Time Keeps on Slipping, Slipping, Slipping. Managing time can feel like herding cats.  We are all very busy and from the time we wake to the moment our heads hit the pillow, someone or something is pulling at that thread – our time and more importantly our attention. But are you really using time the best way possible? Read on to discover 5 tips to increase your productivity.

5 Tips To Increase Your Productivity

First – Let’s do an experiment. Take a piece of paper and draw this grid below:

Sunday  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Sleep (8) Sleep (8) Sleep (8) Sleep (8) Sleep (8) Sleep (8) Sleep (8)
Eat (3) Eat (3) Eat (3) Eat (3) Eat (3) Eat (3) Eat (3)
Family & Friends (6) Workout (1) Family & Friends (3) Workout (1) Family & Friends (3) Workout (1) Family & Friends (6)
  Family & Friends (3)   Family & Friends (3)   Family & Friends (3)  
             
             
Hours left (7) Hours left (9) Hours left (10) Hours left (9) Hours left (10) Hours left (9) Hours left (7)

I’ve allocated time for sleep, eating, time with your friends and family, and a workout (on three days of the week), and put an hour value on these activities.  According to this chart on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after taking care of you and your family/friends you will have 9 hours for work.  Tuesdays and Thursdays that number goes to 10. On the weekends you’ve got 7.  That leaves 61 hours.  SIXTY ONE HOURS. Per week.

Sure, you could allocate more time for friends and family.  Take a couple hours more a week to workout. But even if you added 11 more hours to activities other than work (like sleep or making sure your house isn’t a disaster), you would have 50 hours – to be as productive as possible.

So now that we have established we may actually have more time than we think, let’s take a look at how we can maximize the time we do have for things that will increase our productivity and effectiveness. This is important because the last thing you want to feel like at the end of the day is that you didn’t accomplish anything of significance. You see, being intentional about how you use your time is as important as what you actually do.

No Surprises

iMac calendar on wood table

Managing your time is INFINITELY easier when you minimize the surprises.  This begins with simply looking at your week before it starts and the next day before it starts.  Now, I’ve never piloted a plane or captained a boat.  That being said, I would never get on either one if I thought the person driving it didn’t have a course mapped out.  This does two things. First it manages your stress levels.  Getting to the office (yes, this can be a home office) without knowing what your tasks are for the day. Secondly setting your schedule up to a week in advance allows your to say the most powerful two letter word in the world:  “NO”.  Not just saying it to be a jerk, but saying it because you have already told the hours in the day what to do.  

 

Prioritize (Trello)

Now that you know what you’re doing before the next day starts, you’ll need to put a value on those tasks.  I’ve seen this done in some many ways, but the tool me and my team are using right now is call Trello.  If you need a nice visual way of looking at your tasks and how to progress them from a “to-do” list to a “done” list.  The nice thing with Trello is that you can create these boards that can be specific to a project (for you real estate agents out there, this would be perfect for both listing and buyer clients).  Within these boards are lists and within that list are cards.

Here’s a simple example:
F12E6633-13EC-409E-BAEE-A92F7A37D898

The possibilities are really endless.  And the best thing is you can drag and drop cards to the top of each list based on importance. Visually seeing what you have to get done and what you’ve accomplish sets up a positive feedback loop and keep your productivity at a very high level.

 

Email (Boomerang & Sidekick)

scheduling sidekick email screenshot
Inbox zero (something I think I’m completely OCD about) can seem like an impossibility to some people.  I have worked with real estate agents who literally have 10,000 emails in their inbox and I’m thinking, “Well, no wonder why they hate email”.  Now, if you’re just that popular then I can’t help you, but if you just get overwhelmed with email here are a couple apps that may help.  But before I jump into these apps, here’s a quick tip about email that will keep your productively high and your frustration level low.

Batch check and respond to email – the reason why email is so radioactive to your productivey is that most people look at their email after each one comes in.  So they hear the “ding” or see a notification, stop what they are doing and check.  It could be important and if you’re waiting on something important then “yay!”.  But there is no way each email you stop for carries the same importance – and don’t you think that if it’s really, really important then your phone would ring?  So what I’m suggesting is to check and respond to email during certain times of the day.  Think of it like laundry – would you wash each item of clothing one at a time?  No.  You would wait for them to pile up and then on a certain day, do laundry in “batches”.  Sounds crazy, but if you commit to this, you will get so much more done.

Now, let me impose my obession with inbox zero on you.  I HATE seeing emails in my inbox.  But there are some that I just don’t want to act on or need to wait for a more appropriate time to respond to.  This is where Boomerang and Sidekick come into play (both can be used with Gmail).  Boomerang allows you to get rid of an email and it comes back (or boomerangs back) to you on at a later time.  Sidekick is a great little tool that not only tells you if someone opens and email or clicks on a link in your email, but it allows you to send an email at a later time (Boomerang does this as well).  If you haven’t had the joy of an empty inbox, trust me, tools like this keep me sane in even the busiest of times.

 

Not Multitasking (Rescue Time & Site Blocker)

rescue time dashboard screenshot
Multitasking is a myth.  Don’t believe me?  Have you seen the new commercials about texting and driving? They make the “Friends don’t let friends drink and drive” spots I grew up with look silly and tame.  It is almost impossible to do two things at a very high level at the same time.  But what is a person to do with all the distractions out there.  Bring on the apps!  Rescue Time is an app you can download on your phone and computer that tracks the sites and apps you use.  Yes, its a bit Big Brother-ish, but I tried this and I was AMAZED at the how the “quick” glances at email (see the previous section) and social media add up during the day.

Site Blocker takes it a step further (I would use this after Rescue Time has told you how you’re wasting time) and actually blocks certain sites for a period of time during your work day.  You can actually set it up to not let you check your email or Facebook feed.  This would drive some people crazy (probably my wife the most) – but think of how your productivity would skyrocket as a result of cutting out the distractions.

 

Centralize All of Your Systems (Evernote & Google Suite of Services)

evernote screenshot dashboard
One of the biggest time hogs and productivity killers is not having everything in a centralized place.  I use Evernote as my depository for ideas, thoughts, stuff and things.  In fact, I write all of my blog posts in Evernote.  The greatest thing about Evernote is that it truly is a cross platform – phone, tablet, web – on any operating system.  I can use Evernote to clip web pages, take pictures, save business cards, take audio notes – anything that I could possibly save to use sooner or later – Evernote lets me do it.  The coolest thing is that unlike the sticky notes you have all over your monitor and desk, Evernote lets you search for terms and it shows you any note that contains that keyword or phrase.

Now, full disclosure, I’m a total Google fanboy and I have been for years.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Apple and the ecosystem they have set up for their disciples and Microsoft looks like they are heading in that direction too.  But Gmail, Drive, Hangouts, Sheets, Docs, Contacts, and Calendar – all synced all the time with access from anywhere – it’s a tough combination to beat.  Not to mention Google Now and Google + – it’s as though Google knows what technology and tools people need.  (And they should…they’re Google).

So there you have it.  You now know you have more time than you thought and I’ve talked about 5 way to make sure you make the most of that time. What’s your excuse for not being more productive?  I know – it’s the cat videos isn’t it?

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