When I started at my job, I worked for more than six months before I made a single dime.
And it was entirely my fault.
Like a lot of people, I was extremely busy, but not always extremely productive.
In any area of your life, there are some essential steps you must take if you want to get things done—and get them done quickly.
Here are the five steps to being super productive, every single day.
How You Can Get Everything Done In Record Time
1. Identify your high-payoff activities
When I stopped and looked at how I was spending my time, it seemed like I was spending it wisely. But there was one thing missing from what I was doing that is fundamental to being an effective consultant — clients. I wasn’t selling. It never occurred to me that I had to actually go out and sell what I was doing.
That changed when I took time to identify my high-payoff activities – the ones that yield the greatest result for the time invested.
They may not always be the most enjoyable activities, or the ones we would choose to do, but they are the ones that maximize productivity. It could be making or taking phone calls, creating a product or providing a service – whatever brings you the greatest results in the least amount of time.
To identify your high-payoff activities at work, ask yourself, what it is you do that is critical – the reason your job exists?
However, high-payoff activities are not just for your business. As a parent, you might decide that enrolling your child in dance or music lessons or sports will bring them great results for the time invested. With your spouse, you might use the concept to decide how to spend your free time together.
2. Eat your frog
Mark Twain once said, “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, nothing else will seem that bad for the rest of the day.
Stop wasting energy putting off the thing you don’t want to do! Every morning, before you check your social media or read your emails, pick your most difficult task of the day – your frog – and get it done.
If you can’t eat the whole frog, set a timer for 30 minutes and eat a frog leg. Do as much as you can in the time you allot, and you’ll feel good about getting some of it done.
3. Minimize interruptions
It has been estimated that each interruption wastes between 10 to 15 minutes, as we must re-engage in the task we were doing before we were interrupted.
If we save 30 minutes a day—the time two or three interruptions eats up—that’s the equivalent of having an extra 22 days a year. Imagine what you could do with 22 days!
Who is the worst culprit when it comes to interruptions? You are. Drifting thoughts, multitasking, constantly checking email and texts, and staying glued to social media are your biggest time wasters. Turn off your new mail alert, turn off your technology, and focus on the task at hand.
Managing interruptions from others is the next step. This is often difficult because you may have already trained friends, family, and coworkers that it’s okay to interrupt you. If you want them to stop, you have to retrain them.
For some of us, especially people-pleasers, that’s hard to do. But remember: you’re worth your time, too. The world will not end if you let people know that every day, you need an hour or two of uninterrupted time.
Related: The Brutal Basics Of Time Management
4. Stop multi-tasking
On an average day, we are bombarded with thousands of images and hundreds of thousands of pieces of new information. We hold all of this information in our subconscious.
But in reality, our short-term memory can only store two to four items at once. When we are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it’s not necessarily because we have so much to do; it’s trying to remember it all and keep it at the forefront of our minds.
Likewise, as Kendra Cherry points out, this never-ending deluge of information and our constant need to stay connected is rendering us less social, preventing us from staying focused on any one thing for any length of time, and making us less productive.
Related: Why Multitaskers Get Less Done
Multi-tasking makes us incapable of concentrating. How can we begin to focus on the conversation or task at hand with all that pinging, beeping, and buzzing distracting us? The answer is simple: focus on one task at a time.
Finally, as you strive to be more productive, forget the idea of balance. As the mother of a special needs child, a business owner, friend, daughter, volunteer, etc., I can tell you, emphatically, that there is absolutely no such thing as balance.
We are making ourselves crazy trying to find balance, and it’s a mirage. Our lives are not supposed to be balanced.
Instead, identify the areas of your life that matter most to you (such as career, finance, family, health, relationships, personal growth, etc.). Realize that some areas should take priority over others.
Identify your top three to five priorities and spend 80 percent of your time on them without apologizing for it. Schedule time for your priorities. If necessary, save money for them. Make sure you have emotional and physical energy to do what you love the most.
Don’t work all day for no reason! By following these five steps as often as possible, you’ll be super productive—with less work.
Anne Grady is an entrepreneur, author and expert in personal and organizational transformation. With humor, passion and straight talk, she grew her business as a nationally recognized speaker and consultant while raising her severely mentally ill son. Anne shares lessons she has learned in her new book, 52 Strategies for Life, Love and Work.
Photo by Moleskine