Productivity / Business Productivity

Planning to be productive

We know from our recent research, that ‘not enough hours in the day’ is right up there as a cause of angst for the small end of town, so let’s develop a productivity plan.

15 April 2012 by

The downside of so many options of course can be the inevitable overwhelm and confusion. Where do you start and what choices do you make?With the advent of software-as-a-service, Google apps, Apple’s app store, faster processor speeds and speedier internet, there’s never been a better time to get low cost or no-cost support in the pursuit of productivity perfection.

The answer is to develop a simple plan and clarify some actions to get started.

Step 1: Look closely at where you’re losing time

Imagine you’re a ‘time and motion’ inspector observing wastage. Scarily, the business you are monitoring is your own.

"Unproductive tasks keep us busy, but busy isn’t the secret to success!"

Ideally, for at least one typical workweek, keep a notebook on hand and start a list of:

Tasks you do repetitively

These are the actions you undertake time and time again. Not all will be things you can do much about, but I guarantee some will surprise.

Repetitive tasks may not show up in a typical hour, they may not show up in a typical day, but in all likelihood they will show up, so be attentive.

Things that steal your time

Often these manifest as periods where you’re hanging around waiting for results to happen. Typically this can translate to pacing up and down while  your computer catches up with your thinking; twiddling your fingers while files or documents download; waiting for people to get back to you and such like.

I remember watching an Intel processor demonstration last year where basic functions were mirrored on current, older and very old computer set ups.

The differences were astonishing and I’m sure the oldest is still churning through the spreadsheet calculations!

Stuff that distracts or interferes with your concentration

Distractions are the things that take you away from the work you really should be doing.

Importantly here, try to determine why the distraction is happening. The answer may well directly relate to your earlier Step 1 responses.

And remember, not all distractions are bad. In some cases, it’s only by being taken away from a task that we magically get clarity regarding the solution or idea that’s essential for closure. So keep a note, but don’t draw conclusions just yet.

Step 2: Braindump ideas to bring about change

At the end of a period of analysis, it’s time to kick around some ideas in advance of finding solutions. This is not the time to think about finding specific answers, so try to avoid any tendency to fit existing products into the picture. That step is yet to come.

The reality is that it’s highly unlikely anything you are experiencing is totally unique, but by the same token what works for the masses may not work brilliantly for you.

A very popular ‘app’ may be free and may well make a difference, but imagine one that causes a revolution in your productivity and still only sets you back a few dollars.

Focus on what you need, not on what is available.

Step 3: Find the solutions

By the end of Step 2 you should have a good idea of what’s needed so it’s time to move into solution searching mode.

Some productivity solutions may be relatively straightforward, ‘I need to upgrade my computer!’ for example, others less so.

Similarly, some solutions may call for physical help, like the delegation of tasks to an administrative support, while software programs may hold the answer for yet more.

Don’t be afraid to reach out when seeking answers. The Flying Solo forums are a great place to start and of course, Google can be extremely useful particularly if you pose very specific questions.

In addition, speak to you own network and consider those around you who may just experience the same challenges.

Unproductive tasks keep us busy, but busy isn’t the secret to success! Good luck in your path to productivity planning! 

Robert Gerrish

is one of the Flying Solo crew and supports soloists as a coach and consultant. He presents at conferences and networking events and bangs on to the media or anyone who listens, about all things micro. Along with Sam Leader and Peter Crocker, he's the co-author of Flying Solo – How to go it alone in business.

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