If you often reach the end of the day and wonder why you got so little done, it may be time evaluate your working style. Alan Norton offers 11 productivity boosters that can help get your days back on track.
We would all like to get more accomplished during the course of the workday. During my career, I needed to end each day feeling that I had been productive and had accomplished something of importance. Except for the occasional lost day, I fulfilled those needs. Here is how I did it.
Tools separate us from all but a few animals. And for good or for bad, that’s why we humans are so good at changing our environment. Tools are essential for modifying and managing the information landscape. And the proper use of the right tools can arguably have the most significant positive impact on our productivity at work.
Whether it’s hardware, software, or the chair you sit in, using the best tool for the job can make a huge difference in the amount of work you get done. It’s not always easy to determine which tool is best. Know your options and research which tool best meets your needs. New tools are being developed all the time. Keep up to date to determine whether more effective tools are available.
2: Properly manage your time and your tasks
Simple time management can help you make more effective use of your time. Know what you intend to accomplish before starting each day. You may want to write these tasks down, but I learned to do simple daily planning without any special tools. I found it easier to break my day into morning and afternoon and reevaluate my working plan at lunchtime. Longer term tasks and goals should be written down for reference by you, your team, and your management. The project plan is often used in IT but other tools exist that may better fit your needs.
Order and prioritize your tasks in a meaningful way. How you prioritize depends on how you work, who you work for, or who pays you:
Pain avoidance (squeaky wheel) is probably not the best method of prioritization, but let’s be realistic: It happens. There are tools designed specifically to help you prioritize your tasks. Whatever method you use to manage and prioritize your tasks, it should be flexible enough to allow you to choose an alternate task. The project plan may call for you to build the database on week three but when week three rolls around, you might prefer to work on another task. The plan should allow for task substitution where possible.
3: Learn to say no
It’s a lot easier to juggle five balls than eight. You may not be able to say no to the boss, but when possible, pare back your to-do list. If the list gets too long, consider segregating it into current and future tasks. Having too many items on your plate can be discouraging, and a motivated person is more productive than a discouraged one.
Learn to say no to interruptions. You wouldn’t interrupt your child while in school. Except for emergencies and the occasional honey-do item, you should encourage others to avoid interrupting you when you’re hard at work.
4: Focus on one task at a time
It is a common misconception that the conscious mind can process more than one task at a time. It’s just not possible if the tasks require conscious selection and action. The best multi-taskers may quickly switch from one task to another, but they still can focus on only one task at a time. Experiments have shown that productivity drops when multi-tasking.