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Productivity Tips

Eight productivity tips that you need to know.

Everybody has the same 24 hours. Yet, some people accomplish much more than an average person in that time. Leaders, like regular folk, juggle their personal and professional life along with their hobbies and interests in the same time 24 hours a day.  How is this possible? They’re not super humans. The secret to their accomplishments is simply getting more done in the same amount of time. They have learned and practiced productivity techniques and leveraged them to benefit their lives both professional and personally. It is never too late to learn a new technique or two and finally figure out how to fit an extra hour into your day (without sacrificing your sleep!).

Here are eight ways to increase your productivity.

Productivity Tips –  Eliminate interruptions

A study at the University of California found that not only do interruptions disrupt your concentration, it also takes a person about 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track. The authors noted: “… interruptions do in fact lengthen the time to perform a task but that this extra time only occurs directly after the interruption when reorienting back to the task, and it can be compensated for by a faster and more stressful working style.”

If one interruption can take more than 20 minutes to get you back in your productive flow, imagine how many hours are wasted in a day when you start counting the number of times you get interrupted. Take a moment to list all the ways you get interrupted in a work day, and find ways to minimize them. Put your phone on silent, turn off notifications on your device and the email notification pop-up on your computer (my personal nemesis) to avoid getting distractions by emails and messages.

Productivity Tips – Focus

I have written a lot of articles lately on CEO success and productivity. One common thread in my pieces is ‘focus’. Unless you are not giving a 100% to the task at hand, the quality of work suffers and you end up taking more time than required to finish the job. Dedicate a good amount of time in the day to important tasks on your agenda, and try not to think about anything else when working on them.

Research shows multitasking takes a toll on an individual’s mental energy, especially if the task is difficult. In some cases, it takes up to 40% of your productive time. MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller, a world expert on divided attention, says that our brains are “not wired to multitask well… when people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.”

Record how much time it takes you to complete multiple tasks at once, and how long it takes to do each task individually. You might be surprised to learn that you are actually losing productive time than saving it. You can use apps on your phone to find out where you waste hours and reclaim work time.

Productivity Tips – Get organized

A survey of office professionals by the Brother International Corporation found that 66% of workers spend up to 30 minutes during a typical work week looking for things they have misplaced around their office. The survey also discovered that the time spent searching for lost items costs more than 177 billion dollars annually.  

Removing clutter from your surroundings has been proven to increase productivity. You can start by identifying areas in your routine which are disorganized and organize them one at a time. It will eliminate time else spent looking for misplaced items. Clean out your work desk, your inbox, your computer, your closet, your room, and so on. You need to know what needs to be done and where it is.

Productivity Tips – Categorize

Not all tasks are created equal. Put them into categories. What are the ones that can be done in less than 15 minutes? It can be as simple as an email or making an appointment. Next category could be 15 minutes – 1 hour.  The final category could be bigger projects that take more than an hour. Break these up into smaller tasks that fit into one of the first two categories. Plan your day to allow time for each of the categories. For example, give yourself one hour of uninterrupted time for category A (15 minutes or less) and one hour for category B. The key here is ‘uninterrupted’.

You can also group similar tasks together, like errands you need to do out of the house. Categorize them according to locations and you can get multiple tasks done at the same place without having to move in circles around town.

Productivity Tips – Prioritize

Go through your to-do list and label each task in different levels of urgency. You can use color-coding to classify how important each task is in – red for most important and yellow for least. Make your own ABC, 123 system. Identify what must be done immediately, today, this week and so on.  Since you are predetermining the priority/order, you can quickly shift from one activity to the next without needing to reassess your list (or think through the one in your head) each time.

Productivity Tips – Plan your day in advance

Brian Tracey, a well-known author on personal and business success, says in his book Eat That Frog!: “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1000 percent return on energy.”

If you take 15 minutes to plan your tasks at the beginning of the day, you save 150 minutes – two and a half hours – in the entire day getting stuff done. Keeping a to-do list on your phone or a notebook keeps you on track, and cuts wasted time between tasks wondering what to do next. It also helps you prioritize tasks; completing those which are important and time-sensitive first, and then moving on to the rest.  You don’t need to

Get all of your emails done at once. Those that will take more than a minutes to respond to, mark and come back to them during your email response time – this is likely the first category in the previous section that will take less than 15 minutes.

Productivity Tips – Consistency

Find the things that work well as routines and work them into your daily/weekly plan. The consistency will allow you to do it with less energy, saving it for the bigger things that you need to get done that day.

Productivity Tips – Tackle the monster first

Whether you are at your best first thing that day doesn’t matter as much as getting the monster off your back, and freeing up more of your energy and mental state to be more productive; not thinking about the one or two tasks you are dreading.  These can vary from something you have never done before, something that involves a learning curve, or that phone call/email you know may not be well received. Get it done and put the monster to rest.

In the end, it is always easier to accomplish something in 100 little steps than one giant step.  Pick one from the list and work on it for the next month. If it isn’t working for you, switch it out.  The first is always the toughest. As you begin to adopt a more productivity mentality, you will likely come up with a few more that work great for you to add to the above list.  I’d love to hear about them!

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