I recently bought my first issue of Fast Company for a cross-country flight, and could not put it down. I loved the mag so much actually, that I bought a subscription for myself and two friends (use this link for $1/issue: Fast Company ). One of the great articles inside was on how to work smarter – something that I’ve needed help with since I began working at home on my new business. It’s easy for time and even days to get away from you when you’re not working efficiently. These are 10 easy to implement tips:
1.Declutter your desk: Disorder hurts your ability to focus. Since attention is programmed to pick up whats novel, visible files will remind you of unfinished tasks, while an unread book (or cookies, or bills or your cat) could tempt you to procrastinate. A recent Harvard Business Review study found that people with neat offices are more persistent and less frustrated and weary.
2. Give 90 minutes to priorities: No matter how crazy your days get, make sure you carve out 90 minutes (just 20% of your 8 hour day) for your most important tasks. Productivity coaches say that you can still make great progress even if the rest of the day isn’t spent productively if you’ve spent these 90 minutes super focused on your goals or priorities. I’ve made it a habit to create to-do lists before bed of things that I want to tackle, and taking them on first thing in the morning.
3. Don’t overwork yourself: When you’re tempted to work those extra hours, remember this – according to a 2014 Stanford University study, output is only proportionate to time worked up to 49 hours. Beyond that, it rises at a decreasing rate, so those who put in 70 hours have the same productivity as someone working 56 hours (I don’t know who is working 70 hours, but that’s what the study said. Just don’t work yourself to death is the takeaway here.)
4. Turn the ringer OFF: Researchers from FSU found that even if you don’t look at your phone when it buzzes, just the sound alone can make your mind wander and cause a major distraction. We all get this one: *Phone bings* I wonder who just messaged me. It’s probably just work. But maybe it’s that guy that I’ve been waiting to hear from. It’s probably just my mom. But it may be that guy. I should check my phone… *skip ahead to 15 minutes wasted on instagram* (and it was just your mom).
5. Learn your HVA’s: These are “High Value Activities” – tasks that are within your mission, leverage your strengths, and create impact or change for you, according to the author of The Seven Secrets of the Prolific. These tend to be things that come more naturally and that you are more efficient at. It is suggested that you try to delegate duties that are a struggle for you and impede progress to others – this could not only create community, but may even be someone else’s HVA’s.
6. Beware of your productivity killers: Identifying your distractions is the first step to avoiding them. The top 5 according to a recent survey by CareerBuilder are:
- Cell phones/texting (guilty)
- Internet (funny cat videos – guilty)
- Gossip (I don’t work with anyone, but if I did – guilty)
- Social Media (why must you exist instagram, why)
- Email (I think this qualifies as work unless it’s an email from an online store in which case see #2)
7. Pay attention to energy levels: You can’t operate at peak performance all day long. When you’re feeling your best, like first thing in the morning, concentrate on the activities that are most important or intensive, like writing, brainstorming or important decision making. When you’re tired and feeling foggy, do your relatively mindless activities like dealing with routine emails.
8. Make sure you’re getting some sun: Sunlight is proven to boost productivity. In a study by the CA Energy Commission, workers who sat near a window performed better, processing calls 6% to 12% faster, and performing 10% to 25% better on test that involved mental function and memory recall. I’ve tried working outside during the spring and summer but that results in me just suntanning and getting nothing done. So maybe just sit by a window.
9. Work it out: Exercise is proven to improve output. With as little as 20 minutes a day of physical activity, you can complete problem-solving tasks more quickly and efficiently. Plus you’ll have a better body, and what’s not motivating about that.
10. Set your own deadlines: For open-ended tasks or projects, give yourself a deadline and stick to it. A little self-imposed stress will help to keep you focused and productive when you’re watching the clock and put some pressure on.
Do you have some tips that keep you productive? Please share.