The Keys to Productivity

You’re not alone if you feel like there’s not enough time to get everything done that you want to. The reality is, you'll never get more than 24 hours out of every day. Working longer doesn’t help. Your productivity actually decreases the longer your work in a given day. A key to managing productivity is in how you use the time you’re already spending.

There’s lots of time that can be used more efficiently. Time gets lost to ineffective meetings, distractions and context switching between tasks. By spending your time more productively you can actually get more done. This often results in:

  • higher overall job satisfaction
  • better overall job performance
  • lower levels of stress.

Jumpstart Your Productivity

Eliminate distractions
When you have too many things vying for our attention it slows you down and results in lower productivity overall. Do your best to remove every distraction that pulls you off tasks.

Cell phones, email and message apps are the most common drain on productivity. Set the ringer on your phone to vibrate, set specific times for checking email, and close irrelevant browser tabs. With this approach your work will be less hampered throughout the day.

Make your to-do list verb-oriented
To-do lists are a great way to help you focus on exactly what you need to accomplish each day. Some people do best with a physical list like a notebook, and others do better with digital tools like Wunderlist, Evernote, or Bullet Journal. Your list can be as sophisticated, or as simple as you like, but just making a list is not enough.

What goes on your list makes all the difference. Every item that goes on your list should be actionable. The trick for this is to make sure there's a verb. For example, "Smith project" is not actionable enough. "Outline key deliverables on Smith project" gives you a more concrete task to complete.

Stick to the 10-Minute Rule
Overwhelmed by an unclear or unwieldy task? Break it into 10-minute mini-tasks instead. This can be a great way to take something unmanageable and turn it into something that is achievable.

The beauty of 10-minute tasks is that they can be fit into many parts of your day. When you get into the office in the morning and are feeling fresh, kick off your day with a burst of productivity from a few 10-minute tasks. Losing momentum in the afternoon? A 10-minute job can help you regain your momentum.

10-minute tasks are also a good way to identify tasks that can be delegated to others. The ability to delegate work is often one of the most effective management techniques. By finding a simple task that can be accomplished by another member of your team, you can make short work of a big job.

Know when you are done
A big drain on productivity is the urge to keep fiddling with a task after a point when it’s more useful to wrap the task up. Have you ever agonized over perfecting the formatting of a presentation?

Set benchmarks for completion and stick to them. When you have met these benchmarks, it is time to wrap up and move on to the next task on your list. Everything that you do does not need to be perfect, and in fact can benefit from an iterative approach. Perfectionism can turn into a drain on your time that keeps you from getting to other items on your list that would be more beneficial.

When you increase our productivity, and develop more productive habits, you're able to direct our time in the ways that give the most value.

Main photo by Arthur Lambillotte on Unsplash