How to Increase Productivity – Part One

This article is part 1 of 2 in the series How to Increase Productivity

productivity
For the large majority of this week I have been grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. When I am happy I am flying, and when I am flying my productivity soars into the drafts of success. My levels of productivity have been incredible, but I have also had a day when my wings stopped flapping, sending me crashing into the earth like a WW2 bomb. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and so I would like to use it, not just to learn, but also to share with you my top tips on How to Increase Productivity.

Top Tip #1 – Get Organised

A productive person is one who has a place for everything. A person who has a place for everything is a very organised person. Organisation starts at the core of who you are, and how you present yourself to the world. Step into someone else’s car and you will be able to sum up a persons organisational skill with one quick glance. If you can’t sit down without a baby’s rattle, or bottle of screen cleaner, getting stuck up your arse then it’s a safe bet that the person driving it is not very organised.

How much e-mail do you have in your inbox? Have you cleared your voicemail message? Are your clothes in your cupboard or just lying around the floor? Do you empty your suitcase or do you live out of it? Do you keep every piece of junk that you accumulate through your life? Do you purchase tins of tuna when the cupboard is full of tins of tuna? These are just a few of the personal habits that I notice – and sometimes participate in – that can lead to a disorganised life. It’s time to put all of that behind us.

Make a choice

You need to wake up and realise that you are choosing to be disorganised. Nobody forces it upon you. If you start to make excuses then you have already failed. It’s a classic case of taking 100% responsibility for your life. Don’t play the blame game when it comes to getting your shit together. So make a choice today to get more organised. The rewards are well worth the minimal effort.

Create a system

If your business possesses a well-run storeroom, it’s because your store person is well organised. They always have enough items in stock and always know where to lay their hands on anything. Better still, if they were to vanish you would still know how to get the things you need. These types of stores operate like this because of systems.

Once you have made a choice to get your act together, the next stepping-stone is to create a system. Each individual will have their own way of doing things, but here is the latest system that I use. Maybe it will provide some inspiration for you to create your own.

The Sunday Sort

After I have spent the day relaxing it’s time for my Sunday sort. This is the start of my organisational system and one I really enjoy.

E-Mail

E-Mail is one of the biggest drains of your time that man has ever invented. When I worked on the iron road, employees used to calculate their net worth on how much e-mail they received. The employee who could wade through as much e-mail as possible was the most productive. What utter nonsense. I know this because when I first introduced a system of only dealing with important e-mail the railway went nuts. Suddenly, I was the man who was lazy and had stopped caring. Nothing could have been further from the truth. By prioritising the e-mail I chose to handle, I actually improved productivity for my business.

At certain intervals during the day (breakfast/dinner/evening) I check my e-mail to see if I have anything of an urgent nature. It is an extremely quick scan, nothing more. If it’s urgent and needs immediate attention it will get it. If it’s urgent but can wait then it goes into my priority system. Otherwise a quick check is all that is needed and this takes seconds. Then each Sunday I go through all of my e-mails and respond. It’s better to do this late at night to reduce the number of responses you receive otherwise you spend the entire night talking to people via e-mail, which in itself is not very productive.

Another e-mail task during the Sunday sort is to unsubscribe from as much e-mail as you can. Be ruthless, as it will increase productivity. The guy who you once bought a product from, whose e-mails you file just incase. Guess what? You never read them. You just file them and take up server space. Ditch them. If you need a product you will do your market research and then buy something. In the meantime quit being a squirrel.

You also need an e-mail filing system. Mine is just a series of sub-folders. If you have a personal assistant then these sub folders really help when identifying what e-mail is urgent and needs your attention. It also keeps everything in its rightful place and keeps that inbox down. Keeping the inbox down is like keeping your living room clean. It helps create a better habit. One that screams, “I am organised.”

When clearing your e-mails you are going to generate a list of ‘To do’ items. I place these into a planning tool that I use called Wunderlist. It’s an application that can be found across all devices and has a great sync feature. So any actions that arise from e-mail clearance are added to my Wunderlist.

Facebook/Twitter/Other Crap

These little treats are wonderful inventions, but they eat away at time like sugar on enamel. I have started to treat FB updates and Tweets in the same way that I treat my e-mail. I will never check a FB update during the week. There is never going to be anything that needs my immediate attention. People under-estimate the pull that these things have on you. They literally eat you alive, and you have no idea where the time has gone. FB messages are somewhat different. Check these at regular intervals (breakfast/dinner/evening) and respond if urgent or place into the priority list if less urgent. Otherwise leave the FB checking until your Sunday Sort.

