10 Tips to Boost Your Productivity on the Job

Stop spinning your wheels with wasted effort and tasks that don’t build the bottom line. Then be prepared to ramp up the revenue!
10 Tips to Boost Your Productivity on the Job
Jeff Haden is a contributing editor for Inc.com and a LinkedIn Influencer.

Each small business owner’s definition of success is different, but one thing is true for everyone: Success means getting things done. Highly successful people are able to get a lot more things done, and here are simple ways you can, too:

1. Eliminate “ego” commitments

We all do things that have to do more with ego than results. Some people serve on a committee because they like how it looks on a resume. Some may teach at a local college because they like the title “adjunct professor.” I like to do radio interviews just because it seems cool to be on the radio, though it in no way offers professional benefits.

Anything you do solely for ego is a waste of time. Think about things you do mainly because they make you look important, smart or cool. If it provides no other value, drop it.

2. Don’t struggle for that extra 5 percent

I’m fairly competitive, so when I start to do something, I soon start wanting to do it better than other people. Take cycling: I’m faster, fitter, etc., than the average person, but compared with the fast guys, I’m nothing. They can drop me within a few miles. It drives me crazy. It makes me ride more and train more and spend tons of hours on a bike — and for what?

Sure, I may get in better shape, but at that point, the improvement to my overall health is incremental at best. And in the meantime, I have to spend hours on cycling that I could spend working toward more important goals. Or, I could just spend more time with my family, the most important goal of all.

Think about something you already do well but are trying hard to do even better. Then weigh the input with the outcome. Sometimes “good” truly is good enough, especially if that 5 percent gain is hugely disproportionate to the pain required to reach it.

3. Find the perfect way to say “no”

Most of us default to saying “yes” because we don’t want to seem rude, unfriendly or unhelpful. Unfortunately, that also means we default to taking on more than we want or can handle. It’s important to know how — with grace and tact — to say “no.” Maybe your response will be as simple as, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have time.” Develop your own way of saying “no” and then rehearse so it comes naturally. That way, you won’t say “yes” simply because you think you should — you’ll say it because you know it’s right for you.

4. Eliminate useless “me time” commitments

I used to play fantasy baseball and football, but when I thought about it, I had no idea why. Sure, I could rationalize that it created a nice break in the week. I could rationalize it was a “mental health” activity that let me step aside from the stress and strain of business life.

I could, but that wasn’t true. I just did it because I had always done it, and once I start every year, I don’t want to quit because, um, I’m not a quitter. Look at the things you do because you’ve always done them and decide if it’s time to stop. Here’s an easy test: If you wouldn’t do something while you were on vacation, there’s no good reason to do it when you’re not.

5. Set hard limits

Deadlines and time frames establish parameters, but typically not in a good way. We instinctively adjust our effort so our activities take whatever time we let them take. Tasks should take only as long as they need to take — or as long as you decide they should take. Try this: Decide you’ll only spend 10 minutes a day on social media.

On the first day, you’ll get frustrated because you won’t get everything done you “need” to get done. On the second day, you’ll instinctively skip a few feeds because they’re not as important. On the third day, you’ll reprioritize and get better organized. By the fourth day, you’ll realize 10 minutes is plenty of time to do what you need to do; all that other time you used to spend was just fluff.

6. Establish a nighttime routine

The first thing you do is the most important thing you do because it sets the tone for the rest of the day. So be smart and prepare for that “first thing” the night before. Make a list. Make a few notes. Review information. Prime yourself to hit the ground at an all-out sprint the next day; a body in super-fast motion tends to stay in super-fast motion.

7. ... And a morning routine

Then, make sure you can get to that task as smoothly as possible. Pretend you’re an Olympic sprinter and your morning routine is like the warmup for a race. Don’t dawdle and don’t ease your way into your morning. Rise, get cleaned up, get fueled, and start rolling. My elapsed time from bed to desk is about 15 minutes (which is easy since my commute is two flights of stairs), so there’s not much I can improve. So, I do something else; I get my most important task done before I check email.

8. Outsource the right tasks

I was raised to think that any job I could do myself was a job I should do myself. That’s why it took me a long time to decide if the kid down the street should cut my grass. He can use the money. I can use the time. But that’s a simple example. Here’s an even better approach: Write down the two or three things you do that generate the most tangible return. Maybe it’s selling. Maybe it’s developing your employees. Maybe it’s building long-term customer relationships. Then strip away all the other stuff by outsourcing those tasks. (Or, oftentimes, simply by eliminating those tasks.)

9. Fix what you often break

I used to be terrible about putting meetings and phone calls on my calendar. I figured I’d get to it later, and then I never did. Then I spent way too much time — often in a panic — trying to figure out when, where and who. All that was wasted time. So, I finally decided I would immediately enter every appointment into my calendar the moment I made it — no matter what. You probably have at least one thing you tend to mess up. Fix those things to save time and aggravation.

10. Don’t multitask

Plenty of research says multitasking doesn’t work. Some research says multitasking actually makes you stupid. I feel sure there is at least one thing you do that is so important you should never allow a distraction or a loss of focus. Choose one important task and commit to turning away everything else when you tackle it. Focus solely on that task. See if you do it better. I bet you will.


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