The adage says, “work smarter, not harder.” Much easier said than done. Especially before the days of juggling work priorities, virtual schooling, and home duties all thanks to the pandemic. In fact, data shows that among COVID-19’s many impacts, it ushered in longer workdays, more meetings, and additional daily emails. If you constantly feel like there are not enough hours in the day, join the club.
So, what’s the secret of those productive superhumans who always seem to have everything in order? We set out to discover the tips and tricks of the most efficient people we know. Turns out their effectiveness comes less from a superpower, and more from a super mindset. Here’s what they recommend.
Tip #1: Start with the End in Mind
What are you trying to accomplish? Once you know the goal, work backward by detailing everything required to achieve the mark. Take the list and set priorities from start to finish. Pareto’s Law states that 20% of the work produces 80% of the outcome. Simply having a goal clears the clutter and creates a focal point to work toward.
Then set a reward for accomplishing the goal. This might include small wins along the way or a big incentive at the end. Find out what motivates you to keep the momentum going.
Tip #2: Write it Down
Whether it’s a digital sticky note, calendar task, or handwritten to-do list, write down what needs to be accomplished and when. This keeps tasks organized and top of mind when distractions start creeping in. Lists also serve to de-clutter workspaces and place action items front and center. Plus, it feels rather good to check things off the list!
Tip #3: Compartmentalize
We often describe ourselves as great multitaskers. However, like a juggling act, multitasking keeps us busy, but it doesn’t really lead to anything. According to the American Psychological Association, multitasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%. True productivity comes from doing the right things at the right time.
Plan your day in blocks. Sure, you’ll need to answer emails or hop on a Zoom meeting. Create time for that. More importantly, designate blocks of time on your calendar for working on top priorities without the distraction of emails, phone calls, and meetings. You often can accomplish more in less time when you are focused on a specific task.
Tip #4: Protect Your Non-Working Hours
The pandemic has added nearly 50 minutes to every workday. That’s an additional 218 hours or the equivalent of a year with 57.5 weeks. The reason? Digital connectivity makes working around the clock easy. Ever answered emails after the kids go to bed or worked on Sunday evenings to get ready for the week? If you don’t get everything accomplished during the standard workday, it’s easier than ever to fire up the laptop or cell phone again after hours. When a clear delineation exists between work time and personal time, it improves productivity. In fact, Microsoft implemented a four-day workweek and saw a 40% increase in productivity. We’ve done the same here at myCOI. When time is limited for completing work, you get more done. Plus, you gain time for addressing personal needs that can sometimes present a work distraction.
Tip #5: Embrace Negative Thoughts
Yeah, you read that right. First, you will not be a productivity superhero every day. That’s okay. Get up and try to do a little better tomorrow. Eventually, it becomes a habit. Second, think about the worst thing that could happen if you do not finish a task. For example, could it cost your company money? Could it hurt an employee? If you don’t answer that email today, will it matter? Determining the worst possible outcomes helps with setting priorities and with giving yourself some grace when you simply cannot get everything accomplished.
Tip #6: Identify Your Productivity Hours
Daniel Pink’s book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing discusses peak productivity hours. All people experience what Pink calls a “trough.” These are the most error-prone and least productive hours of the day. For surgeons, the data shows afternoons around 2 p.m. are their trough. Take some time to analyze when you are most and least productive. Stack your high-priority tasks at your peak and least important items during your trough.
Tip #7: Get Support from Software
There is no shortage of digital time management and project tools. From list makers to determining how you are spending your time or organizing passwords in one place, free and low-cost resources are available. Find one that helps you.
If you work with insurance or loss prevention and want a timesaver, consider myCOI. Our software automates certificate of insurance tracking and management. You can generate expiration renewals, digitally store documents, and proactively address risk alerts. For compliance and risk managers, myCOI tackles time-consuming to-do’s so you can focus on the work that matters most. We helped Saglo Development Corporation maximize a two-person team and improve a compliance rating stuck at 20%.
Learn more about how myCOI takes on your task list and saves you time. In the meantime, put on that cape and get ready to become a productivity superhero! You got this!