You Don't Need a Consultant: 5 Tips To Improve Your Efficiency On Your Own

As a consultant, sometimes it is hard to admit when we're not needed. In many cases, clients bring consultants in before trying to solve problems for themselves. I recently experienced this myself. With a home purchase and my destination wedding three weeks away, the  government shutdown brought up mixed emotions. As a consultant, I wasn't needed. Not the most opportune moment to lose your paycheck from political instability. But I welcomed a few precious moments to finish last minute wedding details and tried to focus on the silver lining. Once the shock of the shutdown passed, the real anxiety set in. When had that gigantic pile of personal work accumulated? I needed to stuff how many tea tins for guests? The sheer magnitude of boxes on my to-do list almost crushed me. Ironically, the government shutdown taught me a lot about efficiency.

Productivity seems like a vague, distant notion created to taunt those without the time or resources to establish innovative methods for effectiveness. But you don’t need to lose your work authorization or hire a consultant to increase your efficiency (although a sense of urgency does wonders for growth).

After some struggle, I walked away from the shutdown with the following 5 tips that can help you accomplish more:

1. Create A Personalized Agenda Everyone works in different ways. I am most productive in the morning. If I have not worked out before 8:00 AM, it is safe to say it isn’t happening. So I plan my agenda accordingly. Keep your own pace. Unless necessary, do not let others standardize your agenda. If you hate Google calendar, that’s ok. Be a rebel and buy a physical planner! Your agenda should reflect your needs. Individuals who design their own agendas typically perform more efficiently than those who do not.

2. Clean Environment I can’t afford a beach house right now, but a girl can dream, right? It’s interesting that everyone fantasizes about a dream home. Reason? Physical surroundings have a huge impact on your mood and, therefore, the work you do. An untidy desk or dark, depressing room does not inspire you to work harder or longer. The clutter impacts your thought process. Plus, searching for a highlighter is just plain time consuming.  Do yourself a favor and set up shop in a comfortable area that will encourage a relaxed pace and dissuade distraction. Maybe it can’t be the beach, but it could be a desk sans coffee rings.

3. Airplane Mode Speaking of distractions, unless you need the Internet for research, cut the cord. Put your phone on airplane mode. Delete every paper toss app within a 50-foot radius. Lock up that tablet and let your dog swallow the key. Checking your inbox incessantly only wastes precious time, disrupts your rhythm, and slows down productivity. Usually your emails can wait the hour or so you need to finish a project. Fingers crossed the Groupon offer will still be there.

4. Snack Attack Hunger is productivity’s arch nemesis. How many meetings do you sit through listening to “the rumble?” The desire for food is a vicious distraction that takes many forms. A lack of energy leads to sloppy work. Constantly walking down the block for that third coffee break does nothing for those deliverables. Solution: prep a snack for your desk and nosh to help with your momentum. When noon hits, utilize a full lunch hour. Taking a proper break for meals gives an instant energy boost and revitalizes your brain! Mmm, tastes like productivity.

5. Check Mark I always heard creating lists helped with productivity, but my lists were overbearingly long and kept me from following through. Who wants to do that laundry list of chores?  My co-worker, Kris Pettie, taught me a fabulous consulting gem. Create short lists of 5ish items with similar goals placing lower priority items towards the bottom. Next, set a timer and promise yourself to finish those tasks within that window – whether it is 15 minutes or 1 hour. After completing a task, check it off.  Each check feels like a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. Once you finish a group of tasks, start another. This method accelerates and positively reinforces your momentum. Note: always allow the necessary time for each task and keep it feasible. If not, the process could be counterproductive to your initiative.

Although many of my tips seem common sense, when you are drinking from the fire hose it is easy to lose sight of the day-to-day.  We’ve gotten used to immediate gratification, but there is no single trick resulting in instant productivity. Over time, these general methods can increase your output and your satisfaction. What are some of your efficiency tricks?