The gals at Fix Your Marketing tagged me with the “Guide to Productivity” meme, so I’ll put my spin on it as a communications professional.
Here are my tips:
1. Invest in speed. I don’t know how much time I’ve lost waiting for web pages to download, for email to send, and for various computer programs to open, but I know it would be a whole lot more without the broadband Internet connection and the relatively new computer. Spend a little bit more for the speed and you will never regret it.
2. Prioritize often. At start of each week, I scan the calendar and the to-do list and make some mental notes about what I want to focus on that week. At the start of each work day, I note the top three tasks I want to complete. An hour or so before I quit for the day, I look at the long to-do list again and see if there is anything really important that has to be done that day. Often times urgent communications tasks will pop up during the day, but don’t let them sidetrack you from working on your other priorities too. Integrate them into your full to-do list.
3. File good ideas away. I am constantly coming up with ideas for client projects, new e-books, blog posts, marketing angles, you name it. Unless I get them out of my head, they keep bugging me and preventing me from getting anything done. That’s why I have a big notebook on my desk, a tiny notebook in my purse, and a pad of paper on the bedside table. All the random bits go in one of these three places. When they reach the status of an actual to-do item that I want to accomplish in the next few weeks, they go into the PDA.
4. Delegate. This is a hard one for me, but I’m getting better at it. What tasks can you pass off to an intern or someone you can hire for under $20/hour? Even if it takes me 30 minutes of training and supervision to make it happen, allowing someone else to do the busy work that would eat up three hours of my time is a bargain. It lets me focus on the tasks that truly require my personal attention. Get someone else to format the web page or the press kit after you write the meaty part.
5. Hire professionals. I love learning new skills and will often tackle complicated projects on my own so I can learn new computer programs and try new services, etc. But at some point, that’s too time-consuming and the quality can suffer. And then there are the tasks that I have no interest in whatsoever, but that must get done as part of a larger project. That’s why I send out work to freelance writers, editors, designers, and programmers who know what they are doing and do it well.
6. Do similar jobs at the same time. I know this bores some people, but it really works for me. I will often spend a whole day writing nothing but blog posts that I can publish throughout the coming week. Or I’ll do all of the InDesign work for various clients on the same day. Or I’ll spend a whole day on administrative tasks like bookkeeping, filing, etc. It’s like that cooking advice they always give busy moms: make several meals at once and freeze what you aren’t eating that night. There’s a lot of efficiency in lumping similar tasks together.
7. Make a little time for yourself during the workday. Stop working to eat lunch or to have a cup of coffee. Your brain and your back need the break. That 10 minutes you spend letting your brain rest will be well worth it later on. Since I work at home, I have other options. For example, I often work while eating lunch and then workout or run errands in the mid-afternoon, because that’s when I really need the break. Then I can come back for a couple more hours of focused work in the late afternoon/early evening.
8. Turn everything off and shut the door. Close the email reader and web browser, turn the phone ringer off, the cell phone off (all the way, not just to buzz), and close the door. Tell all that if they knock on the door or otherwise insist on interrupting you for the next hour that the consequences will be severe. Do this at least once a week (daily would be ideal) to make sure you can put laser focus on the project that needs it most.
9. Get organized, but don’t obsess about it. You need a certain level of file and desk organization to be productive, but don’t get crazy about it. I could spend all day, every day, cleaning up files, re-prioritizing my to-do list, entering data in the PDA, etc., but I’d get nothing of substance done. In fact, I’ve realized that when I get into hyper-organization mode, I’m usually procrastinating on real work.
10. Be realistic about how long tasks take. Thinking you can get five things done and then only accomplishing three is extremely frustrating. Learn how long it takes you to perform tasks (how long does it take you to draft 500 words for example?) and you’ll not only be more productive, but you won’t be nearly as stressed out.
After I wrote my list, I backed up the meme chain to see what others had on their lists. You’ll find lots of overlapping themes, which either means this stuff works or we are all doing it wrong: Fix Your Marketing > FlyteBlog > Zugunruhe Coaching > Healthy Web Design . . . a few others . . . and the originator, The Instigator’s Ultimate Guide to Productivity Group Writing Project
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