I am often asked by my students and work associates how I manage to get so much done in such little time. I think the key component can be broken down into a few smaller ones. The first is time management and deciding which tasks to act on. We all have busy days and most people have a to do list that is longer than can be accomplished in one day. The key is to simplify by employing proven time management and productivity systems.
The first time management and productivity system that I use is called TRAF. This System was developed by Stephanie Winston, author of “The Organized Executive” and is implemented worldwide by many busy executives who need to accomplish a lot in a little time. The concept behind TRAF is deceptively simple. All paperwork, email, voicemail etc. can be subjected to the TRAF system.
When you get a new email, piece of mail, or voicemail there are only really four things that you can do with that item:
T – Trash. Throw it away (or delete it)
R – Refer. Delegate it to someone else
A – Action. Act on it and do it now
F – File. File it (or scan it and save it to Dropbox)
Looking at any item whether it be an email, a voicemail or a piece of mail and then not doing one of the above four steps will decrease your productivity. Making sure that you take one of the four TRAF steps above will substantially increase your productivity.
Try and delegate as many items as you can to someone else. If you don’t have someone to delegate items to then consider hiring someone part time. Every piece of work that you can delegate to someone else will free up your own time. This is the key to productivity. And most of the items that we keep don’t really need to be kept. If you doubt this, please go and look at your filing cabinet and ask yourself when the last time you needed a specific file was. If you have not looked at our touched an item in one year then chances are you don’t really need it. Instead of filing things consider throwing them away and only file and keep the essential items that you know you will need. Also consider scanning documents and saving them electronically in Dropbox or Google Drive so that you can retrieve your items electronically at any time.
I utilize the Traf System together with another very useful system called “Getting Things Done” by Author David Allen, whose book “Getting Things Done” is a New York Times Best Seller. GTD has helped countless individuals and organizations bring order to chaos and is implemented by many companies worldwide. Implementing GTD will increase your productivity and keep you on top of your paperwork, emails and voice mails which will enhance your performance and your efficiency.
So the TRAF system together with GTD will help you keep track of your time and productivity. But in order to be super productive you will need to implement one other thing and that is truly a difficult thing to master. It is called FOCUS.
You see to actually sit down and go through a project will take time. Most of us spend our days having outside influences affect our daily schedule. We respond to emails, texts and voice mails instantly without realizing that those same emails, texts and voice mails are running our day and ruining it. Have you ever had a call or email come in that ruined your day? Either you run your day, or your day runs you. If you react to every phone call, text or email then your day runs you. And my bet is that you are not productive but are very busy. And the reason is simple. You let other people dictate what you will do and when you will do it. Let your phone go to voicemail. Don’t respond immediately to texts. Put your phone on silent.
Responding to every text, email or phone call is very distracting and makes you very unfocused. Try instead to focus on one task at hand. I don’t believe in multi-tasking. I believe in doing one thing and doing it well. When that item is complete I move on to the next project. When I am sitting with a coaching student my phone is on silent and is turned face down so that I don’t see the text messages and notifications. I spend one hour focused only on that student. When my session is complete then I look at my phone. And I apply this principle in my life regardless of the project. If I am out boating with friends I don’t take work phone calls or look at my emails. If I am working on a new book or writing an article for a real estate blog I let calls go to voicemail and I focus on the task at hand. Try putting your phone on silent. Try letting your calls go to voicemail instead of answering every call. Don’t respond to texts immediately. Do one project and complete it. Then check your texts, voice mails and emails. You won’t miss a thing and you will be way more productive. Then after you have checked your messages move on to the next project. If you do this throughout your day you will get a lot more accomplished in a lot less time.
Implementing a work flow management solution like TRAF and GTD together with focusing on one project at a time without distractions will substantially increase your productivity.