It seems like some people are born with a productivity gene and others aren’t. I doubt there’s an actual gene at play here, but since I haven’t done that research, maybe it’s possible. But what does seem self-evident is that most people aren’t born with the skill or trait to be highly productive. That doesn’t means folks like you and I can never be productive. Rather, it’s a skill that can be learned. As such, consider the following ideas that you can implement to improve your own productivity.
1 – Set Limits
A good starting point to becoming more productive is to engage your mind and start thinking and planning about how you can use your time in order to get the best results for your situation. Instead of mostly doing busywork, adopt a plan that will enable you to focus your energy on the task that will bring the biggest results. With a plan in place, you can focus on what you’re doing now and know that when you’re done you can immediately move to the next task. That is one benefit of having a plan for your day.
You see it’s possible to accomplish in five hours what would previously have taken ten hours. Of course, that’s considering things from the perspective that you haven’t been planning and focusing your efforts.
The next key with setting limits on yourself is to give yourself a definite time limit for getting the task or project completed. Why is giving yourself a limit constraint important to productivity? Let me explain.
There is a principle encapsulated in what is labeled Parkinson’s Law and it states that your work will expand to fill the time you give yourself to complete it. Don’t get lost in the details here–it’s not saying that if you give yourself 5 minutes to be a millionaire, that’s all it will take. The law is saying that in general, we take as long to complete a task as you give ourselves. This is why you need to set a challenging time-frame for each task you need to complete.
When you set a time constraint, you are simulating yourself to be more focused. If you’re new to this, then your going to improve as you practice. If you give yourself an hour to accomplish a task and it takes you an hour and a half, awesome. Why awesome? Because if you focus on the big picture, you most likely completed the task in 50 percent less time than if you had no time constraint or plan.
Next time, if you do that task again, you’ll most likely improve your plan and focus thus getting closer to your time constraint. Of course, if you simply misjudged how long it would take that is fine also. Adjust accordingly. I’m not proposing arbitrary rules here. Take the concept and use it to be more productive. Any productivity increase that comes from this approach will benefit you.
Remember failure is only failure if you view it that way. Instead, view your failures or mistakes as learning experiences and as stepping stones along your journey through life. Having that mindset about failure will help you be much for productive as well!
2 – Take Scheduled Breaks
Another great way to improve performance–and it blends in nicely with the above principle, is to take regular short breaks. Some people suggest taking a short break every 90 minutes. Knowing you have a short break coming up can help you stay focused and on task until your time is up. You might even consider taking a micro nap during your break which can allow you to get back on task with more energy and creativity.
3 – Stay on Task
The next issue is multitasking and task switching–trying to do multiple things at once and constantly switching from one task to another. It’s like running from one emergency to the next and it results in terrible productivity.
There are a couple of challenges with multitasking.
1. Multitasking makes you feel productive because you’re busy, but at the end of the day, you can feel like you didn’t get much done. The result is it can be deceiving you into thinking you are being productive during the day, yet your real productivity is low.
2. The constant switching from one task to another is highly inefficient because you are constantly losing focus and momentum.
Have you ever seen someone talking on the phone while writing an email to another person? Was either task getting done the best of that person’s ability? No, their attention, energy, and focus are divided. If you’ve seen it happen, you have seen how inefficient it is. Yet, multitasking has become office culture. It is slowly changing but it will take a long time to eliminate though I’m sure some folks will still think it’s more productive. Often job descriptions say you need to be able to multitask as part of the job. But, just because we want something to work, doesn’t mean it does work.
Do yourself a favor and those around you by reducing or altogether saying no to multitasking and frequent task switching.
It’s Your Turn
It’s time to pick your next project or task so you can implement these ideas. Then set a time limit, schedule breaks every 90 minutes and stay focused and on task. Just say no to multitasking. Take the ideas for a spin now and put them to use. See for yourself how adopting these ideas into your life may empower you to get more done. Even if you only remember to use these idea part of the time, how would improving your productivity 25% impact your life?