People who manage to get a lot accomplished each day aren’t superhuman; they’ve just mastered a few simple habits. Some may be easy to guess: Keep your desk organised and aim for around eight hours of sleep a night, others not so. Have a look and drop me some comments on what you think keeps you productive:-
Here are 10 easy ways to make every day more productive:
Creativity may arise from chaos, but a litter-strewn office probably isn’t helping you get stuff done. “Attention is programmed to pick up what’s novel,” says Josh Davis, director of research at the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Two Awesome Hours. Visible files remind you of unfinished tasks. An unread book is temptation for procrastination. Even if you don’t think you’re noticing the disorder, it hurts your ability to focus.
People who have neat offices are more persistent and less frustrated and weary, according to a recent study in Harvard Business Review, which found that a clean desk helps you stick with a task more than one and a half times longer. “While it can be comforting to relax in your mess, a disorganized environment can be a real obstacle,” says Grace Chae, a professor at Fox School of Business at Temple University and co-author of the study.
2. Just 90 minutes a day.
No matter how crazy your days get, make sure you carve out and ruthlessly protect just 90 minutes—20% of an eight-hour day—for the most important tasks. Even if you squander the remaining 80% of the day, you can still make great progress if you have spent 90 minutes on your goals or priorities. When you do the 90 minutes depends on you and your schedule and productivity bias. Some people are a lot more productive in the morning, others are night owls. You can also split the 90 minutes down into two or three chunks if that works better for you.
3. Work Less.
Think you can get more done by tacking on extra hours? There have been lots of studies that show working more means you’re less productive. According to a 2014 study by Stanford professor John Pencavel, who examined data from laborers during World War I, output was proportionate to time worked—up to 49 hours. Beyond that, it rose at a decreasing rate, and those who put in 70 hours had the same productivity as someone who worked 56 hours. If you’re not convinced, think about Olympic Athletes, they actually slow down their training right before a major event. You can’t perform at the top level if you’re not well rested.
4. Turn off the phone.
You might believe you’re ignoring your smart phone, but unless it’s fully turned off, it’s a major distraction. In a report published this year in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, researchers from Florida State University found that even if you don’t look at your phone when it buzzes, the sound makes your mind wander.
5. Focus on your key skills, your HVA’s.
People are more efficient at things that come naturally, while tasks that feel like a struggle are likely to impede progress. If you can, delegate the duties that feel like an effort, and instead focus on “high value activities.” “HVAs are within your mission, leverage your strengths, and create impact or change,” says Hillary Rettig, author of The Seven Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer’s Block. “They also create clarity and open your schedule.” Delegating your non–HVA activities also helps create community. After all, they could very well be someone else’s HVAs.
6. Sleep on the Job.
It might be tough to convince your boss, but researchers from the University of Michigan found that taking a daytime nap counteracts impulsive behavior and boosts tolerance for frustration. The findings also suggest that workplace dozers could be more productive.
7. Beware of these productivity killers!
Identifying distractions is the first step to avoiding them. Here are the top five workplace attention destroyers, according to a 2015 survey by CareerBuilder:
- Smart phones/texting
- Social media (Facebook / Twitter etc)
Schedule time to check your email, social media etc. Turn off alerts for all of them so that you’re not distracted.
8. Make Prioritisation a Priority.
To get more done, be mindful of your everyday choices. Nobody can operate at peak performance all day long. When you’re feeling your best, concentrate on activities that require lots of focus like writing. When feeling tired and foggy do relatively mindless tasks like dealing with routine emails etc.
9. Seek out the Sun.
An office with a view sounds like a recipe for mind wandering. Actually, access to sunlight boosts productivity. In a study by the California Energy Commission, workers who sat near a window performed better, processing calls 6% to 12% faster and performing 10% to 25% better on tests that involved mental function and memory recall.
But do it the right way. Present your beef with an idea for improvement. “Framing things in terms of solutions lessens the focus on the problem and who might be at fault,” says management professor Russell Johnson, coauthor of a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. “It evokes pleasant emotions instead of negative ones that cause mental fatigue.”
10.5 Hit the Gym.
Exercise not only improves health, it boosts output. And you don’t have to kill yourself in CrossFit—a jog will do. Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand found that a daily 20-minute run helped lab rats complete problem-solving tasks more quickly and efficiently than their non-exercised counterparts.
Finally, have a read of my book summary of “The Myth of Multitasking”. Which will be available for the next few days.