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16 Productivity Hacks For Leaders

16 Productivity Hacks For Leaders

Productivity is a skill you have to develop over time, especially for self-made leaders. When you are in charge of running a business, time is your most valued asset. And the one that slips through your fingers the most. By using the following 16 productivity hacks you will learn how to work more effective rather than efficient and create a less busy work routine for yourself.

1. Drop the 9-to-5 Schedule

It’s no longer news that the traditional 9-to-5 workday is not the optimal productivity time span. Depending on your personality type, habits, and lifestyle you might prefer to work from 6 a.m. till lunch or pop in after noon and be the last one to leave. Do the most challenging tasks during your most productive hours and schedule meetings and routine tasks for that time of the day when you start feeling low.

A quick reminder: Don’t be the first to come and the last to leave. In the long run, this practice will ruin productivity and your personal life as your brain will never have a chance to fully recharge. You can’t be a great leader if you can’t properly take care of yourself.

2. Know Your Priorities

Either you learn to prioritize like it’s nobody’s business, or you are doomed. The essential activities that will move your business forward should always be tackled first, even if they are the hardest to crack. Placing effectiveness over efficiency should be your daily mantra. You can never complete everything, yet you can finish the tasks that will move your vision and your company forward.

Here’s an excellent tip from a Pentagon general: “First I make a list of priorities: one, two, three, and so on. Then I cross out everything from three down.”

Multitasking is often deemed to be a good skill, except that it’s not. Numerous tests have proved: chronicle multitaskers in the long run perform worse on the tasks, compared to those handling one problem at a time. Rather than switching between tasks from minute to minute, dedicate a 20-minute chunk of time to a single task, and then switch to the next one. It’s called the Pomodoro technique and you’ll feel your productivity increase from day one.

3. Embrace Power Naps

Your brain needs to reboot after long hours of work. According to scientists, if you need a quick boost of alertness, nap for 10 to 20 minutes; for cognitive memory processing, a 60-minute nap would suit best and a 90-minute nap will involve a full cycle of sleep, which boosts creativity, and emotional and procedural memory. These days there are a lot of smart personal comfort technologies to help you sleep comfortably and even gently wake up you at the right time.

4. Hire the Best Talent

As Joshua Conran, senior partner at Deksia, puts it, “I’ve learned to hire people who are better at specific things than I am. I actively work to ensure I’m the dumbest person in the room. As I do this, I become less needed on a day-to-day basis to complete projects, and the company’s talent actually accomplishes more than I ever could.”

As a leader, make sure you spend time acquiring and keeping the best people in your company, rather than micro-managing and struggling to handle everything on your own.

5. Do Not Check Your Email First Thing in the Morning

Spare that time for more creative tasks, rather than being sucked into hours of back and forth replies. A lot of successful CEOs already reduce their time on handling emails to one to two days per week. You’ll be surprised to know that a lot of people in your company can actually handle their problems without you being involved.

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6. Listen to Yourself

Choose those types of productivity tools that help you most. If you react better to constant reminders from your phone or desktop pop-ups — install some handy apps! If you like to write down things and physically tick them off, buy a big planner and a fancy pen. Don’t follow trends, self-reflect and use what suits you most.

7. Set “Airplane Days”

Did you ever notice that you could accomplish more goals while being totally disconnected from the world on a long flight? Well, you don’t need to fly anywhere; you can create the same environment at home or at your office. On “Airplane Days” block out the time on your shared calendar, switch off your phone and network connection, eliminate all other distractions, and focus on dealing with the top three high-priority tasks from your list.

8. Clean Up Your Facebook

No matter how hard you try, you still peak at your Facebook once in a while. To limit the time spent at the social network Roman Grigorjev suggests moving everyone from “friends” to “acquaintances.” This way you’ll see only two to five of the most important posts per day instead of hundreds of cat pictures and personal musing statuses.

9. Use the 2-Minute Rule

If it takes less than two minutes to finish the task do it right now. Yes, as simple as that, but believe me this small habit can drastically increase your productivity if you use it.

10. Don’t Waste Desk Time

Read and reply emails on the go, and save interesting articles you’ve found to Pocket app to catch up on them later. Your desk is the place where you should solely focus on work and nothing else.

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11. Support Your Team

As a leader you should focus on encouraging others to cross things off of their lists just as you do. The more inspired and motivated your team is the more goals you can accomplish at once. If you can help others achieve their daily tasks and overachieve goals, you’ll be able to lead the whole company towards higher productivity.

12. Eat That Frog First

Not literally of course. Start your day with working on the activity you dread most (frog), yet the one that currently stands between you and the next giant step toward success!

13. Always Have the Decision Matrix at Hand

impact-grid

    Going back to prioritizing, if you have a lot of urgent things at hand or a small crisis going around, use this simple, yet highly effective decision-making matrix.

    Everything that is easy to do and will have a big impact should be labeled as a “do it now” priority. Smaller impact and easy-to-do items should be delegated. The big impact and hard-to-do items get put into the mix for prioritization against other initiatives.

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    14. Learn to Say No

    You are often invited to multiple conferences, meetings, and speaking engagements. Learn to refuse the invitations; you will never have time to focus on what’s truly important while trying to chase some possible opportunities out there, even if they seem fun, useful, or interesting. Networking should be limited to a necessary amount. For instance, commit to attending two conferences per year, one to two meetups per month, and so on.

    15. Schedule Appointments With Yourself

    You have dozens of meetings on your calendar, but when was the last time you have specifically blocked a few hours to sit down in peace, gather your thoughts, and go through critical things you want to get done?

    16. Try Voice Recognition Software

    I presume you still type slower than you speak, so using Siri to type messages for you on your iPhone will save you a lot of time. Use Dragon Dictation to type all sort of memos, emails, and other papers for you or Evernote Premium that now has the same feature. This will save you at least one hour a day.

    Featured photo credit: Nana B Agyei via flickr.com

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    Published on January 16, 2019

    How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

    How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

    We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

    You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

    You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

    That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

    Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

    1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

    Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

    We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

    To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

    At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

    The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

    2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

    Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

    The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

    In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

    It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

    It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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    So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

    • Are you a great strategist?
    • Are you an effective planner?
    • Is Project Management your strength?
    • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
    • Are you the ideas person?
    • Is Implementation your strength?

    Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

    3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

    One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

    Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

    Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

    Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

    4. Take Time for Planning

    “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

    One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

    You can take the time to think about:

    • What’s the purpose of the project?
    • How Important is it?
    • When does it need to be delivered by?
    • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
    • What are the KPIs?
    • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
    • Who is working on this project?
    • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
    • What tolerances can I add in?
    • What are the review stages?
    • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

    Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

    5. Focus on Priorities

    Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

    Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

    One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

    1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
    2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
    3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
    4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

    James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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      The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

      If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

      If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

      6. Take Time Out

      To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

      If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

      Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

      In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

      Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

      7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

      Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

      I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

      Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

      If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

      8. Stop Multitasking

      Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

      So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

      When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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      If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

      9. Work in Blocks of Time

      To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

      I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

      Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

      Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

      Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

      Then take another 10-minute break.

      Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

      By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

      10. Get Rid of Distractions

      Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

      “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

      Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

      If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

      11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

      You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

      Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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      Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

      12. Take a Time Audit

      Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

      Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

      You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

      Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

      Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

      At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

      If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

      13. Protect Your Confidence

      It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

      When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

      Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

      When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

      Final Words

      A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

      The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

      If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

      Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

      Reference

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