Do you sometimes feel like a hamster on the wheel? You expend much energy, yet seem stuck in the same place, going around and around. Exhausted and frustrated, you wonder just how you will ever get ahead. I understand. Let's explore how you can improve your productivity by 80% in 2020.
As an entrepreneur and working professional, I find that the energy needed to drive my business stems solely from me. Yes, I delegate and outsource; but ultimately, every original thought and initial action at Thienel Law starts with me.
In the past, there were times I felt overwhelmed and depleted by the sheer number of decisions needing my attention each day. Then I made simple, focused changes in my approach to business and life. My focus and work productivity improved by 80%, and my worries lessened by nearly the same. Let me share with you what I learned and how you too, can improve your productivity.
Input vs. Output: Vilfredo Pareto and the 80/20 Rule
Years ago, economist Vilfredo Pareto made a key observation that has become known as the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule. Simply, the Pareto Principle states that the relationship between inputs and outputs is not balanced and that 80% of results stem from 20% of efforts.
Understanding this concept and working it to your advantage is at the core of maximizing your time and productivity at the office and in life.
The Well-Organized Schedule
Time is our most valuable commodity, and a well-organized schedule will generate the highest return on investment. Gone are the days of the mile-long “to-do” lists. To operate efficiently, equal attention must be given to how you schedule as it is to what you schedule. Scheduling correctly conserves time and directs energy toward the most essential tasks.
- Evaluate critical commitments against busy-ness. A critical commitment generates reward, while busy-ness merely keeps you busy.
- Separate tasks onto two lists, real work duties vs. non-essential, routine activities.
- Schedule reasonably. Focus your lists on what realistically needs to be done that day.
- Set your schedule in advance for the following day. Significant energy is used in decision making. Starting your day with a pre-scheduled list of tasks conserves energy and focus for meaningful action.
- Schedule to the end goal. Visualize the reward waiting at the end of the activity. This provides a mental incentive and will keep you focused toward completion of the job at hand.
With a scheduling system in effect, it’s important to manage it wisely. A list of things to do in the absence of task management will leave you just as overwhelmed and scrambling as if there were no list at all. Approaching business matters at the same time and in the same manner every day will leave little room for confusion and distraction.
- Set a consistent work schedule and operate within those hours.
- Tackle important tasks first. Work on tough tasks early in the day, and less important to-do’s later, as energy runs low.
- Don’t belabor decisions; act quickly.
- Work at a rapid pace.
- Use a task management system to stay directed and encouraged. Tools such as Trello, Toggle, and Pinterest visually reinforce workflow and task completion.
- Rely on your Smartphone as a mobile reminder that travels with you wherever you go.
Workplace Focus for Greater Productivity
While there are situations that demand attention be given to several related items at one time, dividing your focus among unconnected tasks is a detriment to your workplace productivity.
The fundamental purpose of implementing schedule-setting and task management protocols is to reduce wasted energies spent on lesser tasks. In return for your more selective and increased commitment to important activities, you spend less effort and generate greater returns (80/20).
To augment the effectiveness of your newly implemented scheduling and task management systems, make yourself aware of these common workplace distractions, and avoid them:
- A cluttered workspace, a cluttered mind. Keep your desk and work area well organized and free from distractions.
- An uncomfortable work area. Reduce your need to get up from your desk by making sure you are comfortable and have the tools you need to conduct business.
- Checking email at the start of the day, or repeatedly throughout the day. Don’t do it. Set specific times to review emails and generate prompt yet brief replies when able.
- Joining in at the water cooler and on the Starbucks runs. Frequent breaks during the day interrupt mental focus and forward momentum.
- Holding workplace meetings. Workplace meetings accomplish little in the manner of moving toward actual task completion.
- Don't jump from list to list. Set blocks of time to work the essentials vs. the non-essentials.
- Avoid checking social media. Five minutes of “scrolling” quickly becomes 20 minutes of wasted time and energy.
Work-Life Balance – Using Your 20% to Release Pressure
As an entrepreneur and working professional, the benefits of effectively inputting 20% of your total time, energy, and resources toward generating an 80% improvement in workplace productivity is attractive in itself. But imagine when the 80% return filters into your personal life.
Recent years have presented an increasing trend toward the concept of a work-life balance. But true equality between work and home is almost impossible to achieve. Attempting to establish a perfect balance between the two will likely leave you frustrated and drained, feeling inadequate in one arena or the other. Take comfort. No one is truly expected to be all things at all times.
- Be consistent in your daily routines outside of the work week.
- Exercise. Exercise boosts mood, mental clarity, and energy levels which transfer between work and play.
- Establish a consistent stop time to your work day.
- Use personal rewards as a motivating factor for workplace goals; take a vacation, play golf, attend your children's sporting events during your work week.
- Recognize that your 80% ROI includes time for personal activities that fulfill and restore you.
- Tilt, don’t juggle. Keeping too many things in play at one time defeats the 80/20 rule. Prioritizing your personal and professional tasks into set schedules will help you gently tilt from one set of responsibilities to the other without worry or loss of momentum and focus.
Working Smarter, Not Harder
Small, committed actions generate large and sustainable results. Stepping back from the big picture and section your responsibilities into small and manageable chunks is the key to effect meaningful progress.
Time and energy are depletable resources; we must use and manage them wisely if we expect to achieve desired improvements.
By redirecting our energies toward significant issues, we can increase our productivity immensely. When we find ourselves feeling like the hamster on the wheel, moving constantly and not going anywhere, it truly is time to take pause and reassess how we are functioning.
Your time is valuable – your energy depletable. Don’t waste either on meaningless tasks that work against your success.
- Analyze and prioritize.
- Create an automated mindset for routine tasks.
- Establish schedules from which you do not vary.
- Rise early, segment your day, and adhere to your schedule.
- Conserve energy for tough decisions and actions.
- Engage in self-care that renews and restores your mental capacity and physical energy levels.
Organically Working the Pareto Principle
As an attorney whose clients face a myriad of complex issues, I hold myself to a standard of providing the best, most reliable and informed advisement services possible. I am entrusted to achieve favorable outcomes without draining resources.
I partner with my clients and peers, taking one step at a time in the legal process. While ever mindful of the “big picture”, we proceed in an organized and systematic way to gain small victories and build momentum. We avoid getting caught up by irrelevant facts and distractions. We never stop moving forward, merely shifting if we stall or hit a roadblock. We maintain focus and positivity toward our end goal. And we recognize that every action leads to a lasting result.
Does that all sound familiar? It should. It reflects the tried and true principles that took me off the hamster wheel and moved me toward improved productivity and process-driven results. Using a pattern of routines that eliminate time wasting activities and reduce the energies spent on small, inconsequential decisions, I have been able to work with greater clarity and pointed direction. As a result, I have expanded my services to my clients, increased my work capacity, and still maintain a sense of manageability unlike any I have known before. I would like that for you, too.
Using These Strategies for Professional Growth
As one entrepreneur to another, I encourage you to work well and live well. Operating a business presents a unique set of challenges. You were willing to take on those challenges in exchange for the freedom of doing things your way, on your schedule. Using the tips outlined above, you will conquer energy draining distractions, grow your productivity by 80% in 2020, and create room for maximum return on investment.