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Top 10 productivity hacks

How productive are you? Do you sometimes find yourself in a bit of a mess? I think we all do. You sit down or set off to get things done and then feel overwhelmed – or find yourself procrastinating, perhaps not quite knowing where to start.

As the year draws to a close, now is a great time to look at all the things we'd like to wrap up.

Here are 10 tried and tested suggestions for getting things done and being productive:

  1. Use the Pareto principle (or 80/20 rule): Vilfredo Pareto was a 19th century Italian economist who observed that 80 percent of Italy's wealth was owned by 20 percent of the population. According to this principle, in most cases, 80 percent of our results come from 20 percent of our actions. Here's an easy way to put his rule into practice. Create a simple 'to do' list of 10 items (Got more than 10? That's ok. Prioritise them and create a secondary list). Once you have your top 10, choose the two that will have the greatest impact if you were to complete them. These two tasks will be far more valuable than the other eight put together. Start with them, then work down the rest of your list. This rule is all about efficiency and focusing first on what matters the most.

  2. Start with something easy: This is another way to get a good result in a short space of time. It'll also fast-track your sense of achievement, giving you more energy and motivation to tackle the next task. What's an easy task you can start with?

  3. Don't put off what you can complete within two minutes: Try this easy hack now. It's one I learned years ago and love to use myself. Can you make a phone call, file something important, reply to an e-mail, or one of my favourites – delegate a task to someone else? Any of these actions can get the ball rolling and set something bigger in motion.

  4. Plan: Just a little time spent planning can save a lot of time in doing. Is this thing you're thinking about something you need to do, or could someone else do it? And here's another important question: Does this thing need to be done at all? A lot of time can be saved when we assess whether or not something is worth doing. When faced with a choice, ask yourself whether doing this thing will bring you closer, or take you further away, from achieving your goals.

  5. Start anywhere with something that's important, but you've been avoiding doing: Although this tip might seem to fly in the face of the previous tip, just getting started – anywhere really – beats procrastinating and ruminating over an important task. Break it up into smaller steps and start with one little one. You'll be surprised how momentum builds once you get into motion.

  6. Make space: Sometimes we feel that we don't have space to get going on a task, whether that's head space, or physical work space. In my past life as an accountant, I worked in an office environment where we had a clean desk policy. Each night we all had to clear our desks of all paperwork so that when we arrived the next day we started with a clean slate. What this does, is give your eyes and brain an opportunity to rest and not be visually overstimulated. Get rid of anything you can and create space to enable you to easily move forward without the distraction of clutter.

  7. Stay focused: James Arthur Ray says, 'Energy goes where attention flows'. If you find your mind wandering, gently bring it back to the task at hand. Like any habit, you'll find the more you do this, the easier it will get. Try setting a stop-watch on a particular task for anything from 10 minutes or more, and then stick with it until the timer sounds.

  8. Minimise distractions: Shut the door, take the phone off the hook and put up a 'do not disturb sign,' –even if it's only for 10 minutes – so everyone knows you need uninterrupted time to finish what you've started.

  9. Create routines for your day-to-day life: This might sound boring but great value and freedom can come from creating some regular routines. For example, putting the rubbish bins out a Sunday night means the rubbish is collected every week. The more routine you have, the more efficient you are likely to be. Start building a plan with the regular tasks in your life. make a regular time - once a week at a minimum - to maintain your paperwork (all those piles that grow on your kitchen bench or desk). Make a regular time to fold and put away your washing or do your ironing. Build on existing routines. You might, for example, put away clean dishes when you boil the kettle in the morning, or make a regular time to sort and file your emails. The change to daylight savings can be a useful time to prompt annual or twice-yearly tasks – like cleaning gutters, servicing the airconditioner, flipping the mattress, etc.

  10. Set goals: To acheive the best results in the shortest amount of time, I highly recommend setting SMART goals. These are Specific, Measureable, Achieveable, Realistic and Time-framed. Committing to a deadline can greatly boost your productivity as we tend to take as long to achieve an outcome as the time we allow ourselves to get there.

Working with your own coach is a great way to set and stay accountable to achieving inspiring and challenging goals. If you'd like to find out more about how we can work together, call me on 0411 471 941 or email me on tania@blueskycoaching.com.au.

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