“Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own.”—Bruce Lee
Being busy doesn’t mean being productive. When you search online, on Google or YouTube, you’ll find a lot of tips, tricks, hacks, and productivity tools and apps that can “help you boost your productivity!” But beware: not all tricks and tools will work for you.
Last month, I had a webinar about how to do more in less time, and I talked about the Rule of 3 there. Time is such a valuable thing for all of us that most of the people I know, whether they are business owners or homemakers, put great importance on efficiency and time management.
There are a lot of strategies that improve efficiency. There’s President Eisenhower’s Eisenhower matrix, Peter Drucker’s four productivity improvement strategies, and Brian Tracy’s “eat-the-frog” method. There are even more productivity tools and apps available to us today.
But are we really being productive, or are we just being busy? Take a minute to self-reflect: What are your habits that are silently killing your efficiency?
One of the most common silent killers of efficiency is perfectionism. Recently, I interviewed Chris Do, and one of the things he mentioned was how perfectionism was getting in the way of achieving his goals. In his case, in succeeding at a challenge he set for himself in one of his coaching sessions. And he isn’t alone. I’ve heard that a lot from others too.
One way to combat perfectionism is to accept that nothing is perfect. In fact, Stephen Hawking says, “The universe doesn’t allow perfection.” I don’t know about you, but the universe is a pretty big enemy to pick a fight with, in a losing battle. The best alternative to perfection is setting a goal of what is “Good Enough.”
Something like, “Okay, if this project meets 80 to 90% of my vision, that’s good enough. That’s already a win for me.”
Focus on the purpose, and set reasonable, realistic goals. Then decide which results are considered acceptable. It isn’t about being lazy, it is about being efficient, and sometimes that means letting go of “How can I do this better?” at least until the next opportunity.
Another common efficiency killer is being tuned in 24/7. I am talking about your social media and all other “time wasters” and distractions. I am also talking about garbage information that you are being overloaded with on a daily basis.
Yes, it is the age of information, and yes, it is highly encouraged to learn new things, but filter the information that you take in. Learn how to learn, unlearn, and re-learn the things that are useful to you and your purpose.
“Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.”—Leo Babauta
Also, set boundaries. Contrary to popular belief, taking breaks doesn’t take away from productivity, it enhances it. I mean, have you ever tried working while suffering from a lack of sleep? Did you find yourself productive or efficient that day? Of course not.
Not getting enough rest and not taking breaks will lead to burnout, which will make it difficult to focus on the things you need to be doing, which makes efficiency and productivity levels drop. Studies have shown that the most productive people are those who work in sprints of 52 minutes and take 17-minute breaks in between. It is similar to the rationale behind the famous Pomodoro technique.
Giving yourself enough time to rest allows you mental space to ensure that your work quality is in tip-top shape, preventing revisions and corrections that eat up more time. When effectiveness meets efficiency, that is maximum productivity right there!
Setting boundaries also includes saying “no” to things that are not growing you or contributing to your purpose and mission whatsoever. By reducing commitments that demand time, you have more hours to allocate to the things that matter.
Let’s not forget about tech. Leveraging technology is a great way to be efficient. Using too many tools, trackers, and apps, not so much. Each technology comes with its own learning curve, and that takes some time to use. Also, having too many apps makes you a slave to those apps, and you end up focusing more on tracking than actually doing.
Planning is a great thing. There are people who work better when they plan every single thing they need to do down to the hour, and there are others who function better with time-blocking. But when your planning gets in the way of your doing, then it no longer becomes a tool to boost your productivity, it becomes a tool for you to procrastinate.
Look at the big picture, but don’t obsess over it all the time. The key to getting things done is focusing on the small thing that’s already in front of you and taking it one step at a time.
A simple way to do this is by identifying your “Most Important Tasks” for the day and making them your priority for the day. Don’t forget to set time buffers to allow for other tasks that might pop up during the day.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”—Stephen Covey
Another way to leverage technology to boost your efficiency is by automating your recurring tasks that can be automated. There are apps and software that help you with that, and some of them cost only a few bucks. It saves you precious time, but only when you already have a system in place and have set aside time to learn how to use the app.
Speaking of systems, do not underestimate the power a routine can bring to your life. Routines happen daily, and you’ve already trained your mind and body to do them automatically without thinking much about it. This helps you get small tasks done while saving mental energy. At the same time, it helps you get in the zone before starting your day and helps you wind down once the day is done.
Lastly, Parkinson’s Law - Set small (but realistic) deadlines for your tasks and try to accomplish them within the allotted time frame. Avoid rushing and pushing off tasks until the last minute. The time needed to accomplish them stretches to meet the deadline you’ve set. By having these small goals to meet, you challenge yourself to focus and avoid distractions, and you get more things done in less time. Just make sure you allow enough time to get them done.
There are many ways to improve efficiency, but it involves knowing your priorities, protecting your time, and having the discipline to say “no” to the things that don’t serve your purpose.
Thank you for reading A Brilliant Tribe.