Be Selective and Improve your productivity

Think carefully about which tasks you do

Be Selective and Improve your productivityTo improve your productivity, you need to be highly selective about what tasks you decide to do yourself. We’ve covered choosing and prioritizing tasks already in this course, but here are some tips to help you become more selective about which tasks you do.

The 80/20 Rule

In terms of results, not all tasks are equal. The 80/20 Rule is a well-known concept used in sales. It says that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. Salespeople, in order to maximize their efforts, must identify and focus on those 20%. For your productivity, the 80/20 Rules says that 20% of your efforts lead to 80% of your results. Being selective will help you to improve your productivity by helping you to identify those tasks that lead to the greater results.

Review Your Goals

Start by reviewing your goals. Make sure that every task on your list of things to do is in accordance with your goals. If a task isn’t, move it down your list of priorities or move it to your alternative list. The things you put the highest priority on should be goal-oriented.

Keep in mind that we’re not just talking about short-term goals here. Long-term goals should also be given high priority. Goals such as growing your business are things that you may not have daily tasks for, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t important. These long-term goals can get lost in the shuffle when there are many daily tasks to attend to.

Prioritize by Results

In earlier blogs we discussed prioritizing your list according to set deadlines. Another way to improve your productivity and be selective is to organize by the results each task produces. For example, one task may produce immediate earnings for you while another works toward a more distant goal. Today, your concern may be maximizing earnings, so you would give the former a higher priority.

Your Inner Procrastinator

Interestingly, what we procrastinate doing most is often what produces the greatest result. We may place higher importance on this task or feel nervous about it. If your inner procrastinator is trying to stop you from doing a certain task on your list, there’s a good chance this is where you need to focus your efforts.

Learning to Say No

If you deal with requests from other people on a daily basis, learn to say no. You want to be a helpful person and a good team player, but if you want to improve your productivity, you have to realise that there’s a time to say yes and a time to say no. We discussed ideas for doing this in a previous blog on Managing time drains, so choose which are the most appropriate for you. Most importantly, don’t feel like you have to drop everything the instant someone needs help. Develop the habit of turning down requests for now so that you don’t clutter your daily schedule and at least give yourself a chance to improve your productivity.

Set Expectations

Set expectations for others in terms of things like availability and reply time. In general, don’t reply to emails immediately. This sets a precedent that you’re not always available. You may also want to tell others the specific times when you’re available to communicate. Business associates contacting you don’t want to wait, but if they know that they can reach you easily at a certain time, it won’t affect your reliability.


Like a request from a friend, a lucrative opportunity may come your way. If you’re an independent consultant working on several long-term projects, a small project you can finish quickly may come along. This extra work could provide an easy financial bonus, but it could have other consequences as well. It could set you back significantly on the other projects.

You don’t want something to come along and distract you, but you also don’t want to miss a good opportunity. The best way to deal with this is to take a minute to consider the opportunity and the effect it will have on your productivity in other areas. Make a plan for the time you’ll lose on everything else or add extra time to your schedule to deal with the new opportunity. If these opportunities come along often, you can create a schedule where you allow extra time that’s unassigned to any particular task.

Putting the above strategies into place will help you to improve your productivity, it may seam counter-intuitive but doing less, but concentrating on high value tasks will make you more productive.

Are you selective enough when deciding where you should be spending your time? let us know

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Mike Gardner aka ‘The Time Doctor’ and is highly regarded as one of the UK’s leading Time Management and productivity specialists. As well as being regularly featured in both online and off-line media outlets around the world, he is the author of the best selling time management book, Business Owners: Your Family Misses You. He regularly speaks on topics that are congruent with his mission of helping small business owners, entrepreneurs and independent professionals to be incredibly productive, whilst still balancing their business and family commitments in a way that enables them to feel fulfilled and guilt-free. He is an avid Aston Villa fan, a Dad to Neil & Emma, a hubby to Wendy and in his role as an Officer with the reserve forces, he has completed operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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8 thoughts on “Be Selective and Improve your productivity

  1. It’s taken me some time (years in fact) but I am much better at prioritizing, and saying ‘later’–still working on the ‘no’! I do tend to procrastinate for tasks that are not as enjoyable, so often, if they are quick and easy ones, I put those near the top so I can check them off, rather than keep pushing them down!

    • That’s what Brian Tracey would call eating the frog, I agree to a certain extent as long as it doesn’t drive your motivation down and get in the way of productivity later in the day.

  2. I find it hard to say “no” and I know I need to get better at that. And I am guilty of that “inner procrastinator”. I am working real hard on getting control of my days.
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