Regardless of whether you are on placement or still at Uni – we could all do with being a bit more productive. Aside from the great feeling you get when you haven’t wasted your day, it is a really good skill to develop.
However, our generation has grown up in a digital age. The majority of our day is spent plugged in to some sort of technology. We email, text, tweet and blog our way through our careers, our relationships and our daily lives and whilst technology is no bad thing, it does make sticking to the task and avoiding distraction harder than the actual job in hand.
Knocking back the Red Bull and making lists won’t make you any more productive. Productivity is more than ticking jobs off your ‘to do’ list. In reality, it should actually free up your time. Productive people don’t actually focus on getting more things done; if you really want to be productive, you’ve got to make a point to do fewer things.
So if you are looking to work more efficiently, have a go at a few of these tips:
Cull your ‘to do’ list.
Getting things done doesn’t mean that you should cram as much as possible into your day. Work out what you actual need on your list and focus on accomplishing the things that matter.
Apply the 80/20 rule.
This is a good rule to apply when you find yourself spending too much time on something, and is based on the premises that 20% of what you do will produce 80% of your results. The trick is to eliminate the things that make little difference by systematically removing tasks until you end up with the most effective 20% of your workload. For example:
• 20% of your lecture notes, text books or meetings give you 80% of the information.
• 20% of your contribution produces 80% of the recognition you get.
• 20% of clients create 80% of your income.
• 20% of the clothes in your wardrobe are worn 80% of the time.
Amazingly you are likely to find that you are not only working more effectively but that you also have more time on your hands. The more you practice, the better you will become at deciding how much time and effort is needed.
The reverse to this is 20/80, wherein the final 20% of a task causes 80% of the stress but only results in a 20% shortfall of efficiency. Quite often you can achieve 80% of your task without a lot of the stress. Only you can decide how necessary that last 20% is to the overall objective. Remember that it’s a rule of thumb, not a hard and fast law. Sometimes 100% is necessary, and to produce a great quality project or to achieve completion on it, you need to go that extra mile. It may be true that 80% of a road is built in 20% of the time, but the lines still need to be painted if you’re to control the traffic.
Take control of your morning to focus on what you want to achieve.
Starting your morning by checking your email is a productivity killer. By doing this you allow others to dictate what you accomplish.
Tackle the challenging tasks before lunch.
Take on your most difficult tasks whilst your brain is fresh. Save easier tasks for the afternoon.
Develop good email habits.
As a general rule, if you receive an email where a number of people are cc’d in, reduce your workload and keep everyone in the picture by cc’ing them in on your reply. If your email chain goes beyond two replies, pick up the phone.
Reply to email, voicemail, and texts at a set times.
This becomes really important when you are in the workplace and relates directly to the principle of distraction avoidance. If you are in the habit of checking your messages continuously, restrict yourself to a specific check-in slots, otherwise you’ll get distracted from accomplishing more important goals throughout the day. The best solution is to set specific time slots, 2-3 times a day, to deal with incoming communication (for example: once at 11am, once at 3pm and maybe once at the end of the day), and set a reasonable maximum length of time for each slot. Unless an emergency arises, be really strict about sticking to your plan. Dr. Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King’s College London University, monitored the IQ of workers throughout the day.
The survey of 1,100 Brits showed:
- Almost two out three people checked their work messages even after they had left the office for the day or were on holiday.
- Half of all workers responded to an e-mail within an hour of them receiving it.
- One in five stop what they’re doing to respond to a message.
- Nine out of ten people thought colleagues who answered messages whilst in a meeting were rude, although three out of ten believed the practice was not only acceptable, but a sign of diligence and efficiency.
- The IQ of those who tried to combine the constant checking of messages with their day to day work fell by 10 points – the equivalent to missing a whole night’s sleep and more than double the drop in IQ after smoking cannabis.
You can’t do ten things at once. Concentrate on one task at a time, and give it your full attention. Switching from task to task also makes your brain less efficient. Dr. Glenn Wilson’s studies showed that changing tasks more than 10 times in an 8-hour working day drops a person’s IQ by an average of 10-15 points.
Take more breaks.
Plummeting sugar levels and a throbbing headache doesn’t help you get the job done. Take a break, grab some food, go for a walk or just take some time out. You’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to work.
Remember less is more when it comes to being more efficient in the workplace.
If you have any tips of your own, please share them. What do you do to maintain productivity at work or uni?