Being More Productive
We all want to achieve more in the time we have available. With developments in technology, we have more and more tools to help us but are they actually helping us or simply adding more pressure? Does it really need to be like that? Here are 10 top tips for being more productive.
DISCOVER WHEN YOU ARE AT YOUR BEST
Are you a morning or afternoon person? Our energy and concentration levels fluctuate during the day (often linked to food intake). Knowing when you are at your best has huge benefits when it comes to scheduling what you do and when you do it. For example, there is little point trying to tackle a really difficult task, which needs your full attention, when your energy levels are at their lowest.
Before you get started on your tasks, take a couple of minutes each morning to decide on outcomes you will have achieved by the end of the day. By setting an intention or outcome, you will figure out ways of achieving it.
KNOW WHAT MATTERS
Many people lack clarity on what their key priorities are. We all know that about 20% of what we do accounts for about 80% of the results. What is the 20% that gives your best results? If you don’t know, set out to find out.
START WITH THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE
While it is always tempting to start with easy stuff and start ticking things off the list, avoid doing this. Start with the most challenging task first. It might be a difficult report, a project plan, a proposal or an important customer call. Whatever it is – do it first.
‘If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.’
TAKE REGULAR BREAKS
It sounds counterintuitive, but taking scheduled breaks can actually help improve concentration. Perhaps take a short walk, or make a cup of tea! Research has shown that taking short breaks during long tasks helps you to maintain a constant level of performance; while working at a task without breaks leads to a steady decline in performance. (See our post on Pomodoro Technique.)
Sadly it is a myth that multitasking is good for you! While we tend to think of the ability to multitask as an important skill for increasing efficiency, the opposite is, in fact, true. You are not a computer and whilst your brain is an amazing machine it is wired to focus on one task at a time. (Review our content on mindfulness and attention training.)
Open plan offices are great for team and group working. However, you sometimes need some quiet space. Make it clear to those around you, if you need a slot of time without interruptions or better still, find a meeting room or quiet location to work in.
TURN OFF NOTIFICATIONS
It is almost impossible to resist the draw of an email, voicemail, or text notification. Turn off your notifications, and instead build in time to check emails and messages. This is all part of being proactive rather than reactive (see tip 10 below).
REDUCE TIME IN MEETINGS
Meetings are one of the biggest time stealers around, yet somehow we continue to attend them unquestioningly and, inevitably, complain about them. According to research, the average office worker spends over 40 hours each month in unproductive meetings. Before saying “yes” to your next meeting, ask yourself whether it is vital for you to attend. If you must have a meeting, evidence shows that holding ‘standing’ meetings dramatically reduces the time spent and increases input and performance from attendees.
BE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE
Allowing incoming phone calls and emails to dictate how you spend your time is not productive. Instead, set aside time for certain tasks (making outbound calls, you can’t be interrupted when you are on the phone, responding to emails, etc.) but don’t let them determine what your day is going to look like. Divert or turn off your phone when you really need to focus on one task. Have a plan of attack at the start of each day, and then do your best to stick to it.