A question I hear almost weekly is, “How do you manage everything on your plate?” Between writing for the journal, tv appearances, working with my clients, editing a global magazine, teaching courses, serving as the president of the local chapter of my association, and volunteering, I will admit there’s a lot to manage. I have to first say that I have an incredibly supportive spouse, young adult children and a passion for helping and supporting people. Each of these things give me a distinct advantage, but there are a few other tricks I have up sleeve that help me keep on top of everything. Managing your time and turning up your productivity is not something that comes naturally to most people (me included), but when you learn to master a few things, you’ll find your business grows right along with you.
Here are five productivity hacks that I and others have embraced to get more done in less time.
1. Rituals and habits
Simply put, a ritual or habit is a consistent way of doing something. We all have habits and rituals we engage in without even thinking about it. For example, a typical morning ritual may be wake up, brush your teeth, shower and head to your office. Sounds easy, quick and simple. However, upon closer examination you may find that you also check Facebook, Instagram and emails as part of your morning ritual adding on an additional hour or two to the process.
The trouble is, if you’re not careful with your rituals, they can turn into productivity killers. How about instead of doing something that’s not productive, you use that time for something that will actually help you to advance your mental health or your business. Take a good look at your rituals throughout your day and ask yourself if you can incorporate a few new behaviors that would increase your productivity.
Maybe instead of checking Facebook after you brush your teeth you can use that time to create your to-do list for the day, write a paragraph for you upcoming book, spend time journaling, or do a quick 15-minute workout routine. The options are endless. You’ll find that once you incorporate a new behavior(s), linking it to the chain of behaviors called your ritual, you’ll create a more productive and efficient habit and automatically find that you’re getting more done.
2. Plan your wardrobe
The last thing you want to do each morning is to struggle with finding the right thing to wear. If you stare blankly at your closet each morning or change your clothes three to five times before you leave the house, you’re eating into your productivity. Not to mention, you’re depleting your energy before the day has even started.
Remember when your mother used to lay out your clothes for you the night before when you were a little kiddo? Well there’s a reason she did that – it saved time! Creating a capsule wardrobe (a collection of a few key pieces that can easily be mixed and matched) will help you save valuable time each morning.
You’ll first want to make sure everything in your closet is clean and wearable. Then pull 7-10 pieces from your closet and arrange five outfits for the week based on your scheduled activities.Then hang them together in your closet or behind the door, wherever they’ll be easily accessible. For some, this will add up to an additional hour in your day.
3. Calendar management
An absolute truth for me is “if it’s not on my calendar it doesn’t exist.” If you want to know how much time you really have available on any given day you have to block off time on your calendar for everything. Fill in all your client calls, your business administrative tasks, time for meals and breaks, outside appointments and everything else you’re committed to do. What’s left might just shock you.
Make it a habit to block time in your calendar for every commitment, and you’ll never again miss appointments and deadlines or over-promise or over-commit.
4. Protect your time
Here’s a news flash: You do not have to do everything in your business or respond to everyone immediately. The two best ways to protect your time is to (a) hand off low-level tasks, as well as the things you hate to do, to someone else. Hire a VA to create your documents and manage your calendar, get a bookkeeper to keep track of your expenses, or hire a social media manager to maintain your visibility by keeping you social and managing your blog. The time you free up will allow you to work on what’s truly important and that only you can do.
The second thing is to (b) let calls go to voicemail and schedule time to follow-up. I get wanting to appear responsive, but you also don’t want to give the impression that you’re available at all times for anyone who reaches out to you. Change your outbound voicemail message alerting people to the days and times you will follow-up. Create an outgoing email that will immediately let folks know that you are busy at work and they will be the first to hear back from you at a certain time or on a certain day. Often with every new call or interruption you tend to redirect your focus and activities and at the end of the day you’ll be surrounded by half-finished or not yet started projects. With the exception of a real emergency, there’s no reason to stop the flow of what you’re currently doing.
5. Take a day off
You are not a machine. You cannot work all day every day and hope to be at your best all the time. Take a day to get some rest, go for a long walk or hike, or relax at a spa. How about connecting with friends over lunch, shopping (if that’s relaxing), seeing a movie, or doing something creative and fun? Do something – anything – other than work.
Not only will you return to the office feeling much more refreshed, but you’ll find yourself more creative and productive than before as well.
Dr. Carol Parker Walsh, a certified image professional and owner of Camas-based Evolve Image Consulting, is the expert behind the Vancouver Business Journal’s advice column: Dress Code. These columns specialize in strategies for developing a positive and professional self-image. Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.