Want to make 2014 the best year for your business? Then you need to tune up your business to get your entrepreneurial engine roaring.
Here are our favorite tips for streamlining your workflow and making the most of every day:
1. Tap Into Your Energy Wellsprings
When it comes to productivity, your key asset isn’t your time but your energy. Think about how much you get done when you’re performing at your peak for a couple of hours, compared to when you’ve slogged through a long day. Chances are, you can think of times when you got more tasks done in an hour than you usually complete in a day.
As Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project writes:
“The core problem with working longer hours is that time is a finite resource. Energy is a different story. Defined in physics as the capacity to work, energy comes from four main wellsprings in human beings: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit.”
Start looking after yourself and unblocking the flow of your energy wellsprings. Only when you do that will other productivity tips have a real impact.
2. Practice Timeboxing
Timeboxing is an alternative approach to having a to-do list. Instead of working through a list of tasks, sticking with each one until it is done, you allocate time “boxes” to work on tasks. Limiting the time you spend on tasks boosts your creativity and focus.
3. Go with the Flow
Flow is a state of mind first observed by the Hungarian psychology professor Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. When you’re in a state of flow, you get completely immersed in what you’re doing and lose track of time.
You can boost your chances of getting into a state of flow by learning to focus on one thing. Avoid multitasking, and give all your attention to the task at hand.
When you’re in a state of flow, productivity just happens.
4. Try Pomodoro
The Pomodoro technique (named after the Italian for tomato – go figure) is a timeboxing tool we love. With Pomodoro, you work on a task for a timebox of 25 minutes, then take a five minute break before going back to work for another 25 minutes. The five minute breaks are crucial because they give you release time to goof-off. You go back to work energised, with renewed focus.
5. Set Your Alarm Earlier
If you’re going to bed late or oversleeping, getting up earlier is a quick win for your productivity. For most people – even those who don’t consider themselves a “morning person” – mornings are the time when your best energy is available.
I’ll add one caveat to this suggestion: getting enough sleep is vital to maintain your energy reserves (see #1 of this list). Filling your sleep bank should always come before getting up early.
6. Make the Most of Your Early Mornings
Now that you’re getting up earlier, don’t waste your energy on time sinks such as checking your email or browsing Facebook. Use your extra time for important, long-term projects. Write your book. Work out. Develop your product.
Each day is a gift, so embrace it from the start as you intend to continue.
7. Drop Your Perfectionism
Stop trying to be perfect. It’s pointless because there’s no such thing as perfect. Instead, embrace good enough.
You should always do a great job for your customers (or your boss), but dropping your perfectionism is the key to doing more great jobs for more customers.
8. Break Your Email Addiction
Do you really need to check your email around the clock? Probably not. So turn off the ping notifications every time you get a new message, and schedule timeboxes to check your email.
Email drains your energy. Email lets other people set your agenda. Email is a constant distraction, preventing you from getting into a state of flow. As Tim Ferriss says:
“Email allows you to fool yourself into thinking you’re being productive.”
Unless your entire job is email-based customer service, you can get by checking your email once or twice a day.
9. Clear Out the Clutter
Mess is stressful and distracts you from the task at hand. At the end of your day, clean up your desk. If you’re keeping stuff on your desk to remind you to do stuff, file it away, and make a note of what you have to do.
10. Manage Distractions
We live in an age of constant distraction. We’ve already covered email, but there’s Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, not to mention our constantly connected cell phones.
Out of sight, out of mind is the best philosophy here. If you need time to focus, then unplug your internet connection (or turn off your wi-fi router) until the task is done.
11. Prepare for Meetings
Have you ever walked out of a meeting wondering, “What was the point of that?” I know I have. Even worse is when the meeting went on longer than it needed to. Some people enjoy talking about getting stuff done more than the nitty gritty of actually getting stuff done.
To make meetings work for you, always be clear why you’re attending. Ask to see an agenda, or create an agenda yourself. Be prepared. And don’t be afraid to excuse yourself if your part in the meeting is done and you’ve got work to do.
12. Break Down Big Projects
Working on tasks that are going to take weeks, months, or years to complete is daunting, especially when you’re the one responsible for making them happen.
When you’re working on a big project, break it down into manageable chunks. That way, you can always see a light at the end of the tunnel.
The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
13. Schedule Your Social Media
Have you ever logged into Facebook “for five minutes” only to find yourself still there an hour later? The easiest way to avoid this is to stop using Facebook. The trouble is, most of us need Facebook to promote our businesses or to stay in touch with friends and family.
Don’t use social networks during work time, and if you must, then schedule your updates. This keeps you from the temptation of “just one more scroll” through your newsfeed.
14. Internalize the 80/20 Rule
The 80-20 rule states that 80% of your results come from 20% of what you do. It was discovered by an Italian economist and vegetable grower, who noticed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.
Start paying attention to the tasks that give you the biggest bang for your buck. Notice when you get a lot out of putting a little in. Then focus on those tasks.
15. Work Out
Research by the University of Bristol in the UK found that people who work out during the day have consistently higher work performance. They manage their time better and have increased mental sharpness.
What’s more, the research found that exercise makes you more tolerant toward yourself and more forgiving of other people.
It’s a win all around. Even if fitness isn’t a big thing for you, you should exercise to be more productive.
16. Stop Being a Finisher
Being determined to finish a task before you start a new one might sound productive, but it’s actually the road to procrastination. If you always need things to be finished, you’ll struggle to get started each morning. You’ll also feel overwhelmed by big projects that will take a long time to finish.
Instead of being a finisher, be a starter. Put your energy into starting your work (whether that’s a new project or continuing with a current project). When you do that, things will finish themselves.
17. Take a Weekly Digital Detox
At Social Caffeine, we’re big on digital detoxes. Taking time away from constant connectivity is good for your body and mind, as well as for your relationships with family and friends.
Take one day a week when you unplug all digital distractions and embrace life to the full in the real world.
Over to You
What are your top tips for performing at your peak? What productivity tools will you use with your business in the next year?
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