Peter Drucker, famous management consultant and the man often credited with the design of the modern business structure, once said “Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.” In a modern world filled with rabbit holes and productivity traps, are you setting yourself up to succeed as a focused professional, or will you continue to simply do enough to get by, and then spend hours researching obscure band facts, answering an endless stream of emails, and tearing up to returned soldier videos on YouTube?
In the eternal quest for the two foundational pillars of the American dream, time and money, we all find ourselves continually bouncing back and forth between the two. If you have time, you can spend it generating money. If you have money, you can use it to buy yourself more time by outsourcing and hiring. But for those without either time or money, life is a continual battle with neither entity appearing without the other. The solution, of course, is to cancel time-negative activities that don’t result in increased funds. This way, you can generate money to allow yourself time to spend with the ones you love, and on activities that you enjoy, without the constant concern of paying the bills.
How do you become your most productive self, you ask? It’s certainly a progression instead of an instant transformation, but here are three pillars of modern productivity that you can take to action immediately and start improving your quality of work:
1) Get a Handle on Your Emails
More than any other modern advancement of the digital age, emails consistently break work flow, distract from important tasks, and waste time. It’s amazing how those short messages of a few words can destroy an entire day by constantly pinging, ruining what could have been your breakthrough work day. Neil Patel, a digital marketing industry giant and king of inbound marketing, suggests, “To save time, don’t open up your emails unless you have time to respond. Otherwise you will end up reading the email, coming back to it later, reading it again, and then replying. By only reading emails when you have time to respond to them, you’ll save time because you won’t have to re-read the same email.” To take it one step further, Tim Ferris, author of the 4-Hour Workweek and productivity guru, suggests picking two times a day, and only logging on to respond to emails at those two times. Here is a template email he suggests writing to all your coworkers:
In an effort to increase productivity and efficiency I am beginning a new personal email policy. I’ve recently realized I spend more time shuffling through my inbox and less time focused on the task at hand. It has become an unnecessary distraction that ultimately creates longer lead times on my ever-growing ‘to do’ list.
Going forward I will only be checking/responding to email at 11a and 4p on weekdays. I will try and respond to email in a timely manner without neglecting the needs of our clients and brand identity.
If you need an immediate time-sensitive response… please don’t hesitate to call me. Phones are more fun anyways.
Hopefully this new approach to email management will result in shorter lead times with more focused & creative work on my part. Cheers & here’s to life outside of my inbox!”
Find a system that works for you, and stick to it. Checking every new email that comes through your inbox is a perfect recipe to waste an entire afternoon that could have been better spent in 100 different ways. You can also check out tools like Schedule Once, which make it infinitely easier to schedule meetings by cutting out the back-and-forth.
2) Manage Your Energy Levels
One of the most common sense, yet under-practiced productivity hacks is ensuring that your personal health goals are being met to maintain a consistent and productive level of energy. This includes getting daily exercise (even if that only includes a daily walk during calls, or switching out your sitting desk for a standing one), drinking plenty of water, meditating to keep your peace of mind and your stress levels down, and stay away from electronic screens and alcohol an hour before bedtime to make sure you’re getting fully rested. Joel Brown, an experienced entrepreneur, often states “Energy is the life force for effective productivity.”
3) Throw Multi-Tasking Out the Window
In the vein of cutting down your emails to twice a day, to become your most productive self you have to stop trying to complete your entire to-do list at once. Any experienced professional knows that unless you decide on the most high-priority tasks and do them one-at-a-time, you’re likely to spend the entire day bouncing around half-finished projects. Prioritize, and them accomplish: it’s as simple as that. Turn off your social media platforms, texts and email notifications, allocate different scheduled calendar times to different tasks, and try to book your consultations or meetings on one or two days a week.
We’re definitely not perfect at the above, but we’re certainly continuing down the path of daily improvement to become our most productive selves for our clients and coworkers. By continually chipping away at the productivity puzzle, you can unlock more time to add to your time-money equation, and eventually succeed in breaking away from the trap many of us occasionally find ourselves in, where we can’t find either time or funding. Do it for your family, your friends, your coworkers and your clients, but most importantly, do it for yourself and the productive mega-you we know you can be.