Productivity is one of those things that everyone in business needs to master. And there are a ton of interwoven skills constantly used to maintain and increase how quickly and efficiently we get our work done.
One of the least used in this day and age of digital hustle and bustle, is the age-old art of slowing down. Allowing yourself a little breathing room so you can seize the moment more effectively, and better prepare for what the future might hold in store.
You may not feel like stopping to center yourself in the middle of a roadway like the lady below, but it’s important to realize that it’s okay — in fact essential — for your piece of mind and ability to manage the stress of having dozens of things to get done while at work.
Keep reading to learn ways to slow things down amidst the chaos and end up with more done on your to-do list every day.
1. Embrace 1-3-5
I learned this from a blogpost by Alex at the Muse. On any given day, we’re really only capable of completing one big task, 3 medium-ish sized tasks, and five smaller tasks. The medium and small tasks may end up being random things like a client calling to complain and demanding to talk to you personally, or a last minute deal or project coming up that requires some of your immediate attention.
I know a bunch of you are probably laughing at this, but if you were to take a really honest look at things, it’s true.
The 1-3-5 rule is a real lifesaver when you embrace it fully. Realizing there are only so many hours in the day can set you free. It will help you prioritize what’s really most important to your work and personal life too.
Ask yourself “Which of these big, medium and smaller tasks will move me in the right direction today, this week, this month?” Pencil those things into your daily schedule, and always keep the focus on those you’ve deemed most important for maximum productivity.
2. Set Task Deadlines First
This might sound like it’s very counterintuitive, but bear with me. Look at your daily and weekly to-dos. Set priorities, in order of importance, what needs to be done first. Next, look at those tasks and give each of them a reasonable timeline for how long they’ll take for you to get done (and your team, if applicable). Round up on your best estimated timeline, to give yourself a comfortable buffer.
Doing this will allow you to slow down because you’ve set a reasonable, do-able deadline for each task’s completion. Therefore, when your mind starts to race a mile-a-minute, all you have to do is look at the schedule to remind yourself that you don’t need to rush and stress about what’s coming next. Focus on each task at hand, enjoy fewer errors that need to be corrected after-the-fact, then move on to the next one.
3. Postpone Editing Until Later
Any type of content you put out there needs to be edited (at least) three times before it can be considered for distribution to the masses, or an important client if that’s part of your business. Get in the habit of finishing projects that need proofing, sans-editing. Editing needs to be done with fresh eyes, and our eyes are not fresh right after investing potentially large amounts of time into something.
An even worse habit is to edit while you write or while you’re shooting a video. You’ll notice some errors that are best corrected in the moment in case you forget an important detail later. However, for the most part, it’s better to follow whatever idea you’re working from on such tasks and not get caught up in the minutia (ie., things like grammar and punctuation when writing a blogpost or email blast).
Of course this won’t apply to everything you do, because not everything will require editing. Not to mention that you may be in the habit of hiring outsourcers or have someone on staff to edit things like blogposts, promotional materials, or videos. That’s fine, this is for those who produce content that needs to be needled over bofore distribution.
4. Plan How You’ll Deal With Interuptions
Interuptions are interuptions because we feel interupted when they occur. Now, see if you can say that five times fast, then move on to reading how to best deal with them! Alexander Graham Bell often said “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Knowing all we’ve learned in life and business, how can anyone possibly argue with that statement?
Increasing productivity by applying preparation skills to daily interuptions is easy:
- Understand that despite whatever else you have going on, people are going to interupt you while you’re doing them.
- Allocate for a certain amount of “interuption time” each day, so they don’t effect your completion goals for the day.
- When interupted, unless in the most dire of cases like a client that needs your undivided attention, make it clear that you only have five or less minutes to spare for that person.
Recognizing that interuptions will happen allows you to feel less frazzled when they occur. Penciling in the interuption time in advance makes the interuption a planned event (ie., not an interuption) and less of a panic enducing, mistake-causing bother. And setting a deadline for the person(s) interupting you will make them less likely to drag things out because you set a limit when you agreed to stop what you were working on. Obviously productivity will go up and overall mistakes made will go down.
With the few tips listed above, you could easily cut the stress in your day by at least 25 percent, while making fewer serious and catastrophic mistakes that can hurt your bottom line and cause more frantic chaos at work.
Slowing down increases overall productivity, while you make fewer mistakes, thus giving you more downtime to regroup and stay centered.
Main Image Credit: Nikolai Koshirin/Flickr