We all struggle with productivity. I know I sure struggle with this all the time. Despite good intentions, proper preparation, and hard work, sometimes a task comes along that you just don’t want to do. Sometimes there isn’t enough coffee in the world to motivate you, but you know it needs to be done. That task sits, nagging you in the back of your mind, reminding you that you need to just do it. Too bad that’s much easier said than done.
Times like these require a lot of willpower and a good strategy. Whenever I’m faced with something I don’t want to do in my business, or something I just won’t (not can’t) make the time to do, I follow this list of tips to pull me out of my negligence:
AccountabilityWhat level of accountability can I assign to this task? Am I the proper owner of this, or would this be better suited for someone else? If this task is solely mine, then enlisting an accountability partner may be the best way to get it done. Approach a co-worker or trusted friend and say “I am going to start working on this task. Please check in with me in (insert less time that is required — we’ll get to that in a minute!) to make sure that I have it done. Accountability works when you match a task you need to do with someone who you don’t want to disappoint holding you responsible. The reason why you want to assign the task less time has to do with Parkinson’s Law — which says that your task or goal will take the time you allow it to. If you sent a task or goal and don’t have an end date, the time it takes to complete that task will expand to take the time allowed. If you buckle down and assign less time to get it done, something in our brain triggers and it allows us to hyperfocus on the task at hand. Remember in college when you completed your thesis the morning it was due? And how you got more done in those last two hours than you had the weeks prior? This is Parkinson’s Law at work.
Put Yourself in Time OutWhenever I need to just do work, I put myself in time out. For me, this means taking everything needed for my task or project, going to the library or Starbucks, and working until it’s done. I eliminate all distractions (turn off my phone, email, and social media reminders), and then get to work. Getting away from my typical workspace also, for some reason, makes me more willing to do work. Multitasking is one of the biggest productivity myths, so only bringing the resources needed for a specific project means that I will only be able to do what I need to do. Personally, I love the feeling I have after being in “time out.” I feel refreshed and focused because I overtook the task that has been a bit daunting, or pushed off, or maybe just wasn’t very excited.
Assess the ImportanceAs a business owner, I (and many like me) feel like every task that is presented needs to be completed. Find a new software program that might solve another problem? Add it to the list. Someone called and wants to meet for coffee to pick my brain? Add it to the list. The current financial report isn’t as streamlined as it could be. Add it to the list. In many cases, however, these little tasks don’t add to the bottom line of the business, therefore, they aren’t as crucial as others that do. It’s nearly impossible to only focus on tasks that have dollar signs attached to them (actual sales) because that’s not the entire business; however, making money is an extremely important part of keeping you in business. Pushing paper or juggling unimportant tasks takes time away from billable hours, product creation, and time that could be spent engaging customers.
Delegate ItIn almost every position, in every company, everywhere, scope creep causes job boundaries to become fuzzy. This happens a lot in startups when you don’t have people taking accountability for certain areas of the business. Scope creep may mean that you do things that “aren’t your job,” which is fine and recommended when you are the best person to do it — but that’s not always the case. When a task isn’t being done and you’re not the right person for the job anyway, it hurts the company. When you don’t have the skill set needed, or if someone can get the job done quicker or more effectively, delegate it. Earlier this year, I learned that I spent part of my billable hours doing tasks that would better be done by an assistant, so I hired one. Having someone to do research projects, spreadsheets, templates, and other administrative tasks mean that I can focus on things that make my business operate, and make my business money.
Time is a precious, non-renewable resource. Incorporate these tips into those things you need to do so that you can get them done when they need to be done. Save time, energy, frustration, reputation, and your sanity — and just get stuff done.