In a perfect world, we all want to get more done in less time and with less stress. But how does one stay productive when there are so many responsibilities to tackle, goals to accomplish, deadlines to meet, and distractions to dodge?
It can be overwhelming and frustrating sometimes for mere muggles like us. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though!
Following are five productivity strategies that have changed my life.
80/20 Rule aka the Pareto Principle
The 80/20 rule is also known as the Pareto Principle. It is sometimes called “the law of the vital few” or “the principle of factor sparsity.”
The man behind this principle is Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto, an Italian economist. Apparently, one day while gardening, he found out that only 20 percent of his pea plants produced 80 percent of the healthy pea pods. He then associated this discovery to uneven distribution—particularly about Italy’s overall wealth and population.
He observed that 80 percent of the land in Italy belonged to just 20 percent of the population. He later examined various industries and discovered that 80 percent of production originated from only 20 percent of the companies.
In a nutshell, the 80/20 rule or Pareto Principle simply states that 80 percent of results will come from only 20 percent of the action. And that most things in life are not equally distributed—aka life is not fair.
The 80/20 rule can translate to the following:
- 20% of the activity generates 80% of the result
- 20% of the employees produce 80% of the outcome
- 20% of the clients provide 80% of the income
- 20% of the features cause 80% of the benefits
And so on…
A little caveat: the percentage will not always be exact. Oftentimes, it will be 79/21 or 83/17 and so on. The point is that only a small amount of your tasks will bring great results.
How to Apply the 80/20 Rule?
The 80/20 concept is practically ever-present and applicable to almost any kind of situation and to all areas of your life. This is a perfect way to reduce to-dos that make your day unproductive.
Currently, only a few of your daily or weekly activities have the biggest impact on your life—whether in your professional or personal life.
The takeaway of this rule is to be constantly aware of how and where you spend your time.
Regardless of the responsibilities or tasks you need to accomplish, there will always be a few that will yield incredible results. Some methods will be effective, while the rest will just be time-wasters.
The key is to determine these activities that work well and focus your attention and energy on them and forget about or minimize everything else that’s just sucking your time.
The best thing about understanding the Pareto Principle is that you become more intentional with your time and you learn to concentrate on the 20 percent that offer the best outcome.
In short, you do more of what really matters.
Learn From The ONE Thing
The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results is a book written by Jay Papasan and Gary Keller of Keller Williams Realty, the world’s biggest real estate company. Keller has previously written bestselling business books about succeeding in real estate.
In The ONE Thing, he talks about what it takes to achieve your professional and personal goals to truly live a productive, enriching, and purposeful life. At its core, this book teaches you how to identify your ONE thing—the most important thing in your life and how to invest all your energy there.
This isn’t a way to get more done in less time; being productive simply means focusing on the right tasks.
How to Apply The ONE Thing
- Begin with the focusing question:
“What’s the one thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
Jot that down. This book is based wholly around that one question and the efficiency of managing each aspect of your life around that one thing (per area).
It doesn’t mean your one and only thing. It’s your one thing right now.
- Create a domino effect
To be successful long-term, you want to determine your one most important thing in your career/business, relationships, health, etc. Visualize this as a “someday” goal.
Once you’ve discovered that, you need to find out the steps to get there—the dominoes you have to line up—and then knock them down one by one. Your one thing is always connected to your destination or “someday” goal.
Thus, your first domino is your most crucial action that gives you the most bang for your buck. Do one thing that matters most at any given moment.
- Time block
As per Gary Keller, you must block out at least four hours per day to work on that one thing, one specific goal. Utilize these hours to tackle things that move you forward—steps that you need to perform for the day to get you closer to your ultimate goal.
Ideally, block out time at the very start of your day when you’re freshest and most energetic. In short, prioritize and do the most important thing first of all.
