SIX PROVEN TECHNIQUES TO IMPROVE YOUR EFFICIENCY
Even with the best intentions many of us find that come lunchtime, we are no closer to achieving what we set out to do. Lamenting the day is flying by, we feel swamped by how much we still have to achieve. Between rising and those first pangs of lunchtime hunger it’s as though the hours in between evaporated into thin air. We are seemingly unaware how this happened, and ultimately, we are wasting valuable time.
By developing better habits, you can maximise these precious morning hours widely said to be the optimal time to be productive and achieve the more difficult tasks of your day.
MAP OUT YOUR DAY
We are more time-poor than ever, and simple timetabling can assist in prioritising what you need to achieve each day. By allocating tasks to particular times in your diary, you can easily keep track of where you’re at. In fact, you often win extra time because when you complete tasks in less time than you set out to, you’re suddenly ahead.
I plan a day ahead, which mentally prepares me in advance for tomorrow. I can decide what time I should get to bed, given the tasks ahead of me the following day. In mapping out my diary, I leave pockets free for overflow and emergencies. One of my business coaches recently taught me to organise my entire day in half hour blocks – waking to bedtime. Tasks get allocated the blocks of time required, and the entire day is broken down in a manageable and constructive fashion that I can see at a glance. This model helps track my professional and personal goals like exercise, social activities, etc. It’s nice to be able to see things I am doing for myself as well as what I am achieving at work.
We are more contactable than ever – email, text, face-to-face, phone calls, messenger, etc. providing endless distraction, ultimately pulling focus away from what we are working on. Block out time where you will turn your phone to silent, not access emails, etc to focus on specific tasks that deserve your undivided attention. I block out a half-day each week and, as I work in an open plan office, I base myself at home to completely minimise opportunity for distraction. My colleagues who I deal with on an everyday basis know they will be unable to reach me for a 4 hour period. Anyone else simply must wait until after lunchtime.
KICK START YOUR MORNINGS
Not everyone is a bounce-out-of-bed type of person. If you aren’t, I’m sorry but you have to work even harder to get the most out of your mornings because you’re naturally slow to start. Set your alarm slightly earlier to give you time to be ready – no one is trying to take away extra time you need to get going, you might just have to adjust the alarm to accommodate this. If you currently arrive at work close to your start time, you can be certain more time is being wasted getting your coffee, logging on, emails, chatting with colleagues, reading news articles etc. Whilst these activities are important, when you add them all together, you see how much time you have wasted and where that time that has slipped by before lunchtime is suddenly very evident. Allowing for these morning rituals by arriving earlier can solve this.
MAXIMISE WHAT YOU DO ON YOUR COMMUTE INTO WORK
Regardless of whether you drive, catch public transport or walk, you can use your time more effectively. If you drive, you can make phone calls that would otherwise take up valuable time in your day. Whatever your mode of commuting, podcasts are an incredible way to engage your brain and learn something new whilst making your way into work. You arrive more energised and inspired, adding fuel to the way you approach your day. Ditto for reading the paper or a book. Save music, videos and social media for when you are ready to “switch off”. Mornings are for “switching on” if you really want to be productive.
DO THE HARDEST THINGS FIRST
When I was a kid, I ate the things on my plate that I liked the least first, and saved my favourite things for last. It’s a habit I have tried to get my own son to employ, because ultimately, he ends up brooding at the table picking at the veggies left on his plate after scoffing all the best bits. It’s the same with work. Do the tasks you least like first, as well as the hardest tasks you want to achieve that day. If you have a lot of difficult tasks to achieve, consider fitting in more enjoyable tasks in between them. Find a method that works best for you, and you won’t be stuck with cauliflower and brussel sprouts on your plate.
GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
These days, it’s oh-so popular to say you only need 5 hours sleep, to be up from 4am and achieving many things. Maybe you are, and good for you. It doesn’t matter what time you need to be up to have a good start to your workday. What matters is that you are invested in yourself enough to have a decent night of quality sleep.
A colleague of mine put me onto an app called Sleep Cycle. It’s very clever and monitors hours asleep, level of sleep, how often I wake during the night, even how much I snore. It measures the quality of my sleep as a percentage and has helped me see how poorly I was sleeping and how terrible my patterns were. It is keeping me accountable for the investment I make in myself to be properly rested. Apart from being more productive, alert, etc, it is of huge benefit to my general health and well-being. Using the app has assisted me with developing a better work-week sleep schedule, and I am finding myself naturally ready for bed at the same time each night, and more importantly, naturally waking at the same time each morning without the need for an alarm.
There is no one method fix to get more out of your mornings. Like a dieter uses a food diary, it can be interesting to note down how you are currently spending your mornings and map out the patterns to analyse for yourself. Are they affecting your ability to be productive? If they are, perhaps applying some of the above will assist you.
At Rickshaw Enterprises, our consultants are skilled in unpacking many of these sorts of issues for individuals, teams and entire organisations, to help simplify your business journey.