Are You Being Actually Productive or Busy Being Busy?
Being productive vs. being busy is a sore topic for most people, but especially for small business owners. It’s pretty easy to convince ourselves that if we are busy doing something then we are working hard. But are we really being productive?
A project is a big thing with an end result or goal in mind. Within that will be small steps required to get there. It is not a sign of success that each one of those tasks should be a painful and lengthy process. Working on something for a long time doesn’t always mean it’s going to be better. Sometimes the best results come from projects and tasks that just flow naturally and quickly.
So how to achieve that and avoid being busy for the sake of busy?
1. Post-It Note Planning
If you have ever had a Power Hour strategy session with me then you will know that I LOVE to use post-it notes. Whilst I am these days mostly a digital marketer, I am a massive fan of using analogue techniques.
There is something comforting and cathartic about using a pen and paper, or pen and post-it, to get ideas out of your head and onto a physical mind map. It’s old school brainstorming with the additional step of organising into a plan.
I use this technique for project planning, business planning, website planning and even day to day task planning.
The reason I use post-its? So they can be moved around, swapped about and added to without ruining the aesthetic of the plan. Plus the satisfaction of ripping them off the plan when done is massive. That simple!
2. Plan your Week/Day
Start your week with a plan of what needs to be done and when. But don’t over schedule! I use a weekly calendar with daily tasks and batch activities that are similar together so I can be productive. But try not to schedule more than four critical tasks a day. Because life happens and you need to allow for disruptions or you get behind and frustrated and and and…
This schedule should include allotted time for ‘outreach’ if that’s part of your business strategy – that might look like spending time in Facebook Groups being helpful or reaching out to journalists to offer commentary or story ideas. Plan it. Don’t just fall into an endless black hole during this task. Stick to your schedule – how? See point number 4.
On a daily basis take those four tasks and break them down into mini-tasks (I recommend no more than three mini-tasks). And then read point number 3.
3. Schedule Tasks into 25 Minute Sprints
There’s some science somewhere that suggests 25 mins is the optimum time to spend on any task before you give yourself a mini-break.
There is a time management technique based on this called the Pomodoro technique (based on the tomato kitchen timers of old!). You can google the details but the shortcut is to set a timer on your phone to go off every 25 mins. Then get up and do something else – just for a few moments like making tea or taking a loo break – then get back to it and reset your timer.
4. Use Mel Robbins’ Five Second Rule to Stay Focused
If procrastination is your nemesis and you find yourself going down a rabbit hole on Facebook instead of the actual research you intended to do, then I thoroughly recommend using Mel Robbins’ technique for jumping back into the game.
Advanced warning, Mel Robbins isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. She is quite direct and does not mince her words, so she very much is mine!
5. Shorten Your Week
Take Fridays off. Everyone is knackered on a Friday and nothing important gets done. Or perhaps you’d rather enjoy a Monday to yourself and extend your weekend? Whatever works for you.
It doesn’t mean you don’t think about work, but don’t sit at your desk like normal. Visit a gallery, go for a run, do whatever helps to give your brain some space. Book in your important personal appointments on this day out of the office and avoid them disrupting your work schedule. We all have personal chores that get neglected over work – time to even up the balance and give yourself some headspace.
By shortening your week you will soon find out just how productive you can be during the remaining four-days. If you have to get five days work done in four, you won’t have time to cucumber around in world history (a brilliant German phrase to mean messing around instead of being productive). Try it!