Productivity: The How

Yesterday I shared a definition of productivity:

Productivity is quality work done is the shortest amount of time because you: 1) know your tools, 2) schedule tasks, 3) minimize interruptions, and 4) ask for help.

Know Your Tools

By knowing your tools, you reduce the time needed to complete a task. Your most common tasks are automated. You make good use of keyboard shortcuts. Your workspace is organized so that your most needed tools are close at hand. And even your packing and shopping lists are standardized!

Schedule Tasks

  • Call people when you are most likely to reach them.
  • Check email at set times rather than continually checking it throughout the day.
  • Set aside time when you are most alert for tasks requiring concentration.
  • Avoid allotting a specific amount of time for a task. You’ll find a way to make the task take that long.
  • Make good use of waiting time by reading, writing letters, or taking care of some essential task.

Minimize interruptions

Recognize that flow, or being in the zone, is extremely valuable. If you have reached the state of flow, don’t answer the phone!

Schedule meetings at the beginning or end of work periods to limit interruptions (managers and team leads, you should be doing this out of respect for your team members’ flow). If you can see someone is in the zone, do not demand they break out of it to assist you.

Make use of deadlines. Setting a limit on a project can prevent you from procrastinating.

Ask for Help

No one knows it all. Truly productive people are modest (meaning they recognize their limitations), and rather than fretting over what they don’t know, they make a point of know who to ask. Further, a modest and productive person delegates tasks to others, freeing themselves to do other things.

Other Tidbits

Recognize that at times, there are unenjoyable tasks that must be done, and that the best course of action is to get them over with rather than procrastinating or thinking about how badly you don’t want to do them.

Adequate rest and relaxation is critical for reaching your maximum productivity. People who work longer hours are not more productive, partially because they miss this key ingredient. On the other hand, you are not obligated to accept every social invitation.

Don’t be a perfectionist. (Insert something about the 80/20 rule here.) There is always room for improvement, but there is not always time for it.

These tips can all help you to become more productive, but your level of productivity can only be measured against your goals and values. So the important question is, what’s your end game?