How many times have you experienced this at work?
On certain days, you perform many tasks and tick items off your to-do list. But in the end, you feel drained. And you feel like you didn’t do anything to move the needle.
On other days, you do fewer things but feel like you did constructive work. At the end of the day, you still feel fresh.
It’s because, in today’s information age, quality of work matters more than quantity. The latter was important in the industrial age when a number of widgets produced determined productivity. But not anymore.
Productivity is not about doing more. According to author Charles Duhigg, it’s about getting things done without sacrificing everything we care about along the way.
Don’t you wish you could be more productive at work? Don’t you want to do more within your work hours and have time after that to spend with loved ones?
The rest of this article will show you how you can build this lifestyle.
Here are 6 steps you can follow to be more productive at work, build a better career, and get more leisure time outside work.
1. The Pomodoro Technique
The biggest challenge to productivity today is our penchant for multitasking. It makes us feel like we’re doing a lot. But according to research, multitasking reduces your productivity by up to 40 per cent.
True productivity comes from single-tasking. Work on a task for 25 minutes at a stretch and take a 10-minute break after that.
When you single-task, your mind focuses better and you become more effective. When you take a short break – a walk to the water cooler or the bathroom – your mind feels energized to return to the task.
Repeat this process four times a day and you’ll find that you can complete 40 hours ‘worth of work in 16.7 hours. Imagine what you can do with 20+ more hours each week!
2. Use E-mail Sparingly
According to research, people spend half their time at work reading and answering emails, over 30 per cent of which are neither important nor urgent.
Emails make you feel like you’re doing a lot. But in reality, they’re the biggest productivity killer of our era, and your biggest obstacle in adhering to the Pomodoro technique.
Here’s what I do. I close my email software and open it only during the last five minutes of every hour (after 2 Pomodoros). This helps me achieve two goals. One, I respond to important and urgent emails immediately. And two, I am more productive without email as a distraction.
If you can follow the next step, it’s even better.
3. Batch Your Work
Batching work (or chunking) means performing similar tasks together. Set specific times for your deep work tasks. Schedule your phone calls, emails, and short meetings in batches too.
Once you’ve completed important tasks and want a break, do less important tasks in chunks. The result? You’ll make the most of your day and feel more fulfilled. Research by Harvard has confirmed the same.
4. Follow the 5-Minute Rule
I have a simple rule. Don’t put off for later what you can do now.
If I can complete a task in 5 minutes, I don’t do it later. Instead, I do it right away during my break. This includes responding to an email or message, sharing information with a colleague, or scheduling a meeting.
The more you complete 5-minute tasks in five minutes, the lighter you feel. Because you have one less thing to worry about. And science proves that this mind-hack makes you more productive at work.
5. Do the Most Important Task First
Most of us check our email or smartphone first thing at work. But these instantly put us in reactive mode. To be productive at work, you must be in a proactive mode.
That’s why you must “eat that frog,” in Brian Tracy’s words. Do the most important thing first. It could be making the call that you’ve been putting off for long, working on the review meeting presentation, drafting a proposal or following up with an important prospect to close the deal.
When you finish an important task first thing in the morning, you feel relaxed during the rest of your day. And you get the courage to do more important things.
But, how will you identify important tasks? Simple. Follow the next step.
6. Plan your work Day
The popular adage goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” We get sucked into the daily grind because we make decisions on a minute-by-minute basis. That’s also why we become less productive at work.
You can do anything you want, but not everything you want. So don’t try. Plan your work day. Prioritize and schedule important tasks. Schedule chunks for phone calls, emails and meetings. Leave the rest of the unimportant tasks alone, or delegate them.
With a plan at hand, you’ll already know what you should do. Thus, you’ll also be able to say ‘no’ to others’ ad hoc requests better. And you’ll have more energy to focus on your important tasks.
The meaning of productivity has evolved from being ‘efficient’ to being ‘effective’. Being productive means doing more of what’s important to you and less of what others want you to do.
The more productive you are, the higher the quality of your output. And the more time you have to do what makes you happy.
— Limesh Parekh, CEO of Enjay IT Solutions