If you are like most people in business, you are looking to do more, faster. This is evident from even a quick search on Amazon.com for books about productivity. One search will net you over 40,000 hits! That subject is the Holy Grail for the majority of us. We all seem to have the same goal – make a boatload of money in the least amount of time.
As you may have suspected, ironically, productivity is decreasing. People are working longer and longer hours, yet we seem to be getting less done. The biggest killer of productivity seems to be the Internet. How ironic, since it is also the most amazing productivity platform ever, allowing us to talk, work, learn, and find virtually anything, at any time.
The problem is that, along with unlimited access to the world, come unlimited ways to waste time by surfing, e-mailing, chatting, and watching. Just one look at the statistics and it is clear that we are wasting a lot of time online during our workday. We log on for just a few seconds…but those ‘few seconds’ turn into a wandering path as we check out a multitude of other things.
Case in point - Nielson reports that 65 percent of all streaming content is watched during the work week, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Furthermore, YouTube reports that 2 billion videos are watched each day on their site alone. That’s a lot of lost productivity, especially considering that most watched videos don’t have much if anything to do with business.
Taming the Snowball Effect
But here is the real killer when it comes to continuously diverting your attention with online pursuits. When you are finally ready to get back to work, you usually find that you’ve forgotten where you left off and need to start all over again. And, with that, you might as well surf again…and so you are off to the races!
So, here is what all the productivity books tell you to do: turn off the Internet and turn off your e-mail. I mean, duh, it is so simple! No Internet, no distractions, work gets done.
But there is the problem with that. You actually need the Internet to get work done! So, ultimately, these well-intended directions don’t actually work. Instead, there is a better way to be more productive, and it only requires a piece of paper, a pen and a highlighter.
Here is what you will need to do:
- Make two columns on your sheet of paper: a small column to the left, labeled TYPE, and a second, wide column, labeled TASK. You will notice that there is no column for “DUE DATE,” because that is not necessarily reflective of the most important stuff. Due dates in fact make us rush to the urgent, but not necessarily the important.
- In the task column, write down all the tasks you need to accomplish. And while you are working, if the thought of a new task comes to mind, write it down in the TASK list, right then and there. This is important, because if you try to simply remember the new task, you will either forget it or be distracted from the task at hand by trying to remember what else you need to do.
- Next, once all your tasks are written out, go down the TYPE column and put a dollar sign ($) next to the tasks that will bring you revenue within the next 30 days.
- Finally, go back through the list and put a smiley face next to the items that serve an existing client.
When you look over your columns, you will notice that most of your tasks don’t actually generate revenue or address a client. Those unmarked tasks are the items that you can tackle later. Now go through your list and, first, do those items that have both a dollar sign and a smiley face together. This is for a client who is bringing in revenue for you. Do that one now!
After that, do all the ones that have smiley faces, followed up by all the ones that have dollar signs. Once you are done with that, you are ready to go on to the other tasks. But here is the key – when you start a new task, use your highlighter to mark it. This way, when you get distracted by the phone or an e-mail, you can go right back to your sheet, see what is highlighted, and get it done. Once you complete a task, put a line through it. It is really gratifying to see items crossed of the list.
Getting It Done
I know it is hard to resist the urge to log online and check your e-mail every five minutes, or watch the new Justin Bieber video (hey, with almost 400 million views, someone is watching it!), but with this new little system you can slip a little, since you will be right back on track instantly – making money and helping clients.
Mike Michalowicz is the Author of the business cult-classic, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Michalowicz has built three multi-million dollar companies, is a frequent expert guest on MSNBC, CNBC, ABC and other television networks, and is a nationally renowned speaker. His website is http://www.ToiletPaperEntrepreneur.com and his book is available at Amazon.com and all major book stores.