When it comes to improving your work life this new year, what it really comes down to is improving your efficiency, as whilst many people focus on the term ‘productivity’ the underlying principle that drives productivity is efficiency.
Productivity is essentially about producing output, whereas efficiency pertains to the speed at which you produce output – therefore the two are intrinsically linked. In this article we’re going to take a look at some of the best ways to improve your work/life balance.
1. GET REALLY CLEAR ABOUT YOUR DESTINATION
The first step is to clearly define where it is you want to be – after all, unless you know precisely where you are wanting to go it will be very hard to get there in the most efficient way. Unfortunately, many people live their life without a true sense of purpose and direction, which makes it very hard to get to where they want to be.
If you imagine a car trying to drive to a destination – the first thing you need to do is work out where that destination is, and then you can plan an efficient route… but without a clear idea of where is “there” for you, there’s a good chance you will spend a lot of time running around in circles like a headless chicken… or perhaps putting a lot of energy into things, but it will be like treading water rather than swimming toward your final goal.
Therefore, get really clear on what it is you want to achieve; whether it is a promotion or a more flexible working life where you can work from home on flexi-time.
2. CHUNK IT DOWN
Just like how a college course is chunked down into modules, you need to chunk your goal down into manageable bitesize pieces. This way you won’t feel overwhelmed. One of the worst emotional states you can be in, with regard to productivity, is that of overwhelm.
The challenge when you feel overwhelmed is that it has a tendency to paralyse your productivity – most people, when they feel overwhelmed tend to want to put their head back under the sheets and do not feel motivated to jump out of bed and start their day.
3. PLAN AN EFFICIENT ROUTE
Think of how a GPS system plans out the most efficient route for you to get from where you are to where you want to be. You now need to do the same for yourself. See, whilst many of the proceeding tips will be about practical ways you can improve your work life balance, for instance getting a free phone number and using a virtual assistant to answer calls there are a few fundamental first steps required.
The steps we have covered so far are that of getting really clear on your destination, chunking down the goal into manageable chunks to avoid the paralysis people feel when they procrastinate as a result of feeling overwhelmed… and, now, the importance of planning an efficient route.
This means looking at the key tasks that need to be completed in the sense of the most important and fundamental tasks that will help you get to where you want to go – the trick, then, is to focus most of your attention and effort in the areas that are going to propel you forward the most.
4. STOP BEING A PERFECTIONIST
Perfectionism is one of the most chronic emotional states and mental patterns people face, in the modern world, rooted in the fear of not being good enough. The challenge, is that perfectionism is like a prison that paralyses you from taking the necessary action required to change your life – it keeps you stuck.
Often, you’ll find perfectionists are very intelligent people that feel an insatiable, almost obsessive, need to produce such ridiculously high quality outputs that they end up never getting anything done; often leading to a state of despair and low self-confidence, they start to see themselves as incapable, which adds to the downward spiral of perfectionism.
The antidote to perfectionism is to realise that nothing in life is ‘perfect’ there’s always room for improvement… and to free yourself from the shackles of trying to create the finished article by adopting the more Japanese like philosophy of Kaizen, which is the idea of never ending improvement.
Indeed, when you consider something like the iPhone, once upon a time, that was viewed by people as a miraculous solution – whereas, in reality, it wasn’t finished, it was never complete as it remains improving through various stages of iteration. The point being that perfectionism is a myth, and it’s like chasing the bottom of the rainbow – you’re going to live a life full of frustration.
It’s much better to adopt the approach of something being “good enough for now” and to then work at making it even better. The trick is, as Nike says, to “just do it”… otherwise, you’ll look back on your life and think about all the things that could have been but never were.
5. OUTSOURCE TIME CONSUMING TASKS
There are many domestic tasks that are very time consuming, yet necessary, and often we find ourselves investing a lot of our precious time doing things such as cleaning the house or going to the supermarket.
In the film “About a Boy” Hugh Grant plays a character that discusses how he breaks down his time into units, for instance, going for a haircut, might be one unit of time, whereas doing a class in gym might be two units. It can be a good idea to do an inventory, just for one week, to track where each of your half hour units of time go.
In doing this, you’ll find you spend a surprising amount of time driving, in the bathroom, watching TV, cleaning, and shopping. Whilst you can’t outsource the time spent in the bathroom, you can cut down on the time spent watching TV and can certainly outsource tasks such as shopping and cleaning.
If you consider that your time is worth X amount per hour, the question you need to ask is that is X is, say $30 per hour, then would it not make sense to hire a cleaner for a couple of hours a week at $15 per hour – thus freeing your time to be more productive with your business?
A lot of people are reluctant to pay for things they can do themselves, yet, when you break this down into simple economics, it actually makes a lot more sense to pay people to do certain tasks so that your time is freed up to earn more revenue.
Similarly, there are dog walkers and even people who will go to the supermarket and get your groceries… yet, in reality, online shopping seems to fulfil that purpose with greater efficiency than hiring someone.
6. ORGANIZE YOUR TIME
We often live in reaction rather than response. This means we have a feeling of running around, chasing our tail, sometimes like a headless chicken – putting fires out… rather than consciously creating our day and not letting ourselves get distracted.
Starting the day with a sense of purpose; working out what your highest goal and most significant task to achieve is can be a great way to organize your time, as this way, you can work backwards.
For instance, if you know that a particular aspect of content needs to be taken care of as your most important task, then you can focus on this – batting away distractions, such as emails and social media notifications. It’s like a ship with a destination in mind; you are moving toward the direction of your goal – rather than being steered off course by the tide.
Therefore, when it comes to organising your time, it’s about first working out what are your most important tasks for the day, then, what are the necessary tasks, that might not move you particularly close to your goal but are necessary. This way, it’s like defining the boulders of focus, the stones that are necessary, and seeing everything else as pebbles that must fit around the boulders and stones.
7. RELY ON A TEAM
If you have a business, then it’s imperative you start relying on a team of competent people to help you achieve your goals. Today, this doesn’t need to be a physical team of people in a physical location – it can be virtual assistants that work remotely from all over the world; which provide the added benefit of flexibility and less administrative burden.
8. THE PARETO PRINCIPLE
The Pareto Principle suggests 20% of our activities will account for 80% of our desired outcome. This means that 20% of the tasks on your to-do list are worth a huge amount of your attention, as these produce the most significant results.
The first step, is to work out what these priority tasks are, and then focus on the 20% of tasks that generate 80% of the results – as this will move you much closer to your goals at a much greater speed.
9. USE LISTS
The world’s most successful people tend to use lists for everything. There are a wide variety of apps available to help with this, such as Wunderlist, that can help you keep track of your most important tasks. There’s something psychologically rewarding about ticking items off of your to-do list as this builds momentum, in that if you’ve ticked 3 out of 5 of your items off that list for the day, then you feel very motivated to get the other two finished.
10. PRIORITISE DOWN TIME
Even the fittest of athletes require rest in order to perform at their best – so make sure you prioritize having enough rest, on a daily basis in terms of sleep and relaxation, but also in terms of having a weekend and vacation from time to time. This down time will replenish you and make you much sharper when you are working.