Find out how you can get more done.
When we want to get more done, many of us simply work longer hours, move deadlines around, and multi-task.
Although these strategies can provide some short-term relief, they aren't sustainable in the long term. Pretty soon, this approach becomes a way of life, leading to high levels of stress and eventually, poor productivity.
Productivity is a measure of how much you accomplish – not how busy you are. So it's far better to learn how to work intelligently, and to use leverage to achieve more with your time and resources. This will increase your productivity – and help you find extra time to do other things.
The quiz below will help you to understand how productive you are. Then, the discussion and resources that follow will help you identify strategies that you can use to increase your productivity, so that you can do more, with less stress.
|You have some work to do to become more productive. It's inefficient simply to fill your day with tasks or to try to do too much without considering your limits and priorities. Use the information and resources below as your motivation to work smarter, not harder. The good news: you'll soon be accomplishing very much more, in less time.|
|You're on the right track with your productivity efforts, and you probably get your most important work done. However, you could be more productive. Use the productivity techniques and resources outlined below to become more productive and efficient in your daily life.|
|Fantastic! You have a clear understanding of your priorities, and you use your time to maximize your output. You also think about how to use leverage to get the most from your time, and to use it to the organization's advantage. This makes you a real asset. Where appropriate, use the resources below to continue to build on and improve your productivity skills.|
This quiz highlights five key elements of working productively – organization, attitude, delegation, information integration, and effective use of systems. We'll look at these key areas below. By increasing your performance and effectiveness in these areas, you'll accomplish more in your day. You'll also begin to understand where to focus your time and energy to improve your productivity, and get better results.
(Questions 2, 5, 7, 10)
The first step in any productivity improvement plan is to get organized. Think about how to arrange your physical space so that it helps, rather than hurts, your performance. Messy desks and drawers affect your productivity because you spend valuable time searching through piles of documents, instead of doing high-value activities. Learning how to be organized is an art, and you need to work on it every day. From organizing email to organizing your files, there are many great systems that can help you order your working environment.
Organization also involves self-awareness, and becoming aware of how you spend your time is essential for improving productivity. An Activity Log shows you exactly where you use your time well and where you waste time handling low-priority work, interruptions and distractions. Activity logs also uncover whether you rely on multitasking: doing more than one thing at a time actually decreases productivity.
Self-awareness also helps you to understand when you do your best work. Some people do their best work early in the morning, and others aren't fully productive until the afternoon or evening. Understanding your work pattern preferences will help you schedule important priority tasks for the times of day when you perform the best. Our article Is This a "Morning Task"? explores this in more detail.
(Questions 4, 11, 13, 15)
The next part of improving productivity is related to your attitude and approach to your work. Self-motivation is very important if you want to maximize your productivity. Learn what motivates you to do your best work – and then create the best environment possible so that you to do so. Also, when you create an environment that supports productivity, you can get "in flow." This is a state that allows you to focus intensely on your work to achieve incredible results.
To get into this high-productivity zone, you must also minimize or eliminate disruptions. Have a plan for managing interruptions, managing your stress, and improving your concentration. As you take positive steps to control your time and schedule, you'll likely reduce your stress, which will allow you to experience more positive energy. This is essential for getting "in flow", so that your whole productivity plan supports and improves itself once you get started.
Your mindset is fundamentally important for increasing productivity and improving overall time management. Think positively, and take small actions to improve your performance. This will give you the motivation and inspiration that you need to continue moving forward with your plan. Start now by adopting a positive perspective, and by believing that you can, indeed, be productive and accomplish your goals.
(Questions 1, 8, 14)
Being productive is not a lone sport. To be truly productive in a work setting, you must rely on your team to help you. That's why work teams are the preferred way to reach goals – together, you can achieve much more than with the single efforts of individuals.
To use the power of teamwork, you must know how to delegate effectively. Delegating isn't simply having others do your work – successful delegation ensures that the right person performs the task, regardless of who is ultimately responsible for getting it done. When people are able to work on their high-priority tasks, then everybody – and your organization – wins. If you spend too much time doing work that other people could do, and you have no time to make progress on your own key objectives, then you need to reevaluate who should be doing what on a regular basis.
Delegating effectively means providing sufficient support and resources so that another person can complete the job well. It doesn't mean micromanaging the process and checking every 10 minutes that things are being done right (in other words, "your way"). To delegate successfully, learn how to let go and trust people to do what must be done. When you do this on a regular basis and build a team of people who all help one another as needed, your productivity levels will increase radically.
(Questions 9, 12)
Your productivity will also increase when you master how to identify and use information quickly. Emails, memos, trade magazines, published studies, status reports, operating statistics, financial results – these are just some of the information categories that you may receive on a regular basis. If you try to read each of these in detail, it might take a day or more each week!
So, look at strategies for overcoming information overload. You must approach information with a critical mind. What do you need to know? What type of information will a particular document provide? How will you use this information to improve the way that you work? Your answers to questions like these will help you determine the level of detail you need from each document. You may simply be able to ignore some items, or quickly skim topics and headings of others. Use these and other active reading strategies to help you reduce the time that you spend dealing with information and documentation.
If you must read a lot of information in detail, learn how to speed read. Our article on the subject reviews several ways to read material quickly, and you can practice speed reading on your own. If you process and integrate information quickly and effectively, it will help you work more productively.
(Questions 1, 3, 6, 16)
Finally, to increase your productivity, improve the way that you and your team work.
Improving organizational systems not only helps you accomplish more – it can also help your organization leverage its assets effectively, to achieve its objectives and be more successful. Consider continuous improvement through practices like Kaizen and other techniques like Kanban and Job Analysis. These will encourage you to look at everyday tasks, processes and practices, and review how you can do things better. Also, learn from lean manufacturing approaches, and ask "How can we do what we do with less waste?"
No matter how well you're performing right now, you can almost always improve productivity. When you're more productive, you contribute strongly to the overall success and profitability of your organization. And it feels good to be in control of your time, and know that you can produce the results that are expected of you.
With the Mind Tools Club, you get much, much more than you do here for free.
And we'll give you the 4 workbooks above when you join!
Learn on the move with the free Mind Tools iPhone, iPad and Android Apps. Short bursts of business training ideal for busy people.