Whether you’re a full-time entrepreneur or you’re starting a new business on the side, you typically find yourself filling multiple roles and juggling a variety of tasks. On Monday, you’re the CFO; on Tuesday, you’re the CMO; and on Wednesday, you’re the VP of Engineering. Does this sound familiar?
In spite of the many research studies that indicate multitasking worsens most people’s ability to get things done, you still find that it’s a necessity in your busy line of work.
Become a “Super Task Manager”
Have you heard the term “Supertaskers?” According to research published by Jason M. Watson and David L. Strayer from the University of Utah, only 2.5% of the population are effective multitaskers. Performance of tasks performed simultaneously is degraded for the majority of people.
I know many of the entrepreneurs who are reading this are thinking – yep, I’m a supertasker! If you think so, here’s a test from David Strayer that enables you to confirm your theory.
Multitasking is inevitable at times, so how do you survive in our multithreaded world? For the majority of the population, we recommend you become a “Super Task Manager,” rather than a multi-tasker. This doesn’t require genius-level, supertasker brainpower, just a bit of discipline.
Do you want to become a “Super Task Manager?” Follow the tips and tricks we’ve outlined for you today and you’ll be on the road to success.
1. Do a Daily Brain Dump
I don’t care if you won last week’s Jeopardy match; I still believe when it comes to remembering things to do, your memory is terrible. Not to mention, when you keep your to-dos in your brain, it creates stress and doesn’t leave room for creative thoughts.
Every day, when you start your workday, record all your tasks into a to-do list; this is your brain dump. Consider this the birth of your important assessment of daily tasks. This begins the process of deciding what’s most important for moving your business to the next level.
2. Grasp the Needle-Movers
Your business has goals – whether you want to increase profits, grow sales, widen awareness or increase customer satisfaction. Decide which of your tasks will move the needle toward those goals.
80% of what’s on your list is probably busywork and 20% of those tasks are needle-movers. Think about your long-term goals and outcomes and get these needle-moving tasks to the top of your priority list.
3. Be an Obsessive Compulsive Scheduler
When you schedule everything you need to do, you know exactly how many tasks, meetings, etc. you can fit into your daily schedule. In fact, research says that mental fatigue is reduced by better control of work scheduling.
When I say schedule everything – I mean EVERYTHING – not just events. Include your to-dos in your schedule; add meetings to your calendar; add lunch to your schedule; even add social media time to your calendar. Do you want to watch “Dancing with the Stars” or “Monday Night Football?” Then schedule it, as well.
What’s the best way to schedule everything? The LifeTopix app is a great app for recording and scheduling a variety of different types of things, while on the go. Many LifeTopix customers are busy freelancers, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and real estate professionals.
4. Learn to Let Go
Entrepreneurs typically like to take control of everything in their business, but sometimes they need to let go. Now that you’ve assessed and prioritized your tasks, you have a fantastic idea of what can be delegated.
Cloning yourself is not realistic, so if you have a team of employees, take the time to train them to complete tasks that are not highly strategic to your business or hire people who are up to the task. If you’re a solopreneur, outsource business tasks or items in your personal life to make more time for your business.
5. Hack Distractions and Interruptions
The problem with distractions and interruptions is you lose your momentum. Some small business owners and entrepreneurs manage distractions by blocking out their time to focus. However, distractions indicate your business is healthy and thriving because you’re supporting various employees, prospects and customers. Being accessible to answer questions and provide support keeps the business moving along at a healthy pace.
One simple hack to effectively manage these distractions is to record your thoughts (whether through audio or writing) at exactly the point when you left off each time you’re interrupted. This way, you’re not taxing your brain by trying to remember where you left off; and then you can easily switch back to the task at hand.
6. Get Online-Savvy
Using the Internet for research and everyday tasks is a necessity for freelancers, business owners, solopreneurs and entrepreneurs. But many don’t realize there are helpful tools, such as browser extensions and add-ons, to manage open pages and prevent online distractions.
Entrepreneurs typically have numerous tabs open on their browser. “Too Many Tabs” on Chrome and Firefox is a helpful extension/add-on that arranges your tabs in an easy-to-read format and also allows you to suspend tabs to release memory, which improves browser performance.
