It doesn’t matter what you do or where you work – everyone is looking for ways to be more productive on the job. But excessive amounts of caffeine and list-making won’t get you any closer to reaching peak productivity levels today.
So, why are we all so obsessed with productivity? It’s probably because in this digital age, staying on task and avoiding distraction is harder to accomplish than your actual work. Not to mention the feeling of a productive workday is somewhat euphoric.
This search for a more productive workday has led to a certain misconception about what productivity really is — and it’s a lot more than checking tasks off your to-do list. Truly productive people aren’t focused on doing more things; this is actually the opposite of productivity. If you really want to be productive, you’ve got to make a point to do fewer things.
To find out the secret to a more productive workday, I spoke with project management and productivity expert Tony Wong. He provided me with some excellent insight into what he and other like-minded individuals do during their work week.
Make room for increased productivity by putting these habits into play:
1. Cut your to-do list in half. Getting things done during your workday shouldn’t mean fitting in doing as much as possible in the sanctioned eight hours. Do you really need those 30 tasks on your to-do list? Take a less-is-more approach to your to-do list by only focusing on accomplishing things that matter.
2. Take more breaks. The ache in your brain after several long hours of work should be your signal to take a break. Since your brain has used up its glucose, give yourself a moment to refresh by going for a walk, grabbing lunch or a snack, or just meditating. You’ll come back recharged and ready to achieve greater efficiency.
3. Follow the 80/20 rule. Only 20 percent of what you do each day produces 80 percent of your results. Eliminate the things that don’t matter during your workday — they have a minimal effect on your overall productivity. For example, break your next project down into steps and systematically remove tasks until you end up with the 20 percent that gets the 80 percent of results.
4. Use your morning to focus on yourself. It’s a big productivity killer to start your mornings by checking your email and your calendar. This allows others to dictate what you accomplish. Start your day out right by ignoring your emails in the morning and getting in a good breakfast, reading the news, meditating, or working out. This will ensure you’ve got the necessary fuel for a productive day.
5. Tackle your challenging tasks before lunch. Knock out your most challenging work when your brain is fresh. If you have any busy work or meetings, save them for the afternoon. By scheduling your day this way, you’ll be able to create a new and more productive way to manage your time.
6. Improve your email etiquette. Email is a productivity killer and usually a distraction from tasks that actually matter–don’t fall into this productivity trap. For example, people often copy multiple people on emails to get it off their plate, but this is a sign of laziness and actually distracts everyone else by creating noise against the tasks they’re trying to accomplish.
As a rule, if you receive an email where many people are CC’d, do everyone a favor by BCC’ing them on your reply. If your email chain goes beyond two replies, it’s time to pick up the phone.
7. Create a system. You’ve probably developed a few productivity-ruining habits over the years. Manage your distracting ways by creating a system. For those of you who check your emails compulsively, plan a morning, afternoon, and evening time slot to manage your inbox. Otherwise, you’ll get distracted from accomplishing more important goals throughout the day.
8. Stop confusing productivity with laziness. While no one likes admitting it, sheer laziness is the No. 1 contributor to lost productivity. In fact, a number of so-called time-saving methods – take meetings and emails for example – are actually just ways to get out of doing real work. Place your focus on doing the things that matter most as efficiently and effectively as possible.
9. Stop multi-tasking. Stop trying to do 10 things at once! Changing tasks more than 10 times a day drops your IQ an average of 10 points. Get things done more effectively and efficiently by focusing on one task at a time.
Less is more when it comes to being productive during the workday. Stick to the basics for reaching productivity.
What do you do to stay productive at work?