15 Productivity Tips from Some of Australia's Most Successful Executives
This is one thing in life we know for sure: Time is precious, time is money, and time is limited—and this is the exact reason we aim to boost our efficiency and productivity day after day. We’re constantly aspiring to work smarter, not harder, and introduce time-saving life hacks into our lives to take the pressure off our demanding daily schedules—hello, productivity apps. From effectively managing your to-do list to prioritising and making swift decisions, we’re big fans of making the most of every single moment, sans stress, of course.
To assist with our quest for achieving maximum efficiency day in, day out, five of Australia’s most successful female executives have shared their top productivity secrets so we can breeze through every day and be rewarded with a completed to-do list at the end of it. Read on and become the highly productive person you’ve always dreamed you'd be.
Lists are your friend.
I use an app called Todoist to keep my priorities front of mind and organised.
Apps are also your friend! Apart from my priority list I use apps to help me exercise in the mornings (FitStar Personal Trainer), to capture new ideas or thoughts (Evernote), to track my daily activity such as stand goals and steps goals (Apple Watch), to meditate (Calm), and to track my nutrition (MyFitnessPal).
Avoid wasting time.
Hours in the day are precious—I'm frugal with the hours in my day and try to avoid wastage as much as possible. I block out time in the calendar for major tasks that require thinking and planning as well as meetings.
Learn how to effectively delegate.
Effective delegation has become a key attribute to my team’s success. The best advice I can give to female leaders is learning when and how to effectively delegate.
Productivity comes when we’re using our time effectively and sharing the workload as a team. This isn’t about shifting the work off your desk on to others, but ensuring the time you set aside for tasks is going to add value to the success of the business. Would it create more value if you were to delegate tasks to a colleague which in return helps to grow their skills and aid development?
Often we fall into the mindset that we can get a job done quicker, and more efficiently if we do it ourselves. However, if tasks are delegated with a clear brief and we invest the time to ensure colleagues are equipped with the right information, this is going to improve productivity in the long run and enable you to focus on tasks that are going to stretch and grow your career.
Prioritise your to-do list.
Whether you organise your to-do list before you leave the office or first thing in the morning, make sure it clearly reflects the key task/s you need to accomplish that day. While you may have seven or more actions on your to-do list, it’s important to break it down and focus on key priorities. Sounds simple, but it’s a powerful tool in managing productivity and achieving key business results.
The skill of prioritisation is an attribute that can help transform a person (and team) to become more efficient in their career and managing the day-to-day tasks involved in their role.
Be strict on time.
Don’t be afraid to be strict with your time. Not only will this allow you to be more efficient in meetings, it will teach colleagues to be respectful of your time. A great strategy that I’ve adopted with my team is ensuring we go in to meetings with clear agenda items and a set time limit and leaving with defined actions points and accountability.
Be great at prioritising.
As a leader in the organisation, you are the recipient of sometimes hundreds of daily emails that include asks for assists, meeting requests, questions, reports to review and interviews to schedule. You are responsible for training and motivating your staff, stepping in when customer situations require escalation, creating strategies for new initiatives, developing pricing schemes, delivering input to marketing, and ensuring processes are working and are efficient. Not everything is a “10”. Productivity begins with identifying what needs your attention now, in a while and then later. It also requires you to delegate to your team and allow some things to fall off the table if they are further afield in your primary goals. Someone will be there to pick them up—that’s what a good team does.
Be great at making decisions (which means always being prepared).
Some people think that “window shopping” is a waste of time. However when the time comes when you need that “thing”, if you haven’t window-shopped you find yourself at the beginning of the process. Productivity involves being prepared to make decisions that have meat behind them, in a timely manner. By putting yourself in perpetual learning mode (being in the field to hear what customers want, staying on top of weekly updates, and engulfing yourself in your industry), you’ll be able to make well-informed decisions more swiftly (if necessary) and more confidently.
Take care of yourself.
The only thing I ever learned from the safety demonstration while sitting on an aeroplane was, “put your mask on before assisting those around you”. You are not going to be productive by working a million hours and burning yourself out. Productivity is the product of an energised, stimulated, and thoughtful mind, which is not possible to maintain if you do not take care of yourself. That means different things to different people—enough sleep, exercise, social interaction, or alone-time. Whatever is your elixir, know that taking some time to recharge your batteries will carry forward to higher productivity.
Understand the power of your network.
While networking is something that can often slip down the list of any busy professional, when it comes to just getting things done, the power of human connections cannot be underestimated. From knowing who you can call on when you need a spot of advice, to building up a ground swell of support for your latest project, your network—in and out of the office—can help you achieve more than you could believe possible, without lifting too many fingers yourself.
Deliver “just enough” to achieve what’s needed.
I often see people labouring away on a piece of work with the aim of triumphantly presenting a perfect end product. While delivering something your 100% happy with is admirable, it’s often more than what’s needed to achieve the end goal. Being strict with yourself and recognising what’s just enough to get the job done can free up time to fit more into your day.
Invest in yourself.
Prioritising investment in your own development can pay dividends in the long-run. Whatever field you’re in, taking the time to learn about trending technologies or getting to grips with tricky financial concepts, can help you make the right decisions for your business quickly, as well as build your own personal brand as a well-rounded professional.
Structure your day.
Before the start of every day, I make sure I have an idea of how I will be allocating my time that day. This is especially key for those who work across different time zones. For example, I spend my mornings trying to dig myself out of my inbox and dealing with urgent emails that came in during the night (I receive over 200 emails over the course of one night!). I try not to schedule calls in the morning so I have a chance to get a handle on everything that happened while I was sleeping. After lunch, I pick a few larger tasks that require more than a quick email response. I always make sure to schedule some time during the day for me—whether it's a walk around the local park, reading up on current events, or going to a spin class—I find that I'm so much more productive and focused at work when I prioritise "me time" into my day. Knowing beforehand the broad strokes of how my day will play out keeps me organised and motivated while working.
Make a prioritised to-do list.
Although you have hundreds of things on your to-do list, when you critically look at your list and analyse the importance and deadline of the task it’s likely there’s only a few things that need to be done by close of business. Prioritise your list and focus on the tasks that need to be achieved by the end of the day starting with the niggly little jobs that can be done quickly and won’t continue to distract you. This will help you feel less flustered and enable you to get through your work in an efficient manner, by focusing on the things that matter.
There are so many nifty apps and programs designed to make your life easier! Cloud and mobile technology are changing the way we do business, making it easier to gather insights, communicate, and collaborate than ever before. I have learned to be very productive on my iPhone, which has been super helpful especially when I'm on the road. Short of building a complex model in Excel, I can pretty much do any work task on my phone. One caveat though, make sure there are times in your day when you are "offline." For example, as difficult as it is sometimes, I will not let myself check my work email an hour before I go to sleep. In the digital age of always being connected, it's important to disconnect, rest your eyes and your brain, so you can get up in the morning and do it all over again!