Everyone wants to be more productive these days. But why?
Why do you want to be more productive?
Because you've been there. You know what it is and how it feels like.
It happens when you stop hearing everyone around you. When hours go by and you thought that it was only five minutes. When you've just completed the set of tasks planned for the day. When you feel that you can accomplish everything.
The problem is... you don't know how to get back there. Back to the, how I like to call it: Productivity Zone. And it's driving you crazy!
I can understand this because it's one of the things that I'm trying to overcome.
There's is so many exciting new things to learn, old things to perfect, cool projects to work on, beautiful places to go, great friends to be with ... but so LITTLE TIME!
Today, It seems a impossible task to be like Aristotle. A man that is said know everything there was to be known in his own time.
If only we could accomplish our "simple" tasks... let alone know everything!
Why do we want to be more productive?
A good reason for this is the competitive nature of the information technology (IT) industry. Everyone tries to deliver more with less time without disregarding a quality.
In the other hand, we always have a bunch of things that we want to do/make/experience in our personal lives but we can't find the time to actually DO/MAKE/EXPERIENCE them, in spite our best efforts.
Understanding how Productivity works
No one can really tell you how productivity works.
Fortunately, there is a group of interesting people that is sharing their view on productivity and other important related subjects that you should check it out.
This, however, is my view on Productivity. I will show you the tips that have helped me and, hopefully, will help YOU be more productive TODAY!
So, how can we increase our productivity? Without further ado, let me give you the top 10 tips that will increase your productivity NOW!
10. More doesn't mean Better!
"If only I had more time..."
It's a common belief that if we had more time we could do all the things we always wanted to do.
Well, guess what? There is always something new to do. And not enough time to do all of it.
Besides, even you don't want to work more. You want to work better!
You have to leverage the time that you have available. To do this you have to focus on one of the tasks of your pool of tasks.
By the way: forget multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is evil!
"Performing two or more tasks in rapid succession requires an individual to reorient to each new task, which itself takes time and other attentional resources." (more info)
You should focus all of your brain processing and creative power at one task at a time. This will improve your work quality and produce great results.
Also, when you're focused on one task it's easier to enter the Productivity Zone.
Remember how hard it is to enter the productivity zone? Now think about this: now that you've entered the productivity zone... why would you want to leave that beautiful place?
And how can you prevent yourself from leaving the productivity zone?
9. Erase all distractions
"You have a new mail message". "SuperMan has signed in". "Reminder: It's your wife birthday!". "New RSS news". Nowadays our desktop is full of alerts that should help us getting things done.
But if you think about it... it will only distracting you from actually completing the tasks at hand. Or even pick up a tasks to start working on!
It's easy to be a victim of information overload.
When you're in the productivity zone, why in the world would you want to know that you're buddy "SuperMan" has signed in? Or that you have a new mail message?
But you could say: "Wait a minute! Receiving e-mails is critical for my business! I have to be notified whenever I receive new e-mail message".
Think of all of the times that you've checked that new e-mail message and stopped working on what you've been doing... Now, how many times was the e-mail message critical?
Additionally, from the number of critical e-mail messages: how many times could you do something about it? Was it worth the cost of stopping the task that you were working on?
Don't get me wrong. All of the alerts described above could be important but in the right context. When you are in the productivity context you have to block everything that could make you exit that context.
This means: exit everything that you don't need to accomplish the task at hand.
Do you need your cellphone to get the task done? Turn it off!
Do you need your e-mail client to get the task done? Turn it off!
Example: If only need to compose a text I suggest you to try DarkRoom. This is a distraction-free text editor that will help you focus on you main goal: writing quality content.
This will give you instant results. Money back guarantee! :)
But how do you know what task will you pick?
8. Move Beyond To Do lists:
One of the first things that everyone tries is the almighty To Do lists.
The to do lists are a great tool to show you what you want to accomplish. It frees your brain from remembering all the tasks.
However, a To Do list can't be your main productivity tool because it only shows you what needs to be done. It doesn't show you how you will done it. Or when you will done.
Don't focus on what has to be done. Instead focus on how you will done it. One task at a time.
