Let others know what are you doing
You were deeply engrossed in an interesting idea. Suddenly, your phone rang. On the other side was a colleague, who wanted help on installing a software. You fixed her issue in a jiffy and got back to attend your idea. Oops, you have lost it and mind is rambling in thin air. We all have been through this situation and even worse. I sometimes forgot what I was working upon.
So, it becomes really important that we block some time just to finish our work. This is also advocated in Chris Bailey’s best seller Hyperfocus. Our best work comes when we are at peace. Our mind does not give a linear output, rather it is a bell curve. Our output improves as we start working, peaks and then over time recedes. Therefore, catching the most efficient phase of our working minds is important.
Henceforth, next time before you start working, let your family know that you will not respond for x hours. Ask your supplier to call you only in a particular slot of time. Let your customers know that you will call them by x pm/am.
Work in temporal compartments
80% of our work is done in 20% of the time. You must have had a friend in school who studied half as you did but scored same as you or sometimes better. What a heart burn! With due respect to your and your friend’s mental faculties, I want to admit that it was not your ability but your friend’s efficient utilizations of the brain’s productivity cycles. As I explained before, brain’s efficiency increases initially to a peak and then falls rather than showing a linear trend. So, working for extra hours, would lead to utilization of less productive cycles of your brain which naturally would give attuned output. Whereas the friend who studied only a fraction of time you spent with books, has utilized the most efficient cycles of his brain and misleadingly rubs his intelligence on your face.
So, try to fix a reasonable time for work and try to complete it within that time period and move on. This will have multiple benefits: firstly, you will be able to keep a track of time. Secondly, you would not spend time on that work inefficiently. This will not only save time for other work. But also boost your morale, once you start doing a lot of work in very less time.
Take frequent rest
Just like an engine cannot be run forever and requires a cool down period, our mind and body requires rest to heal injuries and recuperate from fatigue. Rest is the best medicine for a good health. Lack of it, does not have a direct side effect but has a domino effect on other aspects of our health and wellbeing. Don’t sleep well one night and you feel tired and sluggish the whole day, leading to incomplete work, leading to spending extra time, which ultimately culminates in to a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation, increasing fatigue and reducing work efficiency.
Experts suggest, that after every 45- 60 minutes of high intensity work, 5-10 minutes of rest is necessary to recharge batteries and take a fresh look at the problem at hand. It also helps in disconnecting from the work for some time and then coming back with new perspectives. Therefore, habituating oneself with taking frequent rest just like we drink water frequently will do wonders in productivity enhancement.
Have a method
Next time you watch Rafael Nadal before a tennis match, observe his actions. In the early stage of his career he used to sit exactly at the middle of the bench, keep a drink between his feet, take a bite from his banana – just a single bite, before starting the game. Just an illustration of a small process. Industry leaders like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Late Steve Jobs, all put a lot of weight on having a process in life. When there is so uncertainty in life, why not make the controllable parts predictable and constant?
This also brings discipline in life and saves a lot of time and effort. Over time these become a habit and don’t require conscious thinking to execute. Hence saving time for the bigger puzzles of life.
Have fixed time for social network
A recent study stated that an average Whatsapp user checks it 23 times in a day. If they spend a minimal 2 minutes per instance, still they lose 46 minutes in a day which is a very conservative figure. Similary, the numbers are not at all encouraging for other social media platforms too. It is not a surprising fact, that they are one of the most unproductive time guzzlers. Though they have their own entertainment and knowledge value, but we should agree that we spend disproportionate time on social media.
Therefore, there is a need to bring some discipline in its usage. It is best to allocate a time to use social media during the day. Instead of peeking into our phones every now and then as an excuse for rest between work, it’s better to use that time for physical interaction with colleagues as a refreshment. This will keep our cognitive senses sharp and recharge our body and minds. But instead if we keep peeking into social media every now and then, we drain ourselves – both straining our eyes and brain as they have to process tonnes of junk information which have miniscule value. So, managing personal time on social media is important to boost office productivity.
Focus on timely completion rather than perfect completion
When asked, what is your biggest weakness in an interview – a common answer is I am a “perfectionist”. Though it sounds cliché and self-flattering, but it has a tinge of truth in it. We tend to spend hours one time too many on our work hoping to sharpen the edges of our diamond. But we misunderstand the true nature of most of our work. They are not the end but means to an end. Majority of the time our work is a work in progress. We don’t know the definition of the best work but continuously strive to achieve it.
The need is to finish the work and move it into evaluation phase asap. This has multiple benefits: One, we can quickly course correct if we are going in a not so ideal direction; Two, it frees up time for personal improvement which will help in better execution of work next time.
So, these are some of the quick tips on productivity improvement in a professional setup. A lot can be incorporated in our personal lives as well. Hope it helps someone. Do let me know your ideas on personal productivity and what you think about this article.