Whether you’re in Egypt , Nigeria, Kenya or South Africa; blue-collared, white, we’ve all got 24-hours to work with. Success comes down to what we’re able to do in those hours. No entrepreneur can keep the sun from setting or add hours to their day, but there are strategies that will help maximize work habits and productivity.
Here are 10 strategies for efficiency and effectiveness:
- Finding your flow
For athletes, it’s called being “in the zone,” where you are so focused that you’re numbed out to any distractions. It’s a state we can all tap into: writers, musicians, and entrepreneurs. According to a research by Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi’s, performance can be optimized 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.
- 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.
- The 2-Minute Rule
From the author of Getting Things Done – David Allen, 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.
There’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. Some are so distracted that they fail 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. The truth is, multi-tasking is 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.”
- Working to circadian rhythms
Nerve 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. In the opinion of Dr. Steve Kay, 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 are; the morning analytic spike, a creative spike after lunch, and a physical spike in the afternoon.