Another helpful tool to manage online distractions from advertisers is AdBlock, which allows you to surf the web without seeing the ads. And now, with iOS 9, developers have provided a variety of ad blocking apps to work with Safari on your iPhone or iPad, which are available at the Apple App Store.
7. Take Advantage of Background Tasking
One of the great advantages of modern computing is the ability to run processes in the background. You can run reports, compile code, run virus checkers, and more while you do other important work. By now, you understand what can run in the background and what cannot.
Like computers, we, as humans, can also run processes in the background. We quickly understand what type of tasks we can do simultaneously and when we must focus on a more complex single task.
Smart multitaskers make use of waiting time, such as doctor’s appointments, public transportation rides, long lines and while commuting (safe tasks only, such as Podcasts!). They also know which types of tasks can run in the background while they’re completing important projects, such as running a sales report while making cold calls.
8. Utilize “Thinking Time” in the Background
Everybody needs leisure time, and sometimes this time can be used strategically. When you’re playing golf, running, hiking, biking or knitting, take this time to think deeply about your business.
For example, imagine you’ve been invited to the opera, but you secretly have a distaste for opera music. You can use this time to think intensely about your business. Sometimes, stepping away and putting yourself deep into thought is a great way to find a new perspective, set goals and to unleash your creativity.
9. Harness Your Willpower
Have you ever noticed that your willpower is stronger during particular times of the day? Typically, your willpower is strongest in the morning, and you really propel forward when deadlines are quickly approaching. Take advantage of those times to get things done.
Moreover, much of willpower is simply about forming desired habits. According to research from the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes approximately 66 days to develop a new habit – and then it becomes automatic.
For example, if you have a habit of watching YouTube videos first thing in the morning as a form of procrastination; instead, focus on making a to-do list for at least 66 days in a row. Once this habit is solidified, you’ll never think about those silly cat videos again.
10. Resurrect Good Meetings
Being a “Super Task Manager” requires that you make the most of meetings. How often have you attended a meeting where participants are secretly responding to email, tweeting or completing work? They’re attempting to effectively multitask, but ultimately they’re performing two tasks at the same time very badly. This is a sign that the wrong participants are in attendance or the meeting is unnecessary.
Providing a good agenda is the best way to conduct useful meetings. Currently, a popular agenda format called TTOG is being used to improve the state of meetings. TTOG stands for Topic, Time, Owner and Goal. Essentially, it ensures that the subject, time spent, task owners and goals are clear to the participants. Once these guidelines are established, you and the team can move onto your important tasks.
With these simple hacks, I believe you’re on your way to being the “Super Task Manager” you wish to be. Good luck, and please share your multitasking and time management tips and thoughts.
In our modern world, we have demands on our time that our parents’ generation never even dreamed about. Our children have more challenging schedules; school is more competitive than ever before; and the modern digital world presents distractions that would have been science fiction in our parents’ time.
If you feel like you don’t have enough time in your day and you’re struggling to stay on top of things, keep reading to learn about these 8 mistakes that you might be making.
1. You Spend Too Much Time Online
We’re fortunate that we have access to information anywhere and at any time. However, the availability of information is a mixed blessing. According to the 2014 Millennial Mom Report, Millennial Moms spend nearly 8.3 hours on a typical weekday using digital media. This includes tablet, smartphone, laptop, TV streaming, radio and television. And the Gen X moms are not immune. They’re right behind them with an average of 7.4 hours of daily media use.
As you probably know, once you get online you can fall down a slippery slope. You pop on Pinterest to see if there’s a new recipe for a Gluten-free, Paleo stew and before you know it, you’re bombarded with beautiful and enticing photos of DIY projects, summer outfits and new hairstyles. You’re sucked in and suddenly you’re at the hardware store purchasing the materials to make a Mason jar chandelier.
It’s interesting that parents limit the screen time of their children; however, many are not setting the limits on themselves. Think about the amount of time that you spend plugged in. You might find that your time could be spent more productively elsewhere.
2. You Don’t Make Time for Exercise
Many moms don’t make the time for exercise because they’re busy with their career and parenting. Again, according the 2014 Millennial Mom Report, on average, Millennial Moms spend -0.8 hours a day exercising. If you’re a regular exerciser, congratulations, you can skip to the next section!
