24/7 connectivity, round-the-clock updates and an exponentially lengthening to-do list make for a deadly productivity-killing trio at work.
Between them, you either end up over-extending yourself and burning out prematurely, or under-applying yourself and wasting valuable time and effort.
In both cases, working overtime becomes a foregone conclusion instead of an as-needed solution, presenting a lose-lose scenario for everyone involved and resulting in productivity losses, lower job satisfaction, and a higher turnover rate.
Without implementing the right practices to minimise distractions and facilitate focus and efficiency at work, the deadly trio will cost you huge tangible and intangible losses, so here are 6 game-changing strategies to change that once and for all.
Amidst the maddening jumble of tasks, teams, and timelines screaming for your attention all day long, the best thing you can probably do for yourself is to kick the day off with a laser-sharp focus by knowing exactly what needs to be done and when.
That means coming to work each day having already prepared a numbered task list for yourself that looks like this:
Take 10-15 minutes on your daily commute to do this every day, listing your tasks for the day from the highest to the lowest priority.
Not only does this get you into a high-focus mindset straight away, it helps you keep track of how far along you are on specific tasks, which tasks to spend more time on than others, and sets you thinking about how to minimise roadblocks to completion on a daily basis–all before you even step through the office doors.
It also functions as a tool for self-management, naturally pushing you to think about how to be more efficient to get more things done in less time.
Implementing this on a team level, having a quick 15-20 minutes huddle at the start of the day to share individual task lists has the added benefit of keeping the whole team abreast on who’s doing what, who might need help with what, and how heavy the workload is for each team member.
More often than not, the biggest time-suckers in any given work day are unproductive, overrun meetings and perpetual email-checking.
Emails never stop coming in, so if you’re hoping to get more work done, you need a more systematic way to drastically reduce your email time, for example:
Cutting down meeting time might requires a greater team effort than with emails, but making sure each meeting is optimally efficient is simpler than it seems:
It might sound counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to get more work done is to work on one thing a time.
Modern lifestyles may have normalised multi-tasking, but the truth is, the human mind functions best when it’s able to allocate maximum attention and focus on one task at a time instead of being simultaneously spread out over multiple tasks.
Research has shown that when you work on two or more things at once, it can take up to 17 minutes for your brain to recalibrate itself for maximum focus each time you switch gears between tasks.
Do the math: If you spend 3 hours multi-tasking between 3 different tasks, you lose at least 51 minutes that could have been more efficiently spread out across your task list.
Popularly known as the Pomodoro Technique, this strategy dictates that you can achieve optimal productivity by breaking down a major task into smaller mini-tasks, then dedicating timed 25-minute segments of high focus (called a Pomodoro) for the mini-task, taking 5-minute breaks between each Pomodoro, and longer 15-20 minute breaks every 4 Pomodoros.
The key is to set the timer: the idea is that limiting yourself to 25 minutes per session forces a sense of high urgency that’s extremely conducive to productivity, while taking regular breaks prevents mental exhaustion and overload.
It might be overwhelmingly stressful to have a mammoth task on your list at any given time, so breaking it down into bite-sized pieces helps to make it more manageable.
Structuring your time this way also helps to ensure that you don’t spend more time than necessary on a given task, no matter how challenging or demanding it may be.
Getting more work done in less time is as much about working hard as it is about working smart.
You know yourself best. Some people thrive in the morning, some in the evening. If you’re a morning person, for example, you might want to start off your day with the tasks that require the most mental energy. If not, you could be better off clearing smaller tasks first and leaving the high-concentration ones for the evening.
Even lunchtime usage could boost your daily productivity: some people work best after taking lunchtime power naps, while others are most productive after a quick lunchtime gym session.
The most important thing is to find a daily routine that’s optimised for your own specific needs. Reaching maximal personal productivity requires consistent discipline and dedication to experimentation and self-improvement.
Without that, you’re losing out–every day.