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Tried and true suggestions for delivering an instant productivity boost, by Parker Davis for Business 2 Community. 

Ever wish you could clone yourself, just so that you could get through all the work that is piling up around you every day?

Tired of working all your allotted hours (not to mention the rest!), only to find that the task list never ends? If so, we hear you! Check out these five tried and true suggestions for delivering an instant productivity boost ... and all without busting your brain box!

1. Consider outsourcing just about everything

Everyone has a list of least-favorite tasks when it comes to work; often, (but not always), highly repetitive, monotonous, labor intensive tasks top the list (think data entry, paying bills, quality checking, stock take, monitoring social media accounts).

Other than these, there might be tasks that are essential to your business, but that you don't enjoy or feel particularly well qualified for, like customer service if you aren't much of a people person, or writing your company newsletter or blog posts if you hate writing.

Sometimes, it just makes plain old sense for someone else to do it - particularly if you or your highest paid workers are currently spending lots of company hours on activities that might be more efficiently done by someone else. If any of this is ringing a bell for you, it might be worth considering which of these tasks you could successfully outsource to someone else for relatively little effort and often a lot less cash.

The classic proponent of this message is, of course, Tim Ferriss, of The 4-Hour Workweek fame. Admittedly, Tim's advice extends to way more than can be covered under a single bullet point (however, if you'd like a detailed summary of his approach, we recommend you check out this post from the Deconstructing Excellence blog). But anyhow, we digress. One of Tim's key strategies happens to be "outsourcing your life."

Under this model, you see how far you can go with building in systems to permanently replace yourself and the work you do - in other words, to achieve the same result without you physically having to be there. Tim is talking primarily about lifestyle design here, but the same principles could equally apply within the workplace.

For instance, let's take an example close to our heart: a virtual receptionist service. What is a virtual receptionist? Well, as we explain on our blog, a virtual receptionist is a real live person (i.e. not a computer) who provides virtual customer service regardless of where the customer (and the company) is located. Virtual receptionists can perform a range of functions, including answering calls, taking messages, booking appointments, quoting services and much more. All of this can be done without the overhead and expense of employing reception staff who sit physically within your business.

Enough said? Let's move on to the next suggestion ...

2.Take the 80/20 principle for a test drive

You likely know about the 80/20 ( otherwise called the Pareto Principle) rule to begin with, or perhaps something very similar. It's the often unspoken rule of thumb in the business world and elsewhere that says that the majority (80%) of your results will come from a small (20%) proportion of your actions.

Extending this idea, we have implications like the following:

  • 20% of your customers will generate 80% of your revenue;
  • 20% of customer complaints will take up 80% of service desk time and
  • 20% of your social media posts will generate 80% of your social media interaction.

While the exact proportions differ, the general principle applies to many areas of business, and indeed within life. The trick is to collect enough data to be able to determine which 20% of activities make the critical difference, and pour your energy and effort into these. It is only a principle after all, and you will need to test it out within your context to be sure it will work for you. All in all, though, there's everything to be gained and nothing to be lost by giving it a whirl.

3. Clear the decks

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In this age, decluttering and minimalism has virtually been elevated to the status of art forms ( author Marie Kondo is a case in point - she advocates that you consider discarding anything that doesn't "spark joy"). On the domestic front, this all seems like fairly sensible advice, but have you considered what might happen if you applied this principle to your working life?

While a messy desk may well be seen as a sign of genius, there is evidence to suggest that a tidy workspace allows you to concentrate on what's important - and that you will become more productive as a result.

Taking this message beyond the desk to expand to your wider working philosophy could have similar benefits. If you can afford it, this might mean cutting back your working hours so that you can spend more time with family, or streamlining your projects so that you are focusing on one or two critical tasks rather than a pile of fragmented projects at a time. Remember - we don't build the merry-go-round, but we can decide when we want to get off!

4. Introduce some novelty

They say that change is as good as a holiday... or can be, when you are trying to complete a time-intensive task that is teetering on the brink of completion.

Sometimes, when you've worked on a project long and hard, investing that last bit of effort can seem like a real stretch. You'd almost do anything to avoid spending one more minute on it, yet there it is, day by day, looming over you like an ugly ogre.

If this is you, and things have become grim, consider injecting an element of novelty to make that last little stretch seem more tolerable. This might mean transporting your work to a different setting (a coffee shop, the beach, home, a co-working space), working with a different team member, or altering the time of day that you work on the project.

The idea is to cast an arduous work task into a new light... and in the process, reignite your ability to get it done.

5. Change your mindset

Do you believe that everything you've achieved in life is just a consequence of your natural-born talents, or more down to your hard work and perseverance? Your answer to this question might reflect whether you are coming from more of a fixed, or, a growth mindset.

The concept of the growth mindset, originally developed from research by academic Carol Dweck but now embraced by businesses all over the world, opens up a vista of possibility for building and developing your talents - it's the idea that the sky is the limit.

It is a viewpoint that takes the model of the top achievers within any industry and offers these as a type of blueprint, or a roadmap, that others can follow with sufficient time, energy and development.

Dweck herself notes though in an article for the Harvard Business Review, that the concept in the application is frequently misinterpreted to mean many things that were not originally intended. Further, she notes that even if we can overcome these misconceptions, it is easy to fall back into old fixed mindset patterns, especially in times of stress. It takes being aware of our habitual self-talk and a little reprogramming to ensure that you are continually approaching new situations and challenges from a growth rather than a fixed mindset response.