Here are 10 strategies for efficiency and effectiveness:
1. Parkinson’s Law"If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do,"observed Cyril Northcote Parkinson. We’ve all experienced Parkinson's Law. We struggle for a month to finish a project, then magically get it done in the final week. Or, the house is a mess for weeks, then spotless within a few hours of the in-laws showing up.
The law provides great leverage for efficiency: imposing shorter deadlines for a task, or scheduling an earlier meeting. Find the sweet spot for productive hustle. Rushed work can be a recipe for reckless work.
Related: How do I determine appropriate deadlines for my employees?
2. Finding your flowFor athletes, it’s called being “in the zone,” where you’re so focused that you're numbed out to any distractions. It’s a state we can all tap into: writers, musicians, and entrepreneurs.
Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi's research is focused on these flow states that optimize our performance by finding that balance between challenge and skill. If the task is too challenging and beyond our skill, then we go into anxiety and frustration, but not challenging enough and we fall into boredom.
Stretch yourself, but don't snap. We're at our most efficient when in the zone.
3. Single-taskingThere’s many compelling cases against multi-tasking. A study found that even folks walking while talking on a cell phone run into people more often and were so distracted, many failed to notice a clown riding a unicycle.
Telling an entrepreneur not to multi-task, however, is like telling a pig to stay out of mud but the truth is, multi-tasking a misnomer better termed “task-switching.” We don't juggle so much as we jump around. The problem is ending up with too many open projects, and spreading yourself too thin. A good quote on scaling back is by Alexander Graham Bell: “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand, the sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”
Related: The Truth About Multitasking: How Your Brain Processes Information
4. The 2-Minute RuleFrom David Allen’s Getting Things Done, he explains that the most productive people capitalize on the little windows of time opening up during the day. Having an inventory of two-minute tasks on hand whenever windows appear will increase productivity. Cleaning out the inbox, checking voicemail, approving a request, all in brief openings in the schedule, builds our efficiency muscles and gets the ball rolling for bigger tasks.
A major cause of procrastination lies in overthinking the next step. Allen says it takes less time to do the action than the time spent thinking about it.
5. Working to circadian rhythmsNerve cells in our brains control our circadian rhythms, which influences sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, emotions and energy levels. Constant operation outside circadian rhythms (e.g. international pilots) creates fatigue.
Efficiency lies in synchronizing specific work with these biological peak times. Dr. Steve Kay says analytical work is best within a couple hours of waking, when the morning rise in body temperature increases blood flow to the brain.
Alertness slumps after lunch as the digestive process saps energy. This analytical disengagement is the best time for novel and creative thinking, according to Professor Mareike Wieth.
Exercise increases efficiency. Dr Gerard Kennedy notes more Olympic records are broken in the late afternoon than any other time. Muscle strength, lung capacity, eye-hand coordination and joint flexibility peaks between 4pm and 6pm.
Three sweet spots for maximizing your efforts: the morning analytic spike, a creative spike after lunch, and a physical spike in the afternoon.
Related: 8 Steps to Having Wildly Productive Mornings
6. Reverse engineeringMost commonly applied to industrial machinery and computer software, reverse engineering can be applied to different fields, products, and strategies.
It is disassembling and analyzing the components that make up the whole. Efficiency comes not only with seeing how parts relate, but being able to work on aspects out of order. Tim Ferriss notes his rapid mastering of the tango through deconstructing the dance, and learning the female role along with the male.
Expert linguists do the same, breaking a language into pieces and having a bird's-eye view of the most common grammatical structures.
7. The Willpower trinityStanford Professor Kelly McGonigal says the key to hitting goals is understanding the three powers of willpower: I will power, I won’t power, and I want power.
• I "won’t power'' is resisting temptation, such as saying “no” to social media.
• I "will power'' is to choose an alternate behavior -- sending a social, but networking email.
• I "want power'' is remembering your why, your goal, be it expanding your career, business or profits.
Willpower is like a muscle. When we fail to reach goals, it’s due to solely relying on I won’t power, but we can only say “no” so many times before we crumble. However, bringing in backup, and using all three aspects of willpower, will triple the likelihood of success. Resist, replace, remember.
Culled from Entrepreneur.