This blog is the first one in a 3-part series on “how to improve productivity at work.” We all have a lot on our plates and we’re constantly finding that we don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done. As an information technology (IT) professional, I’m sure that you frequently find yourself in this position. This blog series is intended to share with you a few ways that you can improve your personal productivity and get more done in less time.
In this digital age, interruptions are inevitable part of our life. With an attention span of something in the range of 18 to 52 minutes (there are several schools of thought on this), being productive at work today takes a lot more than juggling various tasks all day.
Improving your efficiency and productivity takes some time management skills. So how do we achieve this?
Here are a few tips and tricks that will enable you to better manage your time and increase productivity.
1. Avoid Multitasking
Most professionals believe multitasking makes them more productive. However, in reality, it only derails their work. When people multitask, they are, in actuality, switching back and forth between tasks. In the computer world we call this “context switching.” Human brains weren’t designed to perform context switching very well. As a result, you end up doing all of the tasks in a less effective manner. That is, your output is sub-optimal. You may, for example, make more errors and spend more time fixing those errors and thus end up taking more time to complete the task while producing lower quality work.
There is even evidence that multitasking raises our level of stress by increasing the amount of cortisol, or stress hormone, in our body.
“Research has not only shown that multitasking doesn’t work, but also that it’s bad for your brain. When you multitask, two things will happen: You will perform several tasks with below-average quality, and your brain will become less effective when you try to focus on a single task,” says Tor Refsland, founder of Timemanagementchef.com.
2. Do the most important tasks when you are at your best
According to an MIT research paper that analyzed productivity hours, people are most productive during the morning hours rather than afternoon or evening hours. This might not apply to everyone. Energy levels are different for different people. Regardless of the work hours, one must have a productive mindset to succeed. Some people might find themselves most productive in the morning hours — fresh from having a good breakfast and ready to tackle the day. Some might be most productive only after 11 am when everyone has arrived at the office and the workplace is bustling with activities. The key is to do the most important things in your peak productive hours.
“Do the most important thing at the very beginning of the day, ideally before too many people have arrived at the office. That way, no matter what other distractions or events occur, you will have the most important thing out of the way early,” says John Turner, founder and CEO of UsersThink.
3. Work in uninterrupted sessions and avoid distractions
The key to focusing on tasks and being efficient in tackling the task is to work in uninterrupted sessions without any distractions, followed by self-imposed mini-breaks to rejuvenate yourself.
Minimizing distractions is essential for productivity. Identify your distractions, eliminate them, and focus on work for say 50 minutes straight, take a ten-minute break and then get back to work again and continue with the progress. If 50 minutes is too long, consider working in stints of 25 minutes. There is a method called the Pomodoro Technique that recommends 25 minute sessions followed by a short break. After doing 4 of these 25-minutes of work and 4-5 minute break sessions, you take a longer break.
“Manage your brain instead of letting it manage you. We create obstacles to this by getting lost in multitasking: responding to a text while trying to have a conversation with somebody sitting in front of us or checking email and browsing the web during a meeting. We know that the brain is not a parallel processor. In other words, it can only do one thing at a time well. To be more productive, shut down the sources of distraction,” says Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, CEO of Herrmann International.
4. Schedule time blocks on your calendar for prioritized tasks
Block time for the most important tasks of the day, avoid procrastination, and devote that time to get things done. Blocking periods of time on your shared work calendar lets your colleagues know when you are busy, saving you from interruptions. It also reduces the number of choices you have to make within that time period thereby allowing you to focus on specific tasks at hand.
Taking ownership of your time enables you to control your schedule, set priorities, be more productive and feel accomplished at the end of the day.
“Calendar management is the single most important thing, especially as you get busy and have more responsibilities,” says Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO of JPMorgan Asset & Wealth Management. “You have to be maniacally focused on owning your calendar, on having the lists of what you need from other people and what other people need from you. What are the short-term issues that need to be dealt with? What are the long-term issues? Unless you can stay on top of that religiously, it will end up owning you, and that’s not a way to go about staying organized and being on top of things.”
5. Create your own checklist
Creating a to-do list and checking off the tasks once completed is an efficient way of increasing productivity. Checklists can sometimes be intimidating. However, having a checklist for daily tasks helps you keep track of your activities and train your brain to focus on the goals.
“When it comes to getting things done and accomplishing everything you want to in a workday, my best advice is to create extremely thorough checklists. The average, everyday to-do list oftentimes does not do the trick as so much is left out in translation. I recommend writing more than just a word or two, and instead, write at least a phrase, several key words, or even sub-bullet points to further break down each task in the queue into a more organized and methodical progression. Get everything written down or typed out, prioritize in order of importance, and then proceed. Organization is key to increasing productivity.” – Adam Piccin, Campaign & Communications Associate at The Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties.
As an IT management software vendor, Kaseya strives to provide software and services that increase IT technician and team efficiency.To learn more about increasing your IT team’s efficiency, download our eBook Deliver Efficient IT Service by Automating Time Consuming Workflows.
*All quotes are from Inc. article 30 Experts Share Their Best Productivity Tips.