If you read the post The Best Productivity Tip For Entrepreneurs, then you’ll love this this productivity guest post by Yolanda Facio. Yolanda is a productivity ninja, fellow entrepreneur and small business consultant (full bio at the bottom of this post)
The Only Productivity Tip You’ll Ever Need?
So I’m doing this reading challenge – 100 books in 2013. I’m keeping people updated via my Facebook page on progress along with a mini-review of the book I’ve read. My thought is to direct folks to good material and steer them away from bad.
I had just finished posting my latest read, Extreme Productivity (by Robert C Pozen) when Matthew tweets this to me:
Matthew: you could write a book on productivity.
Me: You might be right…
Matthew: Usually am 🙂
And I laughed and got back to work….
Then, I got to thinking about his tweet and thought to myself, “hmmm if I wrote a book on productivity what would it look like?”
The first mental incarnation was: The Little Black Productivity Book.
You open it and see the title page.
You turn the page and see the dedication… to Matthew of course…
You flip the page and you see:
Chapter One: The Only Productivity Tip You’ll Ever Need
Then, Page One:
Do more stuff… faster.
Yep, that’s the whole book. Which might be why productivity books don’t generally give me much in the way of useful, practical information. I’m simply disappointed by them.
To be fair, here’s some background:
I am President of Strategy Systems Inc. my personal consulting business where I help small businesses grow profits while decreasing overwhelm. It has a separate website RedHotMomentum.com for solopreneurs and freelancers.
I am President and co-owner or Exotic Motorwerks, Inc. a local Porsche-only repair and service boutique.
I am President and CEO of Custom Architectural Woodwork, Inc. a family-owned commercial custom millwork company.
I am currently reading 100 books for 2013.
I am currently learning to play guitar and will begin piano in September.
I am an avid runner and bike as well, both on and off road.
Okay, that’s enough for now. You get the picture. I’m busy.
But here’s the thing… I get it all done and still have time to take those runs almost every day and read every day and pick up my guitar and practice every day. I spend time with my dogs, I spend time with my partner, I talk to my mother once a week… The laundry gets done and I make dinner 6 nights a week. I’ve got time for Downton Abbey…
I do a lot. I’m considered highly productive (and crazy). The thing is I have only one secret…
Do stuff faster.
I think the heart of the productivity problem isn’t getting more done at all but rather focusing on how we are doing the things we are doing.
I’m all for multi-tasking when it makes sense, which means low value tasks that require a minimum of cognitive juice. On any given day you’ll find me eating lunch, opening and sorting mail while taking a call. Or taking a call where I’m just listening and providing a minimum of feedback while I scan docs and skim Facebook.
I try always to have reading material with me, either on my iPhone or iPad or a physical magazine. When I’m in line at the Post Office or Bank or Dr. office… I catch up on reading.
I make and keep lists using the Clear app and good ol’ pen and paper.
I jot down my task goals for the day at the beginning of the day and I add to that list as things come up. As you can imagine I experience a lot of interruptions. Without writing things down there would be no way to remember them all and things wouldn’t get done.
These are common productivity tips and I use them regularly. The big one however, the one that most people fail to recommend is simple efficiency.
My work requires that I do a lot of tedious tasks, generally something someone else doesn’t want to do… starting with accounting. And frankly I don’t want to do them either but running a business requires you do what needs to be done to grow and make money. So I just do those things faster.
Do stuff faster isn’t intended to be condescending in any way, it is simply the best way to get more done.
My process is simple
As I do a task, any task, I am constantly looking for ways to speed up the process. What change could I make to ensure I’m getting the most bang for my time buck?
Let’s take mail. After evaluating what I was doing, which was opening mail everyday when it arrived, I realized it wasn’t very efficient. If I opened the mail I would get caught up reading and dealing with it which would cause me to spend more time cumulatively on the process. So I started ignoring the mail.
When the mail arrives I quickly scan the envelopes over the trash bin, I immediately toss junk and set aside anything time sensitive. Everything else goes into a mail bin on a shelf in my office.
Instead of dealing with mail everyday I do it once a month. To make the process as efficient as possible I start by eating lunch… a girl’s gotta eat… and while I’m eating, I slit the tops of all of the envelopes, all at one time. Opening one, setting down the letter opener and checking the contents takes longer than just keeping that letter opener warmed up and opening every single envelope at once.
Next step, remove contents of each envelope. I make sure the trash bin is close. I toss the envelope in the trash along with any included sales pamphlets… without even looking at them. I do not stop and examine any added sales literature… ever. I unfold the actual letter, bill or statement and lie it flat upside down and move onto the next.
Now that I’ve gone paperless, I toss the included mailing envelope as well during the initial content removal.
After all that has been done I’ve got a nice flat, mostly, stack of mail to be acted upon. There’s no mess, everything unneeded is tossed and off the desk.
At that point I go into action mode. I determine what needs to be done and create new stacks: one for filing, one for paying, one for admin action.
Then, I get to work on the items. I do this one day each month. Pay all the bills on that day, deal with all the non-urgent mail items and then I’m done. I start the process all over again.
Tackling the task all at one time and utilizing stages for each part of the process saves a couple of hours a month… not just minutes.
Yes, it seems like a long-winded explanation for something as innocuous as mail… but when you want to get more done, spend more time with your family or read an extra book, those hours every month add up.
So how can you do more stuff faster?
1. Take one task at a time. Blanket productivity measures just don’t work. You can’t speed up your entire business and life in one fell swoop. But you can significantly speed up one single task or process.
2. Explore the task. What are you doing now and why? How could you make the process go faster? Pay attention to what you are actually doing now. Pay attention to all the things you do every day… and nothing is off limits – clearly mail made the list.
3. Chunk like functions. Just like opening all the envelopes at one time, there are plenty of tasks where individual functions can be chunked together to speed up the process.
4. Rinse and repeat everyday for every task. Set up mini processes, create templates for frequently used documents and letters.
persistence. You don’t become a productivity star overnight. I certainly have become more efficient as I take on more tasks because it’s required of me. I’ve had to learn to be as efficient as possible because I am constantly pulled in one direction or another. But I can still find ways to save time.
The key is to be persistent in making simple, incremental changes so that you are constantly reducing your work time and increasing your entertainment time.
Finding work-life balance is completely dependent upon how quickly you can get your work done. So, the next time you grab the mail from the mail box, think of me… and do stuff faster!
Yolanda is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer and speaker on a mission to help small business owners find more balance in their businesses and lives. You can learn more at www.yolandafacio.com