Do you ever wish that you could get more done in less time? Does someone else, like a boss or spouse, wish you could get more done in a day? Regardless of why you want to improve your productivity, you are always reminded that you are not working hard enough at any given moment in time. Sometimes it’s not about working harder, but more about working smarter. I know that sounds like more buzz words, but let’s think about how you can tweak the way you approach your day and come up with some strategies to change that will improve your productivity.
1. First, examine how much time you spend on each task.
Only about 20% of people are accurately able to discern passage of time. In other words, most people think they spent 30 minutes working on a specific project, when in fact is more like 2 hours. If you lose track of time regularly, then that could be the reason you are not getting more done. You may want to time each of your tasks. So if you only have 30 minutes to dedicate to a project set an alarm and quit when the alarm sounds and move onto the next project.
2. Give yourself a little break throughout the day.
I know it sounds a little counterintuitive to take breaks when you are not getting everything done. But there is some research that suggests that taking breaks during a long project actually keeps your level of productivity at a constant level. So yes, breaks are good.
3. If you see it, do it.
Most of us have small windows of that we just let slip through our fingers because we think a couple of minutes is not enough to accomplish anything important. Let’s say you are walking from your office to get a cup of much-needed coffee. As you leave your office you see that there are some files stacked on the corner of your desk. You can put them away right now, or leave them for later. If you do it now, you have accomplished something while on your way to do something else. If you do that 10 times a day, there will be a lot less little things to do giving you more time for the big stuff. This “two-minute rule, as Steve Olenski calls it, will make a big difference in how much you accomplish each day.
4. Stop multitasking – it just makes most of us crazy.
I know everyone thinks multitasking gets more stuff done, the truth is it gets more stuff done poorly. Committing yourself to a single project, completing and moving on to the next one eliminates the need for your mind to have to shift gears and refocus. That transition can be very difficult for people and can make all tasks just take longer.
5. Stop trying to be perfect.
Believe it or not, most of my clients are perfectionists. Excellence it empowering but Perfectionism is crippling. Perfectionists get stuck, lost in the details and often don’t get a lot done. Admit that nothing will ever be perfect, and do your best and move on to what’s next. Remember also, that even if you deem something to be perfect, someone else, like a boss, will just come along and say it’s not, so it’s better to do your best and leave your perfectionist tendencies behind.
6. Be the master and commander of your schedule.
It is easy to start your day by allowing the world to tell you how it’s going to go. We do this by immediately responding to our phone or emails as they come in. A better habit is to schedule time to answer calls and emails at set periods during your day. A good rule of thumb is to check voice and emails once per hour. Schedule the “to Do” items generated by both according to importance. You may need to get that report on your boss’ desk in the next hour, but your co-worker doesn’t need a copy of the expense report until tomorrow. This puts you in command of your schedule allowing you to decide what needs to be done next.