1. Develop a morning routine
There is no better way to start the day than a pre-established routine. These help ease you into a conscious train of thought. Make a coffee, do some exercise, have a shower and then eat a healthy breakfast while reading the news. Make up your own routine as you see fit. All successful people do this.
2. Make lists
This should be a no-brainer for efficiency, but for many people it’s not! Use monthly, weekly, daily and even hourly task lists so you can keep tabs on how you are performing.
3. Break up large tasks into well-defined smaller tasks
It’s easy to jump into a new project without thinking. You have some great idea and want to get started straight away. This is never a wise move. Write down the idea for later and start planning how you are going to tackle the task. Timeframes, resources, and milestones need to be your initial starting point.
4. Prioritize well
Prioritize tasks based on things like urgency, required time, importance, and income generated from the task. If you struggle, you can use a points system to determine priority.
5. Focus on only the most important thing at the time
Humans aren’t built for multi-tasking, much as we’d like to think we are. Pour all your attention into one thing at a time.
6. Reduce meeting times – and stick to them
The majority of meetings you’ll attend in your life may have only around 50%-75% of actual necessary content put into them before people start asking stupid questions and arguing pointlessly. Cut down the time taken for each one and stick to it and you’ll eliminate most of that.
7. Take regular breaks
The recommended guidelines are 10 minutes out of every working hour. That means getting up and having a wander around. Answering incidental emails does not count.
8. Time your tasks
Use a time tracker to see how long tasks are taking you. This will help you to plan better for similar tasks in the future. It also prevents you from becoming distracted while on the clock.
9. Use distraction blockers
Don’t let being online distractions chew into your time. Use tools like KeepMeOut, Cold Turkey for Windows and SelfControl for Mac.
10. Turn off all notifications
Notifications from Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Gmail, etc. … Turn them all off now. Even the noise alone is enough to distract you from the task at hand. You’ll have a break coming up when you can attend to them soon.
11. If productivity is escaping you, learn when to take an unscheduled day off
Drank too much last night? Staring blankly at your screen with minimal success? If you don’t have any urgent tasks at hand then it’s time for a “me” day. Don’t bang your head against a brick wall for the next 8 hours.
12. Allow all your online distractions to occur at once
Browse Facebook, lookup your next holiday destination, do some online shopping or get lost in Reddit but do it all at once in your own time and not while you’re in the middle of something else.
13. If it’s not working, try a different environment
Your desk might be doing your head in. Try a café, co-working space, public library or park to see if it is your environment causing blocks.
14. Outsource daily activities
If you have the money, get a cleaner, groceries delivered, dog walker, etc. These activities take time and you may not enjoy doing them. Outsourcing may not be as expensive as you think and frees up more time for work.
15. Note reasons why important tasks aren’t being completed on time
Don’t let these lessons learned escape you later. Write them down, use an app, or voice record if you’re feeling a little lazy. You’ll thank yourself when six months down the road when you run into something similar.
16. Use your email filters
They are there for a reason! Setting up rules doesn’t take long and you can eliminate the rubbish from the important ones.
17. Talk instead of text
Although we now live in an age where email, IM and texting rule, don’t let that stop you from picking up your phone or headset. Voice communications are faster, more personal and the tone of the conversation is not so easily misconstrued. Back it up with an email that goes over the important points so that you both have a reference.
18. Develop systems for tasks you do often
For example, if you are selling auto parts think about adding new parts to your inventory then develop a checklist for whether it will be worth it – thinking about profit margins, availability/price elsewhere, difficulty of sourcing them, how many people will be searching for them, etc.
19. 9-5 doesn’t work for everyone
Everyone is different. There’s no need to try and squeeze yourself into a box that you don’t fit in to. Being your own boss gives you certain luxuries – like starting work at 4am and finishing up at midday. Or starting at midday and working until 4am! As long as you have some overlap time with people you need to work with, and are happy to wake up/be interrupted for extraneous meetings, you will be fine.
20. Track weekly productivity and reward yourself when you do well
Like a child with a star chart, have a weekly productivity gauge. You can attribute a score from 0-5 (or 0-10 if you’re feeling like being more precise) to your productivity for the day. On a good week, or even an especially productive day then go ahead and reward yourself: you’ve earned it!
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