What many moms don’t realize is there are hidden productivity benefits of exercise. Exercise doesn’t just provide weight loss and health benefits, such as reducing the risk of diabetes. Getting fit also improves energy level, alertness and might also prevent sicknesses by boosting the circulation of white blood cells.
Think about how you could carve out an extra 30 or 60 minutes a day. Take a brisk walk or a bike ride with your kids and find a gym with a fun daycare. Take a run while your child is at a piano lesson, rather than checking Facebook or Pinterest. Think about other creative ways to make exercise a priority in your life. The productivity results will be amazing!
3. You Over Schedule Your Kids
I’m sure you’ve read about the possible dangers of over-scheduling kids. They get burned out, stressed out and cranky. But what about the moms who schedule, organize and support all of these activities? They aren’t immune to the same effects. An overly busy schedule can consume a considerable amount of time in many moms’ lives. Between tutors, sports, music lessons and other activities, moms spend numerous hours supporting kids’ events. It takes a toll on health and sucks away time that could be used more productively.
This doesn’t mean that you should eliminate stimulating activities. Find a healthy balance. Ensure you have a support system. Take turns carpooling with other parents; divide and conquer with your spouse or partner; and elicit the help from older children. If you still can’t find the time to prepare a healthy dinner and your kids are finishing their homework past 10:00 at night, it’s time to re-prioritize these activities.
4. You Do Everything For Your Kids
Out of all of the items listed here, this is the one that I’m most guilty of. As a busy working mom, I sometimes find it easier just to take care of things myself then to teach my son to do it. Big mistake.
It’s likely that you’ve heard the Chinese proverb, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The same is true for our kids. Teaching them life skills such as doing dishes, choosing their clothes, doing laundry, learning to drive, taking care of pets, making beds, etc. frees your time and teaches them how to be responsible. Of course, it can be frustrating at first – especially when your son chooses to wear superhero tights with a tuxedo jacket to school. However, you’ll pat yourself on the back when they’re packing up boxes and heading to college.
5. You Make Mental Lists
When you’re a busy parent, it gets harder and harder to keep up with the demands on your schedule. And when you’re relying on memory alone to keep things straight, items are bound to fall through the cracks. The human brain is only equipped to remember a few things at a time. And it’s also a well-known fact that trying to remember too many things can lead to anxiety and stress.
If you haven’t started using a calendar, day planner or personal organization app on your Smartphone for managing your schedule and keeping track of to do lists, then get started today. Being free of mental clutter takes a huge load off of your shoulders.
6. You’re Ignoring “The Cloud”
I discussed mental clutter above, but what about physical clutter? Physical clutter also negatively impacts productivity. Physical clutter in the form of papers messes with your focus, which makes you less productive. An easy solution to paper clutter is to take advantage of “Cloud Storage.” If you don’t know what “The Cloud” is, don’t be embarrassed. In fact, according to Citrix, when they surveyed respondents about it, 29% responded that it is a “fluffy white thing” in the sky.
If the Cloud perplexes you, you’re not alone. Without getting technical, it’s essentially an infrastructure of servers (computers that provide data to other computers) that all work together to deliver services to you over the Internet. When you upload files to the Cloud, you’re storing them elsewhere, instead of on your local machine.
Cloud storage is provided to you for free for personal use (until you run out of space). You can take advantage of services such as Dropbox™, Box™, OneDrive™ (SkyDrive) and others to store your important scanned papers. You simply scan, copy and upload those files to the Cloud. It’s actually extremely easy to set up and utilize.
You’re probably wondering how the Cloud is going to save time. Unlike your filing cabinet, Cloud storage opens up the ability to better organize and search using keywords for quick access to files. Not to mention, it clears up the clutter in your home, which frees your mind.
7. You Drink Too Much Coffee
Before writing this post, I asked my teenage son what time management mistakes that he sees moms making. He surprisingly answered, “they go to Starbucks too much.” This made me think about the impact of caffeine on productivity. Caffeine is a double-edged sword. Sure, it wakes you up and may help you focus. However, coffee is a stimulant so it can keep you up at night, which leads to lost productivity. In addition, caffeine dehydrates you, which depletes your energy. If you’re overdoing it, start replacing your afternoon coffee with herbal tea or water. Make sure to stay adequately hydrated to keep your energy level up.
