The secret to productivity is elusive to many. Other think they have it figured out with to-do lists and multi-tasking. The truth, however, is that the secrets to productivity are many, and most are not what you expect. In fact, the key to getting more done quickly and efficiently is to do less, in a way. Here is what we mean.
Less Looking into the Future: Focus on a Shorter Time Span
It is tempting to let yourself look ahead to what has to be done in the day, week, month, or year. While having this all in front of you at every moment may seem motivating, it is actually more common for it to be debilitating, and sneakily so.
Focusing on what has to be done here and now is actually much conducive to productivity. Zero in on the next several minutes to one hour and work only on what had to be done right then. This will likely require some prioritization, but that needs to be done anyway. Set a time frame and work on one thing for that amount of time. When time is up, reevaluate.
Less at Once: Stop Multi-Tasking
Resist the urge to work on more than one thing at once, regardless of the time frame. Research has consistently shown that you are not being as productive as you think when multi-tasking. Being productive means being both effective and efficient. Working on more than one task at once results in none of those tasks being completed well. This is actually counterproductive.
Less Time on Email: Banish the Email Hover
Forget about checking email as it comes. Set aside 2 or three times per day to process messages. If it can be handled immediately, then handle it. If it is going to take a little longer, add it to your priorities in order. You can process messages first and last thing in the day, at 9 and 3, add in a lunchtime session, or whatever you need to do, but only do it at the time you designate. If you are expecting a message related to the task at hand and must get to it, resist the urge to look at the others. Set a time and only work on emails for that set amount of time, maybe 10, 15, or 20 minutes, and save the rest for the next “email processing’ session.
Do Less Yourself: Delegate
This is hard to do for many, but delegating tasks that others can do just as well, or in some cases better, than you could will free you up to do the things only you can do. The ability to do this one thing and the willingness to practice it can increase productivity exponentially.
Less Procrastination: Do It Now
Of course this is not always possible, but as much as you can, do not put off until later what can be done now. A good rule of thumb is to go ahead and do anything that will take 10 minutes or less. Caution should be exercised to ensure a million little 10 minute interruptions do not keep you from the task at hand however. The idea is to not touch a piece of paper several times in one day. Just do what has to be done and move on without it hanging over you.
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