You can look at it like you’re going to the movies. You’re there for one thing: to watch the movie. And because you’re certain about that one goal and you want to avoid distractions, consequently, you turn off your phone or put it on silent/airplane mode, you get popcorn and drinks in case you get hungry, and you go to the restroom before going in. You do all these just so you can ensure an uninterrupted experience.
- Learn to say NO
To stay more focused and productive, say “no” to people, places, and most other things unless they’re related to your one thing and/or you’ve already accomplished your one thing for the day.
Sure, constantly focusing on that thing can sometimes be boring. And it’s tempting to distract yourself with doing other tasks or more fun activities—like grabbing brunch with friends. But keep in mind that once you’ve given your undivided attention on your one thing for the day, then sooner or later you’ll be available to do whatever else you’ve planned for the day.
- Use the 80/20 rule
Gary Keller is a huge proponent of the Pareto Principle. In fact, he used it to take his real estate business to the top of the industry.
Keller believes that we don’t need a to-do list. Instead, we need a success list, which is a list designed around your biggest result-generating tasks. You can determine this using the 80/20 rule.
Theme Your days
What Does It Mean to Theme Your Days?
To theme your days is simply batching relevant types of tasks together and working on them on a single day to be more productive.
- Mondays = Administrative
- Tuesdays = Marketing
- Wednesdays = Creative
- Thursdays = Meetings
Having a theme gives you a guide or map for your week, so you can then easily create your task list every day, providing you more control over what you get done. Theming your days also adds consistency to your schedule, making things much more efficient than going back and forth between different and totally unrelated stuff.
Plus, themed days eliminate unnecessary guesswork and reduce decision fatigue. You know precisely what needs to be taken care of depending on the day of the week.
How to Apply Themed Days
- Determine the tasks you regularly do
Do you write blog posts? Deal with customer service? Social media management? Conduct meetings? Prepare meals?
Write them all down. This also gives you a chance to jot down the tasks you’ve been meaning to do but haven’t had time for.
- Discover themes within your tasks
Evaluate your list of tasks and group related ones together. Your themes will vary depending on your situation, so be sure to carefully assess the kinds of tasks you perform on a day-to-day basis. That way, you can come up with your themes.
For example, you can group paying bills and grocery shopping under “Home Maintenance” or “Errands.” Or you can group content creation and product design under “Creative Work.” And so on.
- Assign a theme to a day of the week
Dedicate a theme for all seven days of the week, or you can have lesser number of days and allot some rest days. Feel free to customize what works for your specific situation.
You may also want to add your chosen themes to your calendar or planner to further help you manage your themes, therefore remaining productive.
If you follow my three strategies above, you would’ve automatically eliminated a lot of unnecessary or unwanted tasks to save time, energy, and resources, thereby becoming more productive.
For others that you can’t totally get rid of or automate (more on that later), well, you can outsource them—especially if you hate doing them or are not good at them in the first place. Or perhaps they’re just too time-consuming, laborious, boring, repetitive, or all of those things combined.
Outsourcing will not only decrease your stress levels, but it will also give you more time to concentrate on much more crucial tasks or pressing issues in your business or personal life. And if you’re anything like me—a parent of two kids, as well as an entrepreneur—I really value my time.
As a real estate entrepreneur, it is easy to get into the hustle mentality and get on a hamster wheel of never ending to-dos if one is not careful. Hence, I outsource some of my miscellaneous tasks to reduce the number of hours I work per day, so I can then dedicate attention to my family.
Slashing your work hours doesn’t translate to being less productive, especially if you’re going to have someone else do it for you. It’s a win-win situation. You gain more time for yourself and other things that matter to you while also providing jobs for other people.
How to Outsource Tasks
- Determine tasks that you deem too tedious or unexciting, and get them off your plate. If you’re procrastinating a specific task, chances are you have zero to limited resources, knowledge, or skill to handle it well. Or you’re just really not passionate about it. No worries. Have someone else do it.