8. You’re Not Planning Ahead
After working in the tech industry for many years – dealing with aggressive deadlines and startup schedules — I learned a thing or two about the best ways to conquer a project. In my opinion, one of the most rewarding and challenging projects you’ll ever face is raising children and running a household. So why not treat it like you would any other project?
In tech, the Agile Methodology is a very popular project management technique. Two excellent takeaways from the Agile Methodology, which you can apply to getting things done at home are ”Planning Meetings” and “Review Meetings.” For example, take the time to conduct a family meeting once a week to plan the activities of the upcoming week and to also reflect upon what went right and what went wrong during the previous week. Discuss meals, shopping lists, activity schedules, homework and career commitments. Your family life will run more smoothly and you’ll get more things done.
Are you making any of these mistakes? What are the roadblocks that keep you from getting things done? Comment and let us know!
At LightArrow, we’re all about productivity. Getting things done is embedded in everything we do. We often share productivity tips on our blog, Twitter and Facebook. Today, we compiled a collection of our favorite, counter-intuitive tips. Enjoy!
1. Ditch the Late Night Emails
Does your boss send you late night emails? Studies show that answering email outside of work on your smartphone or tablet, especially late at night, makes you less productive. Here’s the science involved. The pineal gland, which is located in the brain, releases melatonin a few hours before you go to sleep. However, if you’re playing games or using tablets and smartphones, the blue light that these devices emit can prevent the gland from releasing the melatonin you need to get to sleep.
But before you completely unplug, ensure you understand your boss’s expectations and that you know when immediate responses are necessary. Or perhaps, you’re the boss. Keep in mind that your employees feel obligated to respond, which sets them up for poor sleep and less productivity. Keep your employees happy and healthy by reserving the late night emails for emergencies.
2. Smile More
Have you ever spent a day dwelling on a negative event? Do you remember the impact it had on your overall productivity? Examine the things that make you happy and learn to gravitate to those places, people and things. When you’re happy, you’re naturally more productive and creative. Numerous studies have been conducted that link improved job performance and productivity with overall happiness. So don’t be a “Debbie Downer” and be afraid to share your happiness with everyone around you. Your smile will certainly be contagious!
3. Put a Plant on Your Desk
A little greenery can go a long way. Adding a plant to a sparse office space can surprisingly increase your productivity. According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, plants can increase productivity up to 15 percent!
In addition, plants can remove air pollution from your environment that negatively affects productivity. According to NASA Clean Air Study, a variety of plants can reduce benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and/or ammonia. I personally prefer Boston Ferns because they’re relatively easy to take care of and they’re not toxic to animals according to Mother Nature Network. Whatever plant you choose, it will beautify your surroundings, clean the air and make you more productive. It’s a gift to yourself that doesn’t stop giving!
4. Take Restorative Breaks
After working several hours on a difficult task, you can feel drained and lose concentration. Recharging is necessary to regain your energy and concentration. You’ve probably heard that taking breaks increases productivity. However, when you take a break, ensure that the activity you choose during that break does not impact your concentration. Playing a game on your smartphone is not the best choice when recharging. Instead, take a walk, stretch, do some yoga poses, eat a healthy snack or talk to a friend. Sometimes, a change of scenery is all you need to recharge.
5. Eat Dark Chocolate
Now this is a tip you can sink your teeth into. Eat Dark Chocolate! Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and caffeine, which are proven to improve mental focus and alertness. In fact, according to WebMD, researchers believe that chocolate can enhance neurotransmitters which can help with sleep and mood.
6. Just Say No
Don’t try to do too much. Ruthlessly prioritizing is the key to achieving your goals and dreams – with the key word being “YOUR.” When you’re pulled in multiple directions and have conflicting priorities, you never achieve the things you really want to achieve. Just say no to someone else who’s trying to push his or her agenda onto you. Decide what’s important and urgent. Record your goals and build a tangible plan with broken-down tasks to get there. Check in with yourself. Review these goals often. Always clearly explain to others why their agenda is not your priority.
