Multitasking has been one of those things, which comes to me naturally. But, I see a lot of my friends, colleagues and employees struggle with it. Whether we like it or not, “doing many things” is the need of the hour.
I manage 3 consulting projects and one startup – SocialSamosa.com along with having a life. Let me share some of the things I do to increase my productivity during work hours.
1. Make a list:
It’s a great idea to note down everything on a piece of paper, or a note pad. If it’s on the list it will be done, sooner or later.
As much as we want to, we cannot do all the tasks on our own. Delegate tasks to responsible people in your team and let them handle it. Don’t go about checking on the person every 2 hours on the status of the task. Give the task, and wait till the stipulated time. Interfere only when he/she fails to accomplish it within the stipulated time.
3. Hire Freelancers:
As a startup, you may not necessarily have a team. If funds are a concern, hiring freelancers is a good way to get small tasks done. A lot of freelance websites like Odesk, ELance provide listing possibilities. More often than not, the freelancers deliver good work on time.
4. Go offline:
Have this long presentation to make? A long detailed email to be sent? Unless you need to keep looking for resources online, go offline and sit for 3 hours at a stretch and work on it. No mails, no tweets, no disturbance. Try and ignore all phone calls too during that time.
5. Give realistic deadlines:
I have seen so many startups falter on their deadlines. I call them the “Yes” people. They say ‘yes’ to every request of their customer. “Will I get the presentation by today?” “Yes Yes”, “Will I get the first prototype by next week?” “Yes yes I am on it”. See the number of yes’s there? In your heart you will know you cannot possibly deliver by the promised date. Be honest to yourself and to your customers. Defaulting on deadlines gives a very wrong impression. Once the trust is lost, the client is lost. With realistic deadlines your work quality will also be better.
6. Email management:
Most people suggest that mails should be checked twice or thrice a day. For me answering mails as they come makes a lot of sense. The only time I am not responding to mails is when I have decided to not let go of a task until I finish it. Emails are an important part of our work life, sometimes more important than calls. Swift responses make sure work doesn’t get stuck at your end. If there is an email that needs a detailed reply, star mark it or mark it as unread and revisit it later.
7. Take breaks:
“Most healthy teenagers and adults are unable to sustain attention on one thing for more than about 40 minutes at a time, although they can choose repeatedly to re-focus on the same thing” Says Wikipedia. The idea is to take short breaks after every one hour or so. Talk to a friend or colleague on something casual, have a beverage and engage in water cooler gossip, watch a move trailer, or stand up and stretch. And then refocus on the same thing as Wikipedia further states, “This ability to renew attention permits people to “pay attention” to things that last for more than a few minutes, such as long movies.”
8. Do what you love:
Or love what you do. It’s something like the Horace Slughorn’s hourglass, in which the sand runs accordingly with the quality of conversation; if stimulating, the clock runs slowly. Similarly, if the work that we do excites us, we will get more amount of work done in a smaller duration. Though, no matter how much we try, there will be some tasks that would be a drag. But the idea is to enjoy most part of your work.
9. Find your sweet spot:
I work best around 12 pm in the afternoon. I start checking mails around 10, make the urgent calls to assign work and move on to doing tasks that demand more time and attention. I am most attentive too during that time, as I get into the groove of working. Find your sweet spot. Allot your most demanding tasks to that time slot as you are most productive then.
10. Ask: Urgent or Important:
More often than not, entrepreneurs focus on tasks that are important but might not be urgent and ignore those that are not only important but urgent. As entrepreneurs we immediately jump to the next mail, to the next phone call, to the next task. It would be nice if you can take a second and plot the task on an imaginary Stephan Covey’s time management graph.
Have the usual phone bill to pay, the monthly invoice generation to happen? Use tools to automate these regular and important tasks. At socialsamosa.com, I have added all authors as payees in our bank account. That makes it a two click payment process and saves us from writing cheques each month and couriering them.
12. Learn to say no:
Our productivity drops when we have too much on our plate, when we are trying to do too many things at the same time. If you don’t have the bandwidth, say ‘No’, even if it means losing on a couple of business leads. It’s better to serve one bird in the hand well than cater to two in the bush.
13. Read well:
The rate at which information is thrown at us is overwhelming. Don’t sit and read every second article on the Internet, chose carefully the blogs/sites you want to follow. Select a couple from your industry, one perhaps a news site and a couple of blogs on your interest. That should keep you updated. If you want to do some mindless surfing, assign a time of the day to it, mostly when you are least productive.
14. Maintain a calendar:
If you are someone whose day comprises of back-to-back meetings or scheduled calls, it’s a great idea to maintain a calendar. A calendar can also come in handy to fill in deadline dates. Google calendar works the best for me.
15. Reward yourself:
After every big task that you complete reward yourself. It can be some free surfing time or a movie perhaps. Next time, it will push you to finish a task.
16. Get a speedy Internet connection:
A fast Internet speed makes sure work gets done faster, especially for startups.
17. Try web chats:
In most metros travelling is painful and time consuming. Even if you have a meeting only in the first half, by the time you get back to office, you are not in the working frame of mind. It takes a while to get back into the grove. Web chats are a great way to save up on time. Go for only those meetings that are extremely essential. Even then, try and keep all the meetings on the same day so the rest of the days you can sit in the office and get other things done.