Learning from our mistakes is great. Learning from other people’s mistakes is most effective. Either way, not repeating them is of key importance. Adopting best practices for our daily use is a source of productivity. Let’s look at the top mistakes:
1. Storing information in your head
Well, …don’t. Trying to remember tasks will only give you stress. Worse yet, you will forget some, guaranteed. For sure, you will be busy, but will you remain focused on the most important things?
Write everything down in a single location. Best place: Outlook Task Pad.
2. Not prioritizing
So, you wrote everything down. Good start. However, To-Do lists are, in general, pretty useless for accomplishing the tasks. They give you no sense of priorities, importance or deadlines.
In order to prepare for accomplishing your tasks you must prioritize your tasks. High-Normal-Low, 1-2-3 or A-B-C.
3. Underestimating the time a task will require
If you followed the recommendations so far, you have a prioritized task list. However, planning to do something in ½ an hour, which will take 2 hours, will leave the task incomplete and leave you frustrated.
Make sure to estimate the time period required for every task with reality.
4. No planning or poor planning
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. In order to plan, you must know your goal(s). You heard this one too: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else”.
Write down your top business (and personal) goals. Break them down into smaller, executable tasks. Yes, planning takes time, but the return is tremendous. Minutes of planning will save you hours of wasted time.
5. Not using a calendar
If it’s not in your calendar, there is a 75% chance it will not get done. Calendaring is the tool to go from to-do to done. Plan tonight for tomorrow. Pick your tasks supporting your goals, priorities and deadlines. Write them in your calendar, realistically reflecting the time period required for their completion. Leave time for interruptions and breaks!
Multitasking is a myth. It takes 50 percent longer to accomplish a task and results in up to 50 percent more mistakes. It’s counterproductive. It’s a waste of time.
Do one thing at a time and come out ahead of the game.
7. Lack of effective systems and processes
This is a subject onto itself. Let it suffice to say, that the biggest productivity gains are attained by implementing systems and processes, which “automate” and/or streamline repetitive tasks, without the need to re-invent the wheel every time.
8. Allowing technology to drive the day’s activities
Email, voicemail, cell phones, Blackberries are great tools, provided that we resist the temptation to become slave to them.
Process your email /voicemail only at specific, scheduled times during the day. Just because electrons move with the speed of light, it doesn’t mean you also have to.
9. Disorganized, cluttered desk/office environment
A clean desk is NOT the sign of a sick mind! Even if good ol’ Albert Einstein said it to the contrary. If you are not lazy to search for documents and have the time to waste in the process, you are fine. Otherwise…
10. Learn to say “NO”
Only two letters, yet most of us find it hard to say it. Or just don’t know how to say it. Learn it. It will be greatly productive and liberating.
Eliminate the above listed mistakes and you will have earned the right to say NO, when you must.
Alex Revai, president of Productivity Solutions, is a professional organizer, who helps business people and professionals improve profit, productivity and peace-of-mind. An engineer by training, Alex is also a seasoned business manager with over 30 years of industry experience. Alex is a member of the Professional Organizers in Canada (POC) industry association. He is an exceptional problem solver and a passionate mentor, who provides hands-on support, as well as workshops and seminars. Alex may be contacted for a complimentary needs assessment and consultation.