21 August 2014

5 contrary productivity tips

Want to be more productive? Many people advocate creating lists and working in chunks of time. Here's why we don't and what we suggest instead.

1.     Don’t create lists

Many people swear by lists. There’s a certain satisfaction to being able to cross an item off and see your list shrink throughout the day, but according to Eric Barker a list is just wishful thinking.  

Instead, create a schedule for your day, or better yet your week. By doing this, you estimate how long it will take to do the task and how much you can get done each day/week. This is much more practical than just a list, which can end up being impossibly long and unrealistic; possibly slowing you down by making you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you need to do.

Don’t forget to build extra time into your schedule to allow for inevitable disruptions.

2.     Don’t clock watch

Many people now advocate working in 15 or 90 minute chunks to maximise your productivity. While in some cases racing against the clock can force you to work more speedily, it can also reduce your creativity or mean you end up clock-watching, which reduces productivity.

While scheduling is sensible, focus on what you need to achieve to complete the task. You can still aim to get it done by a certain time, but don’t let this take the focus away from the task at hand.

3.     The early bird doesn’t always catch the worm

Starting work early can mean you get more work done as you’re likely to have fewer distractions. However, if you’re not a morning person and need a major caffeine fix to get you going, perhaps this isn’t the best strategy for you.

Instead, work out when you’re most productive and schedule your work based on this, making sure you get the most important or difficult tasks done during your productivity peaks. Many of our business centres offer 24 hour access, so you can work at the times that are best for you, which may be early in the morning but equally could be later in the afternoon/evening. 

Most importantly, make sure you get a good night’s sleep. While the average person should aim for 7-8 hours sleep a night, some people function better on more and others on less, so work out what is optimal for you.

4.     Don’t multi-task

In a time when multi-tasking is viewed as a desirable skill, this may sound counter-intuitive. But doing several things at once means you’re more likely to make mistakes or end up with work of a lesser quality than if you had done each task separately. If you focus on one task at a time, you’ll probably finish them quicker. You’re also less likely to end up with unfinished tasks.

If you can’t bear the thought of multi-tasking, make sure you’re working on similar tasks at the same time. This makes it easier for your brain to switch between them. Plus, don’t do more than two tasks at the same time - several studies on multitasking have found more than two tasks leads to an increasing number of errors.

5.     Don’t always do the hardest task first

Linking back to number 3 – work on your hardest task for the day when you are most productive or focused. While many experts suggest getting it out of the way, if it’s an unpleasant task it could reduce your mood and therefore your productivity for the rest of the day.

If you complete some of your smaller tasks first, you’ll have the satisfaction of having a smaller list and that positivity may make your harder task seem a little less daunting.