- You can outsource a lot of tasks nowadays—from writing, cleaning, researching, designing, scheduling, etc. You name it, and it can probably be outsourced.
- You can hire a daily or weekly housekeeper or cleaner to tidy up your home regularly.
- You can order daily meal deliveries if you’re not much into meal prep and cooking, for example.
- Many of the administrative tasks like researching, data entry, social media marketing, scheduling, and other relevant tasks can be delegated to an all-around assistant, for instance.
- You may need to hire separately for others that need specific skills and knowledge, like accounting, graphic designing, writing, etc.
- Nonetheless, if you’re keen on designating some of your chores, you can hop on various outsourcing sites like Upwork, People Per Hour, and Freelancer to find workers who are experts in their fields. Check reviews from their previous clients and choose carefully to ensure you’re only getting quality work.
Progress and success come from prioritizing essential tasks—the 20 percent from the 80/20 rule or The ONE Thing. But that translates to letting go of several minor activities that you deal with on a daily basis. That’s where automating tasks comes in handy.
Automating tasks means using an application, tool, or service to lighten your load. By utilizing a program or app that will automatically do specific tasks for you—like paying your bills, syncing your calendars, publishing social media content, or handling customer support—you can definitely save time and effort and use them instead on more important matters.
With a bit of strategic thinking and planning, you can quickly automate those tasks that are burdening you, so you can then get right back to doing meaningful work—whether that is running your biz or taking care of your family.
How to Automate Tasks
Depending on your particular needs, you can find countless apps and tools that allow you to automate many of your unwanted tasks. Let me share some of my favorites, including a few hacks that may also help improve your productivity and efficiency:
It’s a to-do list application designed to help you do more. Todoist is teeming with productivity features, so you can organize tasks and set schedules and deadlines. It syncs on your phone and computer, so either can be updated in real-time. It also offers a ton of plugins and apps for your gadgets, emails, and browsers. And it does have a free version!
- Syncing calendars
If you’re like me and have more than one calendar, it’s best to sync them so each one is updated and you can avoid overlapping schedules and appointments. I find Google Calendar the most useful. I sync it with my phone’s calendar and Outlook email.
- Filtering emails
I get junk emails all the time. Instead of having them land in my inbox, they go automatically to a dedicated folder that I set a rule for. For example, if an email contains the word “unsubscribe,” it goes to a separate folder that I check two times a week to sort out any important emails and unsubscribe to those spammy ones.
LastPass is a password manager that lets you store and encrypt all your usernames and passwords online. The best thing about this program is you only have to remember one master password to log in to all your online accounts.
It also comes with many plugins for different browsers and apps for various smartphones. This feature is especially handy for all of those websites that do not offer an application on your smartphone.
- Auto-payment bank feature
Most banks nowadays offer an auto-payment feature so you don’t forget paying your bills, utilities, subscriptions, and what not. I take advantage of this, so I don’t have to worry about bill payments ever. Check with your bank about how to enroll in auto-payment.
- QuickBooks Online
QuickBooks Online is a cloud-based accounting software designed to minimize the time you spend sorting out your business finances. It lets you create estimates and custom online invoices, monitor sales and cash flow, manage suppliers and customers, etc.
The best part is every week on my themed day for finances, my accountant and I log in and view the account together and update anything we need to in real-time.
- Tenant Turner
As a real estate entrepreneur, I find Tenant Turner useful for scheduling showings. More than just a scheduling software, Tenant Turner helps property managers decrease vacancy by listing your rental properties on all major listing sites, pre-screening leads, and finally scheduling showings.
Before using Tenant Turner, I was about to hire someone on a part-time basis to answer phone calls from leads, follow up email requests from various websites where my listings were posted, schedule showing requests, send showing reminders to reduce no-shows, and then follow up with an application once the showing was complete. Tenant Turner does all of this for a fraction of the cost.
What are some of the productivity hacks that you have benefited from?
Share in comments below.