If I wanted to learn to hit a 90-mile-per-hour fastball, I wouldn’t ask Martha Stewart for advice. I also wouldn’t ask Derek Jeter to teach me how to make a soufflé. With all the crazy tasks I face each day, it made sense to me to observe the super productive people I know and see what makes them so efficient. Here’s what I learned:
1. Take care of your body
Surprised that the first item on my list isn’t having the latest time management software? It turns out that there’s an even stronger connection between our physical health and our productivity than most of us realize. If we don’t get enough sleep, our work suffers. If we don’t get enough exercise, our minds don’t focus as well as they could.Making sure you sleep well, exercise, and eat a healthy diet is your first step toward being more productive.
2. Make great lists
I’ve always been a list-maker, but I’ve seriously upped my game after observing some strategies used by highly efficient people. It’s not enough just to jot down all the stuff you need to do; you also need a plan for prioritizing. I code each task to indicate which items generate revenue, which make my clients happy, and which help me develop systems to automatically accomplish tasks. Any jobs that don’t accomplish one of those three things get pushed to the bottom. Jobs that accomplish more than one are at the top of my to-do list. Find your own strategy for establishing priorities.
3. Delegate. We. Can’t. Do. It. All.
Assuming you’ve taken the time to hire great employees, then you absolutely must empower them. You may have to cede some control, but let your staff work to their strengths and free you up to do the big picture stuff. Think of it this way, if an employee accomplishes a task for your company, then your business still benefits, even if – especially if – you don’t have to personally handle it. When you have every member of your team (including yourself) working efficiently and profitably, then you’re even more effective.
4. Take time for yourself.
I can’t count the number of entrepreneurs who’ve burned out because they failed to dedicate some time to themselves and their families. If you miss every single one of your kid’s basketball games and special events, then what are you really working for? Carve out family time and jealously protect it. When you recharge your batteries by spending time with your partner, your family, and your friends, you’ll find yourself much more focused and prepared to work when you need to. Don’t let your company consume your life.
One bonus strategy I’ve discovered is that super productive people take the time to evaluate their productivity. I put reminders in my calendar a couple of times each year to reflect on how my companies run and what I can do to accomplish more with less effort. After all, being the most productive doesn’t mean being the busiest. Improving productivity makes your time and energy count for even more.