Kevin Gardner, Negosentro | According to Stephen Dubner, a co-author of Freakonomics and several other popular books, productivity is one of the most sought-after self-improvement topics. It’s also a critical metric for determining the health of the economy and predicting future growth. These are some of the best tips we have found for individuals to maximize productivity:
Create To-do Lists
Many apps exist for time management. These can allow you to schedule tasks by date and priority. Some allow you to use complex logic to decide what to do next. While a calendar is a useful productivity tool, you don’t need the latest technology to keep track of what needs to be done and boost efficiency. You can use a simple app like Google Tasks, but even simpler solutions suffice. All you need is a pen and a notebook, a word processor document, or a text file.
To make a to-do list, simply write down the tasks you need to complete and cross them out when they are complete. I like to put the highest-priority tasks near the top. Break larger tasks into smaller tasks taking less than a day to complete. Spend a few minutes each day preparing a to-do list of all the items you want to finish on the next day.
Ask Others to Help
Everyone is most efficient at carrying out particular types of duties. If a colleague is much faster than you are at one type of assignment, and you are much quicker than your colleague at another, it could help to swap your workloads. If you are not trained on a particular task, ask management for help.
Some tasks can be completed most easily by calling in a consultant or a specialist. For example, if you are relocating your office from Houston to Dallas, you might want to call local companies to see if Houston movers can transport your equipment more efficiently.
Get Rid of Distractions
Do you really need to be reading Facebook and Twitter while you are trying to get work done? Even music in the background might be slowing you down; try timing yourself on the same task both with and without music. Smartphone notifications can be a huge distraction and cause errors; every time you check your text messages, you have to set aside whatever you were working on, look at your phone, find where you were, and get started again. A text message every half hour can make your productivity fall more than 10%.
Consider shutting off music, closing all social media, and shutting off your smartphone. Another huge distraction which most people don’t even consider is email. Checking your email every 15 minutes is a huge productivity killer. It is far more efficient to set aside time for checking and responding to email and to avoid looking at it the rest of the day.
Set high-reaching, achievable goals. If you complete everything on your to-do lists every day, make your to-do lists bigger. Set some of your goals on a one-day timeframe. Some should take a week, a month, or a year. Set goals you can possibly achieve, but aim high. Lofty goals will make you strive to achieve more in less time, and you’ll feel greater satisfaction when you reach them.
When you achieve a goal, give yourself a reward. For a small goal, like finishing a short report or two hours of uninterrupted concentration, you might eat a piece of candy or take a break. For a bigger goal, say beating last year’s earnings, you might take a short vacation in a sunny locale.
Executives can sometimes to come up with new ways of reaching aggregate productivity levels beyond what groups of people can achieve as individuals. Yet many of the greatest gains come from individuals working to maximize their own efficiency.