How to increase productivity
Productivity has many definitions. The one that I like best is this: productivity is the skill of doing more with the same effort and time. This is different from efficiency, which is the ability to do the same with less effort and time.
We all have 24 hours in a day. Of course, any person, especially an entrepreneur, is interested in accomplishing more work in the same time. In this article, we will try to figure out how to achieve this.
But first, it is important to emphasize that you can’t increase productivity in a snap. A lot of serious preliminary work is required first. So do not rush to sit down at the computer thinking: “Now I will work productively.” Instead, determine the point B which you need to arrive at. A list of goals will help. If you have troubles making it, you can find some tips in my article “Aim right! How to set goals and achieve them”.
When you have dealt with the goals, it’s time to get to productivity. You can increase it by using the following steps.
1. Get rid of everything that distracts you
Every time you hear the sound of a messenger or a phone call, you lose your track of thought. It might seem like a small problem. However, a study conducted by the University of California, Irvine, revealed a sad thing. After you get distracted, it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back to the task at hand.*
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Therefore, it is better to get rid of distractions while working. First of all, turn off your phone and email notifications.
2. Avoid multitasking
Some people think that being able to do multiple things at the same time is a very useful skill. In fact, this only leads to a loss of time and reduced productivity. So, it is better to focus on completing one task at a time and then move on to the next one.
3. Get the most out of your commute time
Perhaps you noticed this phenomenon during your air travel. Economy class passengers are used to “killing time”. On the flight, they usually watch TV series, play video games, or sleep. Those who fly business class, typically, work or read. This, among other things, determines the different living standards of the first and second groups.
Even if you work from home, you probably go to meetings and other events. Try to use your commute time to the maximum. On the road, you can check your mail, make a to-do-list, or generate ideas. In short, a long way is not a misfortune, but a real opportunity to increase productivity.
4. Be proactive, not reactive
Proactive people are those who act regardless of circumstances. Reactive ones are those that allow circumstances to influence their lives. For example, at the end of the day, you complain that because of some major force the whole day went wrong. Yes, it happens sometimes, but for reactive people, it happens every day. And their plans are ruined not only by major force but by any phone call or email, which they receive unexpectedly.
Therefore, it is better to allocate time for mail checking and important calls, but not allow them to manage you. Otherwise, the only thing you will succeed in is the constant “putting out fires”, and not moving forward.
5. Determine your most productive hours
You’ve probably heard many times that the first few hours after waking up are the most important. Morning hours are allegedly the best time to perform the most difficult work. In an ideal world, it is so. But let me tell you a secret: I know people who have tried many times to turn themselves into “early birds”. It all ended with the fact that in the middle of the day they took a nap and stayed up late again.
If you are one of them, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s only you and no one else who knows the time when you are most productive. So, optimize your business schedule based on your personal peaks of activity.
6. Hold only short and useful meetings
If you work in an office, you must know the worst enemy of productivity: long and pointless meetings. Of course, you can’t just cancel all of them. But you can try to make them more effective. For example, like this:
- Stick to the agenda and the goals of the meeting.
Do not go to the ones where there are no specific goals or agenda.
- Observe the timing.
If the participants were promised an hour meeting, it should last an hour and not a minute more. Arrange this with those present in advance.
- If possible, replace the meeting with another format: a video conference or a chat discussion.
In some offices, they hold standing meetings. Managers noticed that, when standing, the people participate in the discussion more actively; they do not get distracted and solve all issues quickly.
7. Shorten your to-do list
How many Apple inventions can you remember? It is possible that you will name only the iPhone, iPad and iPod. But these devices have made a real digital revolution. One of the reasons for this is the philosophy of Apple founder Steve Jobs. He did not like to spread himself too thin and preferred to focus on a few important things.
They say that during the annual corporate meetings he asked his top managers: “What 10 things should we do next?” After a heated discussion, the list was ready. Then Jobs crossed out the last 7 points and said: “We can only do 3.”
Increasing productivity implies focus. And focus implies reducing the number of options. So when you look at your to-do list, ask yourself: “How many issues can I actually solve tomorrow? What are the most important ones?” Then boldly cross out the unnecessary.
8. Delegate everything you can
You have probably heard this advice many times. For some, it causes rejection – they believe that delegation implies constant control. That’s not so. When you delegate properly, you get more time and therefore your productivity increases. The main thing is to delegate the right task to the right person, that is, the one you trust completely and who has the necessary skills for this task.
If you’ve never delegated before, then, of course, it will take time to learn. But once that happens, you’ll be surprised how nice it is to focus on what’s really important to you.
9. Take care of yourself
This means getting enough sleep, eating right and making sure to exercise. It’s not just to be in good shape. It has long been proven that physical activity improves brain function. As a result, you get improved concentration, memory and attention, you learn faster. All this has the best impact on productivity.
As I said at the beginning of the article, you are unlikely to become more productive in the blink of an eye. This is a gradual process that requires some efforts. You can start with these steps:
- Get rid of everything that distracts you
- Avoid multitasking
- Get the most out of your commute time
- Be proactive, not reactive
- Determine your most productive hours
- Hold only short and useful meetings
- Shorten your to-do list
- Delegate everything you can
- Take care of yourself
* More on the study: