Productivity: Lessons Learned
While making resolutions is a good start to planning a successful New Year, it is as important to reflect on the previous year and improve upon it. From a productivity standpoint, here are my top three lessons learned from 2014:
1. Take a Break. Vacate.
As mentioned in my previous blog post, taking mini breaks throughout the day as well as vacations throughout the year will increase your overall productivity. This recent survey shows that Americans (and Brits!) are not taking this advice! In order to remain productive, people need to use their vacation days—we give them to you for a reason! Disconnecting briefly from the work environment can help revitalize you and relieve stress. It also gives you something to look forward to, ultimately putting you in a better mood at work. Small breaks can have a similar effect.
2. First things first. Organize and Prioritize.
Social media devices and overall distractions are on the rise. 2014 was no exception and we can expect it to be an even bigger issue in 2015. Multitasking is one of the most infamous killers of productivity. So how do you avoid being put six feet under?
- Create a daily/weekly/monthly to do list. By focusing on and scheduling specific times to finish tasks, you are more likely to complete them. Work backwards—think about what you need to accomplish for the month, next establish weekly goals, and finally list specific tasks that you will accomplish each day. When you are able to check things off of a list, you remain focused and feel a sense of accomplishment.
- Get rid of the clutter. Organize your physical space as well as your electronic space. A pile of papers on your desk can easily add to the feeling of being overwhelmed. File things away in folders. This goes for your e-mail as well! Clean up your inbox. Create folders to stay organized and only leave e-mails in your inbox that are active and that you need to take action on. With this tactic you will not waste time by rereading the same e-mails over and over each time you go through your inbox. At the end of each day take some time to file things away both on your desk and in your inbox.
- Once you have a clear list of tasks, it's important to determine what needs to be accomplished first so that you are not jumping in-between tasks. It's important that you prepare yourself to focus on one thing at a time. As Ron Swanson would say, "Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing."
3. Keep your peace of mind. Create deadlines.
Now that you've made your list and checked it twice. It's important to set deadlines. According to a recent study released in the last quarter of 2014, the average American working week has evolved to 47 hours. I would venture to say (and clearly the "people" agree) that the new normal in regards to a standard work week has increased greatly. However, productivity could bring that number down a tremendous amount. With the idea that we never have to disconnect or stop working, the amount of time allocated to completing a task can be almost infinite.There is always time to continue working when you get home, before you head to bed, over the weekend, etc. If you start off a project or task with a reasonable/realistic deadline in mind (even if it is just self-imposed), then you are working with an end goal and will be forced to "finish" and move on to the next task.