I want to talk a little bit about FB friend requests. Some people like their FB page to be private, whereas others want as many friends as they can muster in order to spread the word about their work. Either method is fine. But if you do get a friend that seems to continually send you mindless nonsense then just be ruthless and cut them adrift. Otherwise they just become another leech draining the blood, leaving you with very little energy from which to generate some productivity. I have also disconnected my FB updates on my phone to stop me being distracted by that constant beep.

With regards to tweets I keep the personal updates on my phone. Tweets are somewhat different to FB updates and there is often a timely reason to re-tweet something, especially if it’s connected to your name, brand or product. So it’s good to be on top of these. But I never read the threads of the people that I follow. If this is important to you then set some personal time aside. If you check the feed for a business reason also set some time aside. Otherwise just use the Sunday Sort to have a quick 15-minute glance and no more. All actions that arise from the Facebook and Twitter check go immediately onto my Wunderlist.

Ideas

Every General Sherman tree came from a tiny seed, every Blue Whale came from a microscopic egg and sperm and every great foundation of success came from a single idea. Ideas have changed the world since its inception, and will continue to do so until we end up the same way as the dinosaurs. Ideas are rocket fuel, and when you are flying they come at you like monkeys at a scarecrow in the Land of Oz.

It will be your ideas that shape your destiny. The idea is the beginning of the map that you will follow to success. If you want to be successful then you need to have a system in place for recording your ideas. These days it has never been easier with the phone acting as a mobile computer. Make sure that all your ideas are recorded as soon as they pop into your head. I record all of my ideas onto my Wunderlist into a specific folder reserved just for these world-beaters. No idea is too small, and no idea is too stupid.

Thinking Journal

I have a very special daily ritual that I perform, each night, before I go to bed. It is a period of reflection where I answer a set series of questions in a document called the Thinking Journal. Over time this process has made me a much stronger and caring individual, and remains one of my most important daily tasks. Each day, I make a record of any actions that arise out of my sermon. During my Sunday Sort I go through a process I call the Thinking Journal Weekly Round Up where all of the actions are entered into my Wunderlist in preparation for sorting.

Personal Assistant

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Tim Ferris for making me believe that I am capable of hiring a personal assistant. I will be reviewing his New York Times Best seller The 4-Hour Work Week in due course, but in the meantime be rest assured that it is a cracker.

As I listened to Ferris explain how easy it was to hire a personal assistant, I thought he was pulling my leg. Your instinct is to think about the cost, and with money tight, the idea is quickly dropped. But hiring a personal assistant is one of those hidden treasures that only the truly successful can see.

A quick search on www.asksunday.com shows that you can hire a virtual assistant for 40-hours per month at a rate of $359, with additional time billed at $10 per hour. Instead of thinking, “I can’t afford this,” think, “How can I afford this?”

This may be a case of woods and trees for some people. So for once, don’t second guest yourself and just believe in what I say. Trust me for a moment. $359 is chicken feed if you select a great virtual assistant. The amount of stuff that they can clear for you, thus enabling you to work on your bigger projects is priceless. Not only that, but your assistant might just be the first employee that joins your new company. That’s certainly what has just happened to me and it makes me feel bloody great. It makes me happy and when I am happy I am more productive. By hiring a personal assistant I have also given myself the project of finding a revenue stream to pay for it. Yes, each month I am going to think of a way to earn £200 so I can pay for my personal assistant.

So there you have it. My first piece of advice if you wish to Increase Your Productivity is to Get Organised. The next piece of advice will follow soon, so stay connected for the next installment.

In the meantime do you have any questions?

Photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee (cc & flickr.com)

Comments

  1. Good points to practice Lee! I I was feeling guilty for not responding to some posts, like yours, but there are only so many hours in a day. I am taking one of my off work days as the day to review and answer. I have had to be ruthless for mail that was recieved previously and collecting dust. Thankfully, most have forgiven me for not be swift to respond. ;)

    • Hi Liz,

      It’s interesting that you mention the word ‘ruthless’ because that’s the title of my next productivity tip!

      I love having you around Liz, so I am glad you have chosen to stick with me during your strive towards efficiency.

      Regards

      Lee

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