10 habits that will increase your productivity
Let’s look at the magic rituals and habits of super achievers and highly productive people to find a better path to achievement.
When you think of productivity at work, do you think of caffeine or nicotine? Or is it about a To-Do checklist on a notepad or a great new productivity app on your smartphone? Any one or some of these may work for you in your never-ending quest to get more stuff done in lesser time. But let’s look at the magic rituals and habits of the super achievers and highly productive people to find a better path to achievement than simply another cup of coffee.
1. Checklist Five
If you are a checklist fan and find it useful and satisfying to tick off tasks from a list, then add a couple of rules to your process. Firstly, never multitask. Do one thing at a time and take it to completion before starting the next. Your day gets done faster and with lesser energy and stress. Secondly and more importantly, your checklist for the day cannot be longer than five items. Only when you force yourself to prune down tasks do you really focus on the critical three to five things that can make your day insanely productive.
2. 20% everywhere
Before you start a project, implement the 80-20 rule. Only 20% of the effort, time or tasks within a project will yield 80% of the output you desire. Spend a few minutes to identify that critical 20% and ruthlessly focus only on that. The rest you can eliminate, forget, delegate or automate. For example, your 20% contribution to a project can come from putting the right team together and giving them the right mission and motivation. The rest 80% will get done without you.
3. Start with self
What part of the day are you focused on yourself, your growth, energy levels and peace of mind? Most highly productive and successful people spend the first part of the day on themselves. The daily habit of an early morning combined with physical exercise, quiet time, reading/ learning and a leisurely breakfast gives enough time to invest in yourself, charge up and plan, before the day picks up steam. This is the best productivity investment in the long term.
4. Go big, go deep
As a high achiever, start your day with the most challenging project or toughest task. Take out time to go deep and make big strides before other distractions intrude into your day. Since your energy level and focus are at a high, your big stuff gets completed in lesser time and the sense of achievement then drives your energy through the rest of your day.
5. Block In, block Out
Like the Karate Kid, productive people are excellent in blocking. When you are working, block out time wasters and distractors like a ringing phone, notifications and even sudden thoughts. If you are reminded of something else to do, write it down in a distraction list and return to your task. Similarly, block yourself in so that it is difficult for people to find or access you before you complete the task you have set your mind to. Blocking is your new productivity multiplier habit.
6. Work small, work slots
Efficient people aren’t scared by huge unpleasant projects. Divvy up the big challenge into extremely small tasks. Start with any one of the tasks immediately. Set aside 25-minute time slots to focus continuously on any one task at hand, also known as the Pomodoro technique. Doing so builds up momentum and keeps you going through challenging goals even when motivation is low.
7. Take breaks, get bored
How often are you bored during the day? If you don’t find the time to be bored, then you will not generate creative solutions for work and productivity. Take breaks often, both scheduled and unscheduled. Get up from your seat and take a 5-minute walk in the office corridor. Or, grab a coffee break with a colleague. Come back recharged and with fresh ideas.
8. More automation
Though you may not be a fan of the habit of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg to never change their daily wardrobe, there is huge merit in automating your life and reducing the number of micro-decisions you need to take. Automate your bill payments, daily chores, meeting processes and delegate your decision frameworks. Free up your energy and bandwidth for the things that only you can do or what really moves the needle for you.
9. Reduce communication
As a professional, it is easy to fall into the communication trap where you are busy attending meetings and responding to emails through the day and yet achieving little by way of productivity. Reduce operational communication to twice a day. Slot all your regular meetings in one slot during the day and have at the most two slots for going through emails and responding to them. The rest then becomes your productive time.
10. Manage energy, say no
Energy management is more important than time management. The best way to stay on top of your energy levels is to figure out routines and habits for sleep, food and exercise and to say “No” to distractors that break habits or drain energy. Adequate sleep and right food and exercise are the best kept secrets of the high achievers!
5 INSTANT HACKS
1. A Good crisis
Find a good big crisis to multiply your productivity instantly. Many productive people create a mini crisis to boost creativity and output. Like a journalist who starts work just before a deadline. A crisis often helps you focus only on what matters, marshal resources quickly and deliver a good outcome without getting fixated on perfection.
2. Where’s your “Why?”
When you are low on energy or feeling unmotivated, remind yourself of your purpose. Why are you working? Why this job? Why are you here? Whether it is survival, mastery of a skill or a wealth goal, your “Why” is powerful enough to shake you up. Productive people keep their “Why” in front of them every day.
The best way to free up time and speed up life is to unchain from shackles that hold you stationary. “Unfollow” stuff and people, both offline and online, that tie up your day and energy states. Unfollow random friends and strangers in social media feeds. Exit being copied on unrelated emails. Avoid that gossip gathering that deenergises you.
4. Do stuff together
An instant productivity hack is to club similar work in the same time slot. Slot all your client calls and even vendor calls for the same part of the day. Schedule your research, presentation and excel sheets for another slot. Repeating similar skills increases speed while switching skills slows you down.
5. Read only once
Emails and official messaging apps are a productivity killer. The big time saver here is, read only once. When you open an email, you will not mark it as Unread or put it in a To Do folder. Either archive/delete it, or delegate the task to the concerned person and forget it, or take the required action immediately and close the thread.
(The writer is Founder and CEO at Quezx.com and Headhonchos.com)