Many of the concepts developed here come from my upcoming book on productivity – Being busy is just an excuse.
The last two articles have hopefully given readers a starting point as well as destination, we now need to look at getting from the one to the other. This article will provide you with a some techniques that can be used to become more effective and productive to ensure you enjoy your life more.
Probably the biggest drain on productivity most people face is their email. It is normally the first thing they open every day and the thing they always have running. The problem is that your inbox is a priority list set by someone else and unless you take steps to manage it correctly it will steal away your time. The first major issue with email is that it promotes distraction. If your workstation dings, flashes a warning and leaves an icon telling you there is an email the temptation to go and see what that email is can be extremely overpowering. Chances are that the email wasn’t important but what has happened is that you have been distracted from what you were doing and now need to spend the time refocusing. Some studies show you can lose up to 15 minutes when a distraction like this happens and if you multiply that by a week or a month the lost time really starts to stack up. So, step one should be to turn off any email notification in your software.
Step two is that you should limit your email use to three or four times a day, say 10am, 1pm and 4pm. Don’t open your email in the morning until you have accomplished some other task because the chances of you finding something in your email to distract you is very high. When you do work on your email process your emails until your inbox is empty. When you go to your letterbox at the end of your drive you don’t take just a few items and leave the rest for storage do you? Why should your inbox box be any different? You need to process it to zero. This means you need to have a good folder structure in which you can move emails for later if needed. A good system is to have folders like, archive, hold and followup as a minimum in which you can place items from your inbox.
Another huge boost in productivity can be had with the use of multiple monitors, not just a single large monitor but actually two physical monitors. Studies have shown that productivity can be raised by over 38% by simply connecting up an additional screen. Having more screen real estate allows you to more easily ’spread out’ rather than constantly having to swap windows.
After you have finished with the socks you are wearing today you don’t rush home and wash them do you? No, you throw them in the hamper with other clothes and wash them all together. This is because it is far more productive and efficient to do things in batches. The same concept applies to much of the work you do. From the audit of your time you conducted in the first article in this series you should be able to see how you can aggregate work and make more effective use of your time. You should also be able to determine at what time these batches are most productive for you. If you favour doing your accounts in the morning, then schedule one day a week to do all your accounts rather than at random times throughout the week.
Another excellent habit to get into is to stop and ask yourself regularly throughout the day, what is the most important thing I need to do next? What should I be spending time doing to get the maximum return? This allows you to pause and refocus on what needs to be done because otherwise you could be wasting time on something that really doesn’t have much value.
In summary, there are plenty of simple easy ways that you can improve your productivity. However at the end of the day you must determine what works for you. This will no doubt take some trial and error but you need to view this as an investment that will be rewarded in the future. If you know what your goals are then determining a strategy to get there is much easier.
I take this opportunity to thank you for investing the time in what I have laid out here over these three articles. I would like to thank Wayne Small for providing me the opportunity to write something here on his blog. I hope that it was worthwhile and if you have any feedback, comments or questions on what I have talked about here please add them as comments on this post so everyone can benefit. You can also contact me directly via firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll find information about myself and my business at www.ciaops.com.