How to Boost Your Productivity Without Sacrificing Your Sanity
There is probably no such thing as an inbound marketing professional who feels as though there are enough hours in any given day. No matter how well you plan, it seems as though there’s always something that can wreak havoc with your productivity: meetings with colleagues that go on forever because no one can seem to get organized, phone calls that go on forever, colleagues asking for “just five minutes of your time” – it all adds up. Finally, by the time the weekend rolls around, you’re looking at your “to-do” list in total frustration and wondering if there is ever going to be any light at the end of the tunnel.
There can be, but you’re going to have to identify your time-wasters and start streamlining. Here are some techniques that will help you work smarter and make better use of your time.
No, really, I’m serious. If you want to wok smart and yet you’re focusing on a dozen tasks at once, you’re not being productive. People love to think that they can multi-task, but the reality is that if you stop dealing with your email to answer your phone, and then you put a caller on hold to talk with someone who just ducked into your office, and then you bounce back to the phone again while trying to juggle your email at the same time, you’re not focusing properly on any of those tasks.
So, when you’re working on your emails, let your phone calls go to voicemail. Let people know that if they need to see you, it will have to be during certain hours, barring an emergency. Get a flow going, and stick with one task at a time. You’ll be surprised at how much time you’ll free up.
Schedule Your Time
As much as possible, separate the tasks you need to do, and block out time for each one. You can set aside blocks for various days – for instance, if you have a blog to write, and you think it’s going to take you five hours, then set aside an hour each day, and by the end of the week, you’re done. If you have to assemble enough people for the office softball game, give yourself so much time over a few days to track people down and sign them up. Again, though, focus only on one task at a time.
Once you have identified all the tasks you need to do and blocked them out appropriately, stick to the schedule as closely as you can. Of course, wrinkles are going to come up; they always do. But you’ll find that if you schedule your time rather than jumping from one task to another without a plan, or trying to complete a single task using the marathon approach, you’ll get more done.
Make sure to allow for breaks, too. Ideally, you should take about 5 minutes of time for yourself for every 25 minutes worked, and a longer break (say 30 minutes) every four hours.
Learn the “Single Tab” Rule, and Follow It
This doesn’t mean that you literally have to work only in one tab in your browser; that would probably be impossible. What it does mean, though, is that you start your work in one tab. If your research requires you to open a new tab, that’s fine, but close it once you’re done with it. Work only in the tabs that are directly related to the job at hand, and resist the temptation to “check on something” because an idea for another project that you’re going to be working on has popped into your head. Just make a note of what you want to check later, and stay focused on the task at hand.
Also, I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but when you’re working, stay off Facebook. Unless, of course, your job is maintaining a Facebook page or group.
Use Planning Software
Sometimes, even the best teams can fall into disarray because a task is left undone, or there is duplication of effort. You can keep track of your own tasks and share information about appointments, meetings, and the overall production schedule using something as simple as Google Calendar. There are also a variety of paid tools available that can allow all members of your team to share information, schedule their time, and keep track of project timelines.
We could all work more efficiently. The foregoing should get you started on ways to boost your productivity while still maintaining a certain equilibrium throughout your work day. You might not become a lean, mean, production machine overnight, but by getting rid of a few bad habits and replacing them with more effective strategies, you will be amazed at how much time you free up and how much more you accomplish during your work week.