One of the hardest things we all deal with is how to get everything done to be successful and productive, said Jane Applegate, producer of the Applegate Group, at the opening of a panel at The New York Times Small Business Summit on how to get more done.
But “don’t mistake being busy with being productive. They’re two different things,” warned author, speaker and consultant Barry Moltz.
Applegate, Moltz and other panelists offered up several smart strategies for being more productive in the finite time we’re given, including:
“Multitasking fries your brain,” said Moltz. Instead, you need to do less and focus on the things that are really going to make a difference toward accomplishing your primary goals.
It may seem counter-intuitive to do less, but “you can get incredible power in your life by just doing one thing and not trying to do multiple things,” Moltz explained.
Categorize your days
Applegate said that when she was working from home, she started dividing her days into “in days” and “out days” to make the most of her time and not waste it driving around or shifting from task to task.
On the in days, she would hunker down, not leave the house and work hard. Out days would be packed to the brim with errands, meetings and other activities that had to be done out of the house.
Use “time chunking” — setting aside chunks of time for completing specific tasks to get everything done, advised Lena West, founder, CEO and chief strategist of Influence Expansion. She designates each day of the week for a specific type of activity and sticks to it.
“When we obsess over perfection, that’s where the stress comes in,” said Wendi Caplan-Carroll, a senior regional development director with Constant Contact. She had to learn to do things well enough, because most things don’t need to be perfect.
Be smart about checking tech
“Never ever, ever check” your e-mail, voice mail, social media feeds or other forms of electronic communication first thing in the morning, said Moltz. “It will totally derail your day” and send you down a wormhole of busyness where you won’t actually be productive.
Also just check everything less frequently, said Krista Neher, CEO of Boot Camp Digital. Pick a few specific times of the day to check and don’t cheat.
Change in five-minute increments
It’s hard to totally overhaul your entire way of getting things done the way that some productivity guides suggest, so try making one change a month that will save you five minutes a day, advised Neher.
Those smaller changes are easier to make and easier to stick to, plus the time saved really adds up fast, Neher explained.
Take advantage of time-saving tools
One easy way to save five minutes a day is by taking advantage of the many productivity tools available these days, said Neher, who suggested a few of her favorites.
- Evernote, which allows you to take searchable notes in a variety of formats that you can share and access from all your devices.
- Tungle.Me, which helps you find a time to meet, instead of going back and forth with everyone involved to find a mutually agreeable time.
- Oh Don’t Forget, which lets you send text reminders to yourself and others.
- Rapportive, which allows you to connect social networks to Gmail so you can see additional information about the person you’re writing to or whose message you’re reading.
- Google Voice, which is a free voice mail service that forwards to any cellphone, and e-mails and texts you when you have a message.
Make a plan to manage social media
“You need to figure out what you’re trying to accomplish with social media and then dedicate your time to that goal,” said Moltz.
Then, “you need a specific plan for managing your social media and you need to follow it, so that you don’t get off track,” said Neher.
And don’t get overwhelmed by the endless number of social media sites out there because you don’t have to be on them all, said West. “You need to only be where your market is on social media. That’s all that’s required.”
Not sure where your customers are at on social media? Then just ask them, advised West.
Photo credit: Brooke Howell