The age-old question of how to be more productive is one that plagues business owners, smart CEOs, and overwhelmed entrepreneurs everywhere. With our to-do lists being 10 miles long, it’s so easy to think if only we could do more (in less time) then all our problems would be solved.
There’s no shortage of being busy in business, but is there actual productivity?
Here’s the thing. Being busy and being productive are two completely different things. It’s very easy to fill endless hours with all the things, but if they’re the wrong things, then it’s just a waste of time.
So, if you’re wondering how to be more productive, read on…
Start with Your Mindset
“I’m so busy.”
“I have so much to do.”
“I don’t have time for that.”
How many times a week — or even a day — do you say something like that?
I know I’m guilty of falling into the trap of equating busy with productive. I also see this all the time with my clients.
We generally don’t intend to, but we get stuck in a cycle of using our busyness as an excuse to not do the scary shit we know we need to do. We establish a habit and mindset of busyness that’s hard to escape from.
When you tell yourself over and over that you’re too busy to meet deadlines or you’re too busy to get that project done, it becomes much easier to miss the deadline or leave the project unfinished.
You’re literally training your brain to accept that you’re too busy to be productive.
Try reframing instead — focus on time as something you have plenty of. Consider telling yourself how you can get everything done in the perfect amount of time. Or, embrace that you have exactly enough time to get done what you need to complete today.
With enough repetition and practice, you can change your mindset which is the first step towards productivity.
Changing your mindset is only a piece of the puzzle. Let’s look at four concrete ways that underscore how to be more productive:
#1. Focusing on the Right Things
When we are maxed out and busy, we often spend a lot of our time being reactive instead of proactive. We spend too much time in the urgent but not important quadrant of tasks because they often feel so pressing.
But the reality is that these types of tasks are frequently a waste of time and simply don’t need to be done. Instead, we should focus on the proactive strategies that prevent urgent tasks in the first place. This not only propels the business forward more effectively but also creates a less stressful environment for everyone.
When you focus on the “right” things, you’ll stop wondering how to be more productive and instead be amazed at how much more you get done.
#2. Stop Multitasking and Juggling
When there are all the things in the world to do, we often attempt to do far too much multitasking. The problem, though, is that multitasking makes us far less productive.
Context switching causes us to lose 20% of our effectiveness every time we switch gears. So when we’re working on a blog post and chatting with a client, we’re not actually focusing on either task.
Or if you’re answering an email and quickly commenting on a task for a team member and answering a question for your child simultaneously, you’re going to take far longer to get the tasks done then if you actually stopped and did them one at a time.
Believe me, I get how tempting it is to do three things at once when your to-do list is beyond epic. Instead, focus on doing one thing from start to finish with no interruptions (and preferably no distractions either) and you’ll see your productivity skyrocket.
This one change goes so far in solving the mystery of how to be more productive that I cannot stress it enough.
#3. Focusing on Speed
When we focus on speed, we hurt our overall effectiveness. I frequently see how going too fast actually creates more work in the long run when we miss details or make silly mistakes.
Taking the time to do the task accurately and completely is the best way to productively complete tasks in your business. In the long run, you’ll save far more time by slowing down to a reasonable pace and doing things right the first time.
#4. Forgetting to Plan
Again and again, we convince ourselves to throw out the time to plan when we’re busy. We simply dive right in and get to work thinking we need to focus on getting things done. The reality is that this often leads to mindless busy work that we can’t complete efficiently. When we don’t plan properly, we’re flying blind and so much more likely to focus on the wrong things or multitask.
So, decide when you want to plan and make that time sacred you. The time you spend creating a realistic plan will pay off so much more than any time saved by skipping it.
With a little awareness and forethought, we can avoid the trap of equating busyness with productivity and instead we can focus our energy on creating the strategies, frameworks, and support that help us accomplish truly amazing things.