasters.
Call or email me today to find out how I can help you grow your business.