Today’s tip to improve productivity can be used by just about anyone. Whether you’re a student, a business owner, an employee, or just about anything short of a professional philosopher, you’re likely faced with routine or repetitive tasks. So within that broad context, today’s hack is:
Identify and Optimize Repetitive Tasks!
Every role in business (and truly, just about every non-leisure role for the people mentioned above) has some element of repetitive tasks to be completed. In some cases, this might even comprise the entire role! Either way, what follows are the key steps to putting this hack into action.
Identifying suitable tasks
Before we can begin optimizing anything, we need to ensure we can select the correct tasks for this exercise. So to be more specific, we must be looking for tasks with the following attributes:
Are necessary within the normal course of operations;
Occur regularly and with at least moderate frequency;
Are at least somewhat repetitive in nature.
Common examples include: email marketing, invoice processing, writing proposals/introductions/sales scripts/contracts, making sales calls, etc. With a few suitable tasks identified, we can move onto the next step.
Designing optimization strategies
What we’re trying to do with the identified tasks is to find ways to make them take less time or effort to complete (either individually, or in aggregate). We’ll touch on what to do with this newly-freed up time further below. And while the ideal optimization strategy for a repetitive task may depend on the specifics of your business, team, available resources, etc., I’ll cover two below that have been just about universally beneficial across the clients I’ve worked with:
Whenever you have a document that needs to be completed regularly as part of a larger process, standardize the form’s format, what data you want and where you want it to go. Not only can this make it significantly faster and easier for whoever is completing it, it also makes reviewing that 10x easier and helps to ensure your processes work with consistency and your results are repeatable. Good examples include: invoices, sales proposals, scripts to use on sales calls, capital approval forms, etc.
There’s a good chance that you’ve long held the notion that the smartest people are multitaskers and becoming proficient at multitasking is the quickest way to go from Homer Simpson to Elon Musk overnight. Sadly, this is a flat out myth as far as our brains are concerned. The brain has evolved to be pretty bad at doing many things at once, but pretty great at doing one thing repeatedly.
Don’t believe me? Well here’s an example that I think will really highlight this for most: Think of the first time you typed on a keyboard - it probably took you a ton of time and may have caused minor whiplash from you constantly looking at the screen and keyboard repeatedly. Eventually, you became familiar enough with that task to not need to look at the keyboard (I hope!), but as soon as you introduce something new to the mix (a new keyboard, typing on a weird angle while sharing your screen, trying to respond verbally while typing, etc.), and all that know-how seems to go out the window.
Anyway, the point is that when you have suitable tasks (per the criteria above), you’d save a huge amount of time and effort by doing them in batches (one after another) rather than sporadically throughout the day. You can apply this in tons of ways: making sales calls, sending emails, writing/printing/mailing invoices, etc. You’ll then find that the time to complete each task decreases and quality often increases as the brain naturally finds ways to make a given task more efficient and less strenuous. The time saved from this (or other techniques) can then be applied to wherever it would provide the highest ROI. Feeling energized? Then spend this extra time on a task that you do best. Feeling burnt out, then simply use this time to rest up.
So those are a few ways to bump up your productivity through task optimization. There are tons of other strategies to implement, but remember - none of them matter if you’re just reading about them and not putting them to use! So get out there, see what works and what doesn’t, and then let’s regroup to understand why.
Have a good one,