Productivity is all about efficiency — doing more, faster and with less. And with increasing demands from today’s anytime, anywhere workplace, it has never been more important. Here are 10 productivity tips to help you get the most out of your day:
1. Start the day with structured “me time”.
Go through email and social media updates that have piled up overnight and triage the backlog. Knock out quick responses and referrals, so other people can start working on tasks. Schedule the bigger tasks and delete the stuff that is not important.
2. Reduce all meeting times by 25 percent.
You will get the same amount of work done because so much time is wasted dealing with conference call setup and useless banter. If you cut one five-person meeting per day from one hour down to 45 minutes, you will gain back 25 hours a month of work time. That’s roughly 300 hours a year — almost two months of work!
3. Schedule regular breaks during the day.
Running from back-to-back meetings is not productive, because you get tired and lose focus. Block off time in your calendar and take breaks. Making these breaks a routine increases predictability, creating a regular schedule to keep your mind organized. If you can afford it, take a 10 to 20-minute power nap after lunch, too.
4. Work “offsite” when it makes sense.
When you need to write a document or research a topic, the absence of office interruptions will improve concentration. Some companies are finding that letting employees work from home has other advantages including reduced commute time, shorter lunch times and fewer sick days.
5. Consolidate the number of places you need to go for information.
There are too many apps to navigate — email, microblogging tools like Yammer, chat tools like Lync, social media utilities like Twitter and LinkedIn and operational systems like SAP, Oracle and Salesforce. Make notifications from each application appear in one place.
6. Switch off popup notifications on mobile devices and on desktop.
Don’t let applications interrupt your concentration with annoying popup messages. Shut them off. Now. And limit checking your email to set times during the day. You won’t regret it.
7. Converse, don’t email.
Pick up the phone or walk down the hall and talk directly to colleagues. For geographically remote folks, use chat. You can give precise direction and clear up misunderstandings quickly. The amount of time wasted perpetuating endless email threads is mindboggling — and the pointless mistakes generated.
8. Chop up big problems into smaller chunks.
This will reduce the feeling of overload and the procrastination associated with taking on big jobs. One practical way to do this is to adopt Agile techniques for managing your work tasks. Born in the software development world, Agile’s big contribution to task management is breaking big jobs down into short sprints. Having a solution in hand throughout the process reduces the anxiety of tackling big jobs.
9. Use checklists for repetitive tasks to reduce errors.
Particularly when you are overworked or are operating under time constraints, checklists keep you on track. For an excellent guide for using checklists, take a look at Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto.
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