Understanding the Nature of Productivity
Productivity is basically defined as how much stuff you can get done in a certain amount of time. Improving productivity means being able to do more stuff in the same amount of time. This is pretty a straight-forward idea, and there’s nothing ground-breaking here until you realize that the definition itself tells you exactly how to improve. According to the definition, there are only two core ways to become more productive: cut out tasks that don’t give results, and lowering the time it takes to perform tasks without sacrificing quality.
Step 1: Measuring Your Output
Before you can hope to multiply your productivity, you have to know what your current level of production is. Take a period of three workdays and keep a list of everything you do. Note the approximate starting and stopping times for each task you do, and make note of every distraction and period of procrastination that comes up. Improving productivity is a very personalized process, so you need to avoid the temptation to skip this step. The results you get from measuring your output are going to allow you to improve your productivity on a personal level with a plan that is tailored specifically to your needs.
Step 2: Identify and Reclaim the Biggest Blocks of Wasted Time
From the three days you recorded in step 1, identify the periods of time in which you accomplished the least. Take each one of these periods and try to analyze it with an eye towards what caused the lack of productivity. Sometimes this will be some sort of distraction, not having enough information about the task, or the lack of available tools that are necessary to get the job done quickly. Whatever the problems were, make a list of them, and keep track of which problems come up the most often.
Next, make another list of the periods of time in which you accomplished the most. Follow a similar process as before of listing what caused these tasks to be accomplished quickly and efficiently. Now you will have a list of personalized problems for your productivity, and a list of what causes you personally to work more efficiently. Apply your findings from the list of what works well to the list of problems to figure out what changes you can make to improve the problem areas.
Step 3: Work on the Small Things
A lot of productivity leaks occur in the small, repetitive tasks you find yourself doing over and over in work settings. Look over the three day period you recorded in step 1, and find which small or medium tasks you did the most often. From this list of small to medium tasks, find ways to shave a few seconds off of the next time you do that task.
It’s pretty easy to find five minutes each day by making the small things a little more efficient. Five minutes may not seem like a lot, but for every five minutes you free up each day, that will average to about one percent of your total work time saved. Anyone in business will tell you that a one percent increase in productivity is huge.
Step 4: Work on Handling Distractions
The number one parasite on productivity is the never-ending availability of distractions while you’re trying to work. The key to handling distractions is to cut out the distractions that you can ignore, and handle the distractions that you can’t ignore more efficiently. For distractions that you can’t ignore, you want to make the transition to dealing with it and the transition to going back to your work as smooth as possible to avoid losing time.
If you follow these four easy steps, you can multiply your productivity and see huge advances in how much you get done during the day.