People generally refer to success as though it is within your grasp, if you simply work harder or find more time to accomplish your goals. The truth is, however, that vague statements such as these aren’t a key to unlocking anything but frustration. Achieving great success isn’t about finding more time or working harder; instead, it’s a matter of being more effective with the time you do have.
Let’s briefly consider a new business startup. Many would suggest that a successful startup requires a lot of time spent on planning and development, yet for the last few years as an invited coach and judge at Austin’s Google’s startup weekend, I have seen business startups, many of them highly complex, take teams less than 72 hours to launch. I’m certainly not suggesting you go out and do this; I am simply highlighting that you should focus on effectiveness rather than trying to find more time, or working harder.
The Pareto Principle suggests that most people achieve 80% of results in only 20% of their time. That implies that during the other 80% of your time, you are operating far below your full effectiveness. Imagine what would happen if you unleashed the other 80% on the world.
Here are my three favorite, simple hacks to get the most effectiveness out of 100% of your time—and achieve countless goals in the process.
- Tidy up: You may not believe it, but a messy workspace is a huge hindrance to productivity. You may feel like you know where everything is, but let’s be honest: you have no idea how to find anything buried in that pile on your desk—or worse, that pile and the one on the floor. I’ve been there, and I guarantee that you lose productive time while finding things, not to mention the time it takes to replace any important document that will likely become misplaced or even accidentally thrown away. When, however, you keep everything in a specific place, it’s easy to find what you’re looking for and get to work straightaway. If you do find that your space gets disorganized easily, simply budget five minutes a day to put everything back in its place. Your clean workspace will get you to work on tasks more quickly and keep your head clear from the distractions of a mess so you can be more productive on a consistent basis.
- Say “no”: It may sound obvious, but so many people just can’t say it when confronted with a coworker asking for help. Whether you say yes because they are desperate, because you’re procrastinating doing a difficult task of your own, or because you fear that saying “no” will cause a conflict, not saying it will result in you spending much of your time helping others succeed rather than focusing on your own advancement. Instead, take this simple, four-step approach to saying “no”: first, acknowledge the request. This validation will make the other person more receptive to what you have to say. Second, politely decline to help. Third, give a valid reason for declining such as some other, pressing work. Finally, offer a sweetener, such as a time during the next week when you will be able to assist them. It may surprise you to learn that most people won’t take you up on this offer; generally, this is because they have procrastinated for so long that they only need your immediate assistance during this dire situation.
I am all for helping people; by offering that assistance in the future, you will be helping the people that genuinely need it rather than those who shirk their responsibilities, then want you to do their work for them. You may not enjoy saying “no” but you must always prioritize your own work; declining to help using the four steps will allow you to put yourself first while still acting as a supportive colleague.
- Work when you’re naturally better: Everyone has a time or times when they work best; I refer to it as your biological working time. For example, some people work best late at night while others are fresh and full of ideas first thing in the morning; some people get tired in the afternoon while others are invigorated to tackle projects after lunch. Maybe you know when you work best; perhaps, though, you need to pinpoint it. Once you do discover your optimum biological working time, plan strategically so that you can tackle your most taxing work during the times when you’re naturally inclined to be most productive. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you demolish your “to-do” list. Otherwise, you may run into the issue of trying to do a demanding task when you’re feeling tired and unfocused, rather than using these times to do easier work like responding to emails.
These simple hacks are easy to incorporate into your life immediately so that you may start performing at your optimal productivity today. Soon, you’ll be accomplishing more than you ever thought possible, with time to spare. I remember thinking how amazing it is that principles so basic could reap such amazing results, and I’m excited for you to think the same.
About the Author
Matthew Pollard is the Rapid Growth Guy! Characterized as a true differentiation, niche marketing, and sales systemization powerhouse. He now offers online sales, niche marketing and business seminars through MatthewPollard.com. Read More