Flickr/Pedro Ribeiro Simões
Ahhh, the 4-day workweek.
That holy grail of 21st-century professionalism, the glorious final extension of the telecommuter lifestyle, that ephemeral dream of the freelancer, so delicate that you dare not speak its name aloud: the ultimate in work-life balance.
It’s invoked in hushed tones and off-the-record gchats, never really considered a possibility or realistic option, rather an idea to be daydreamed of and then indefinitely postponed or dismissed as unrealistic.
But what if it didn’t have to be like that? What if it wasn’t just a dream?
Today, if you thoughtfully combine modern tools and apps with diligence and attentiveness, you can multiply your productivity. But how?
Don’t worry, we got you. Here are 7 tips from the experts of the industry (from Monday to Thursday, at least). Read on.
1. Motivate yourself by starting your day with affirmation and visualization
Our brains are subconsciously programmed by the way we talk to ourselves. All of us have constant streams of thoughts in our head which are grounded in our previous experiences. They can work for us—or against us. It all depends on how we use them.
You can use this quirk of the human brain to your advantage. In the morning, before you wake up, review your goals. All of them. Thinking about your desires and goals will reinvigorate you and give you a zest for your work, pushing you up out of bed and toward your goals.
You can solidify these gains with a trick that many professional athletes use: visualization or mental rehearsal. Even if you’re not an athlete, you can employ this technique to visualize your ideal life, your dreams and goals. You can also use it to visualize yourself actually getting up in the morning, filled with purpose by your newfound motivations.
Affirmation and visualization are powerful tools. Visualizing the life of your dreams and affirming to yourself the action you are willing to take to make it happen will change the perspective you have on your daily routine — especially when that day starts at 5 a.m.
2. Use a time matrix to prioritize tasks
If you’re anything like most of us, you probably spend what feels like half your day checking email. These kinds of distractions take a major toll on productivity.
To avoid distractions like these, organize your tasks using a time matrix, a productivity tool consisting of four quadrants, each accounting for a different portion of your time.
Q1: important, urgent work. For example, this is the time you spend handling emergencies or last-minute requests.
Q2: important tasks that aren’t urgent: that report for an important strategy meeting next week, for example.
Q3: work that’s urgent but not important; e.g., constantly checking your email.
Q4: pointless things, playing games on your phone or checking Facebook.
There are four quadrants, but you should spend most of your time in Q2. After all, although you may feel productive when you’re in Q1 and Q3 — you’re handling urgent business! — that’s not actually the case. Too often, we mistake the urgent for the vital, rarely leading to top-notch work.
On the other hand, we do our best work in Q2. It’s where we can focus and think, instead of simply reacting to whatever comes our way. If you think about it, it’s probably the quadrant where most of the work you were hired to do resides. Because of this, you stand to make the most gains from focusing your effort there.
3. Use the 80/20 rule to organize your business priorities
By now you’ve heard the buzz about the miracles of the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule states that in any system, about 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. How does this apply to your business? Oh, only everywhere.
The 80/20 principle is so versatile that you can use it in virtually any area or function of business or life to increase the likelihood of success. For example, negotiations are an important part of any business, whether it’s with customers, suppliers or partners.
In a negotiation, the points to be discussed are often prepared in advance. An 80/20 analysis would probably reveal that only a few of the points actually really matter to your company, so you should focus on winning them rather than trying to argue for all points to go in your favor. If you argue right, you can use your persuasive power to win on the points that really matter, while giving the less important ones away as concessions.
Once you have really and truly determined the things that are important for you to do, it’s time to start getting rid of the distractions. Outsourcing and delegating are popular tools, which technology now makes available to everyone. Do the things you are good at, pass on the rest to somebody better qualified.