Almost everyone I know says they need more time. Unfortunately, there isn’t any more time… BUT, there is good news. By developing just a few new habits, you can become more productive and enjoy more family time, hobby time, leisure time, or time for whatever you want.
I’ve always been interested in productivity. I remember being a kid and thinking about it in the shower… “If I run the soap down one leg, and then up the other, I just saved the time of starting over at the top again on my other leg.” Yes, I realize this is kind of silly, but I really did think of this. Now, I didn’t call it “being productive”, nor did I even know what productivity meant, but I did understand the importance of utilizing time in a wise manner.
Perhaps this just means I’m lazy? Maybe. but I do believe that my focus on being efficient and productive has served me well over the years.
Here are the 3 components to becoming more productive:
- Focus. I will often compare my work to my peers and measure how much time it takes me to complete tasks compared to them. What I’ve found is that while I will “goof around” (or work on other things) for some period of time, usually until the last minute, once I get started on a task I don’t stop. I don’t allow myself to be interrupted and I protect myself from distractions. Many peers I’ve studied seem to take 2-3 times longer to complete the same task, but what they are really doing is mixing their “goofing off” time (or work on other things, distractions, interruptions, etc), with their work. This causes them to stop and restart their work over and over again. This lack of focus is causing a major productivity, efficiency hit. I find that I’m much happier and my work quality is much higher with this extreme focus. I don’t have to restart, find my place again, or get back into the groove (because I never leave it).
- Prioritize. This is huge. Many people have a hard time knowing what to place priority on. This really has to do with what is going to get you the most bang for your buck. I always know what the number 1, 2, and 3 priority items are on my long lists of things to do. So what is the measure of “most important”? Good question. This one is sometimes difficult to answer, but think 80/20 rule. As far as productivity goes, you need to work on the items that will get you the most results. If your boss is asking for 5 things from you, pick the one that the boss cares about the most (or the one that will make them look the best in front of their boss). Just remember, %20 of your effort will produce 80% of the results.
- Lists. I make lists of things to do. Here is the most effective way I’ve found to manage your priority tasks. Make a list of your top 5 items you must complete. Each day, work on the top item until it is done (or get as much done as you can before quitting). Only then, move to item number 2, then 3, etc… Each day, take the unfinished items and add the amount needed to get back to 5 items on your list. You may find that the bottom three you didn’t finish today become the top items tomorrow, but often you’ll also find that they may remain low on the list because other things come up. That’s ok. Just take an honest look at the priority of each task and keep the top 5 with you at all times.
Of course, this may seem like an over-simplification, and there are certainly other tools, but these three things alone will help you get more done, faster, with higher quality.