“Don’t work harder, work smarter.” That old saying is often repeated during conversations about how to increase productivity, both at work and in our everyday lives. But what does it actually mean?
There are a limited number of hours in the day in which we have to cram the maximum amount of productivity that we can. Making the most of your time requires you to be more deliberate about the way you do things. By optimizing the little moments, you can quickly add to your overall productivity.
Here, then, are six simple yet effective ways to make you more productive at work, at home and at play.
1. Set Time Limits for Individual Tasks
Most days can be broken down into a series of tasks, beginning with when you get up in the morning and ending when you go to bed at night. What happens in between – and how efficiently you perform each individual task – is up to you.
One way to minimize wasted time and optimize productivity is to set time limits on many of the tasks you perform each day. In the same way that you are allotted only a half hour or 60 minutes for your lunch break, you can allocate specific time limits for such activities as going through your email, responding to phone calls, networking, writing reports, reviewing background materials, and so forth.
Use the timer on your smart phone or get one of the many timekeeping apps currently available to help keep you on track throughout your day. Once you get used to working under a series of deadlines throughout the day, you may be surprised by how much you can accomplish.
2. All Work and No Play Is No Good
Did you ever notice when you are working hard on a project that the more time you spend, the less accurate and focused you are. After a few hours, you start to make more mistakes, your mind tends to wander more frequently, and you can become distracted more easily.
That’s because you haven’t included enough breaks. Taking frequent (short) breaks helps keep you more focused and on track so you can reduce time-consuming mistakes and work more productively. Get up, walk around for a few minutes, step outside and get some fresh air. The work will still be there when you get back.
3. Do the Quick Tasks First
At the outset of your work day, look at all the tasks you hope to accomplish before it’s time to go home. Then mentally arrange them by how long each task will take and knock out the tasks that can be completed in two minutes or less first. This will clear the decks for the more challenging and time-consuming tasks.
If you try to tackle a big task first, it can burn up more of your day than you intended. Then you will feel pressured to accomplish everything else on your list, which increases anxiety and makes you even more unproductive. It’s a vicious cycle.
4. Don’t “Meeting”
Let’s face it: Most of the meetings we attend at work are a complete waste of time. Decline an invitation to all but the most necessary meetings and encourage others you work with to spend less time interacting unproductively and more time actually getting things done.
If a meeting is absolutely essential, have an agenda, set a time limit for each item on it, and move through it as quickly as possible. Discourage people from straying from the most critical subject matters.
One way to keep meetings more efficient is to hold them online using a video conferencing software program such as GoToMeeting of Google’s Hangouts. Not only does this eliminate the time it takes to travel to and from a meeting – even if it’s only down the hall, that’s still time that you could spend doing something more productive – but because the other people can’t always see you, it allows you to spend your time multi-tasking.
5. Make Commute Time Work Time
Most office workers spend a minimum of an hour or two traveling to and from work. These are usable hours that you can spend knocking items off of your to-do list, especially if you ride in a car pool or take the train, bus or subway to work.
Thanks to near-universal WiFi and high-speed Internet, anything you can do at your desk you can essentially do on your laptop. Don’t squander this time reading or looking out the window. Make the most of it.
6. Strive for Perfection but Don’t Expect It
By making yourself less distracted and more focused, you can get more done during the day. But inevitably there are going to be mistakes, accidents, emergencies or even spontaneous happenings that prevent you from achieving your short term goals. That’s life. Get used to it.
All you can do is pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.
Author Bio – This article is a work of John Smith on behalf of Servcorp, world’s best serviced office and virtual office provider.