I don’t know about you, but I tend to be someone who has more things that I would like to do than I have time available. These days that seems to be the case with many of us. The way I see it, life is short – so let’s make the most of our precious time!
Getting to a point of increased productivity has been something of a side interest of mine, among many. You know, just one of those things that you’ve always had some type of interest in. The thing is, it’s been more about trying to get more done than simply be more productive how time is spent. By this I mean the most of time, not necessarily checking off items on a to-do list as if I’m a machine! Sometimes, it’s about quality and not quantity.
My thinking on this has changed, and here is where it stands now with these thoughts on how to be more productive:
1) Focus on one thing at a time.
I know that we all want to multitask, but I’m beginning to think that it’s harder to do than it might seem. I’ve heard that there are some gender differences with ability to multitask (meaning: men are worse at it), but all I can tell is that there are costs to switching between one task and another.
If you are working on something, in the middle of concentrating, you might get interrupted to do something else or answer a question. It takes time to handle the interruption, but also time to get back into the swing of whatever it was you were already doing. These time-switching experiences can cause us to get less done overall, or at least it seems to do that for me.
2) Understand task fatigue
This may or may not be an actual term, I don’t know. But it’s the description that comes to mind for doing too much of what I mentioned above in terms of focusing.
Now, I’m not saying to focus on one thing then turning around and saying don’t single-task. Obviously I shared my own thoughts on the benefit of staying on task (or at least the costs of multitasking). But sometimes we can get so engrossed in something that after a long time, our productivity starts to wane. Best to know when we need a change of pace, to stay fresh and pay attention to whatever it is we’re trying to do
3) Do what’s most profitable
This is a matter of using the Pareto Principle, applying the 80/20 rule in life. 20% of our activities can yield 80% of our results is the idea, but really who knows the exact percentages for each situation 🙂 It seems to me that when I spend time and energy with this in mind, what really needs to get done actually does get done. What yields the most benefit is what is paid attention to. Really, it’s a great way to minimize stress by simply investing time in the right things.
4) Say no
This might be a part of #3 above, in some indirect way. There are often requests (and sometimes demands) on our time that cause us to have more on our plate than we might otherwise want. When busy, there is often little wrong with being judicious about saying yes to people. Learning to say to others – as well to as our own tendencies to overextend ourselves – can go a long way to helping us spend our time on productive tasks.
5) Remind yourself how you really enjoy spending your time
Sometimes, when I’m not getting things done as quickly as I’d like (maybe while working, for example), I think of the opportunity cost of my time. Would I rather spend an extra hour working on a project, or that hour spending great quality time with my kids? The answer is obvious, but sometimes we forget that and end up letting our work drag on. Thinking about what else we could be doing, which we truly enjoy, can be a great way to get motivated to power though tasks at hand.
The thing about #5 is that it’s also a way for us to remember that we don’t need to be servants to our needs to get more done. By thinking about what is more important in our lives, we can focus on getting done the things that need our attention, so we can in turn spend our time on what makes us happy!
Admittedly, I’m not by any means perfect at any of this. But, I’m trying to align my behaviors with my theories by being more disciplined, and the times I succeed are times it all seems to work really well!
My Questions for You
What do you see as being good ways to be more productive?
Have you employed any of the methods I mentioned above?