If you don't do this you could become a victim of information overload.
In the past we've all made to do lists only to find that the to do list has become a papyrus. Now you have not only the old stuff but also some new tasks to do.
Solution: Give priorities to the tasks, pick one from the list and focus on finishing it.
But how can do you know that a certain task is more important that other?
7. Understand which tasks/projects give you the better ROI
One way you can do this is to calculate how much money you make per hour. Now estimate how much time a task will take. The result is your investment.
Your investment should be compared with how much money the task/project will give you once completed.
This process will show you not only which tasks/projects will give you the better ROI, but it will also show you that some tasks could be deleted so you can focus on completing the critical tasks.
Remember: Time is money.
However, life is much more complex equation to resolve.
Because, money is not directly proportional to quality of life. This means that making more money doesn't necessarily mean more quality of life.
So, you should also consider working on the tasks/projects that will give you and, better yet, give others more quality of life! Why? Because when you start something that will deliver something of great value to the world, money will flow your way.
6. Ignore the irrelevant
Time has two important properties:
- it never stops (this is especially true when a deadline approaches
- you can't make it go back (this is especially true when you procrastinate)
Don't lose time with tasks that don't give you and interesting ROI.
Don't be a victim of information overload. Nowadays everything seems to be screaming for attention: your chat client, your e-mail client, your browser, your phone, your
If your brain is actively listening to all that noise you can't focus on completing your task/project.
So delete all the "noise" around you and focus on completing the task.
5. Free your mind!
For your brain to be completely focused and in the productivity zone you have to free your mind.
You absolutely have to get everything that is making your brain busy into a system. A system that saves all your thoughts, important or not, and analyse them later.
Using your brain to save all the things that need to be done is like killing a flie with a nuclear bomb. A piece of paper is a much more simple solution. More reliable too since we seem to forget about some tasks.
You should choose a framework that implements a series of processes and practices so you free your brain to enter the productivity zone.
I'm using a framework called Getting Things Done (GTD) for a couple of months and I've already seen improvements in my productivity and effectiveness.
I suggest you to adapt the framework that you choose to your personal needs and context to improve the results.
If you choose GTD for your system, you have a vast array of choises for implementing it: from using a moleskine to +100 software applications.
There's also an implementation of GTD using Google Notebook. One of the benefits of this approach is that you can access it everywhere. Got a thought that's making your brain busy? Just log in to Google Notebook, write it and analyse it later.
I'm using this approach at the moment to capture all the tasks/projects when I'm in my home context. At work I use GTD using a moleskine.
I didn't implement GTD with the google notebook approach at work context because this way I can create a clear separation between work and home.
But in order to adapt the framework that you will choose to your needs you need to...
4. Know yourself
To get to know yourself better answer the following questions:
- What I'm trying to accomplish?
- What are my most productive periods of the day?
- What are my strengths?
- What are my weaknesses?
If you know what you're trying to accomplish you'll have more chances to accomplish that.
Begin with the goal in mind.
When 100 meters athletes hear the gun fire they only look at the finish line. Be like them!
Work on your weaknesses and leverage your strengths to achieve your goal!
3. Measure and Review your Productivity results
"You can't manage what you can't measure" - Dr. Demming
If you're trying to me more productive chances are that you're not happy with the results you're getting.
You have to measure the results of your new approach so you can fine tune your framework to your needs and goals.
2. Define realistic deadlines
Deadlines can be a great tool to:
- Get started - Most people can't feel motivated to start and/or complete a project until a deadline approaches. Stress and adrenaline usually are experienced with the deadline. These feelings will increase your productivity levels.
- Overcome fears - When you have doubts about the sucess of a certain project or how you will accomplish a certain goal, the deadline will help you get going.
To take full advantage of deadlines you should always define realistic dates. Choose a date that you believe that it's possible to deliver the project's goals.
You should prevent their overuse because if you don't they will loose meaning and power.
1. Get going!
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Sun Tzu
Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to get started.
I hope that these tips can help you be more productive today and achive your goals!
You're more than welcome to leave comments or suggestions!
Let me know how you applied these tips.
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