7. Don’t Work So Much
Have you ever noticed that your productivity declines on Friday afternoon? You’re gearing up for the weekend, losing focus, and burned out from a long week. According to Hudson Research, employees who have a relaxed Friday environment “go into the weekend feeling positive about their working environment.” A flexible schedule goes a long way with most employees. Researchers from this study believe that the “feel good factor” can have beneficial effects.
Don’t feel guilty. If your employer allows it, work when your energy is at its best. Take advantage of the times when you feel focused and take some time off when you believe you’re not doing your best work. The result will be better output and a recharged mind and body. It’s a win-win.
Time and time again I hear, “I don’t have time for exercise” or “I’m too tired to exercise.” I believe most of us don’t have time to NOT exercise. Exercise supplies more energy to your brain, and it also enhances mental capabilities.
Whether you have a busy work schedule, small children or school is taking over your life, there’s always a way to make time to be healthy. You don’t have to join a gym or jump onto the latest hardcore workout trend. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity. That’s only 30 minutes five days a week. Worried about childcare? Take a walk with your kids so they can also enjoy the benefits of movement and activity.
9. Write More
Writing can have many benefits. Writing helps you organize your thoughts, stay on schedule and release feelings onto paper. In fact, just the act of writing helps us to remember things. Do you make to-do lists? Just the process of making a to-do list helps you to remember all the tasks that you need to complete. Writing lists makes everything more manageable and makes you feel less out of control.
10. Focus on the Moment
How often do you try to plow through your to-do list and thoughts start creeping into your head about the test you need to study for or phone calls you need to make? To get things done quickly and efficiently, focus on one task at a time before moving onto the next task. For example, imagine you’re writing a term paper, but you know you have six loads of laundry waiting. Instead of breaking up your thought process, focus on your term paper for 90 minutes before shifting to another task, such as your laundry. You can easily set a timer with your smartphone or alarm clock to keep you focused.
What is your favorite unexpected life hack for making you more productive? Please share!
A recent question on www.Quora.com, ”What is the best way to balance the use of Dropbox, Google Docs, and Evernote” inspired us to create a post describing how we support these services from within LifeTopix so that our users can easily place and track relevant pieces of information in their proper context regardless of its source. These three services (Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Docs) are the choice within their category for our users, and most users use a combination of all three based on their needs.
We’re constantly talking to our users about how they use top notes services (Evernote), top file storage services (Dropbox), and top collaborative document services (Google Docs). This has influenced us to support these services from within LifeTopix, and also helped us to understand how users want to track relevant pieces of information in their proper context regardless of its source.
This post will explore how you might use these services when planning a trip — to perhaps, Maui.
Evernote: Real note taking happens in Evernote. As a platform for notes, Evernote gives you access to your serious notes that build over time from anywhere. When planning your trip to Maui, you might want to jot down a few tourist attractions and places you want to visit by using Evernote. You can get to your notes from most devices using either the Evernote app or via a browser on your Mac or PC, making it very easy to manage the content of these long-term reusable notes. Within a LifeTopix trip, you have access to an Evernote entry used during trip planning. After syncing your notes in All Online Notes and associating the notes with a topic item, you can view your notes within the context of your trip as we show you below.
Dropbox: By making it very easy to store files from the desktop as well as from apps, Dropbox has become the file storage service of choice for our users. Again, we chose not to replicate this, but rather to allow our users to attach files from Dropbox into items within LifeTopix. For example, if you are planning a trip with a group of friends, you might want to upload travel itineraries, brochures, photos, or other files that are necessary for your trip. After adding your Dropbox file folder to LifeTopix via Notes + Files, the file becomes available for viewing in context of the Maui trip. Notice the notification on the Files icons below. Clicking that icon allows you to view and edit these files.
Google Docs: For online collaboration, personal documents, and spreadsheets, Google Docs has the most traction within our user base. Again, we allow LifeTopix items to easily associate spreadsheets and other documents that are authored, edited, and managed on Google Docs. For example, during your Maui trip, you might want to track shared expenses with your friends. Collaborating in a Google Docs spreadsheet and viewing it within the context of the Maui trip is a great way to keep everyone on track with their trip expenses.
Personal and collaborative notes, documents, and files will continue to be a heterogeneous approach based on what we have seen over the last few years. As a vendor of the most complete life organization and productivity app, we have embraced the concept of getting more value from users’ notes, files, and documents by allowing these items to be used in context.