Productivity is a hot topic these days. Everyone would like to work faster, better, and get more things done in as small a chunk of time as possible. We are also required to do many tasks at the same time. So it is worth thinking about how we organize our work or in general how our hygiene of work looks like.
Many changes that we may take in this area are fast applicable and not require much effort. In this article, you will find out how to organize my work and my tips to get more done in less time without frustration.
Dealing with multitastking
If you are looking for a new job probably one of the most common phrases that are suggested to say in the interview is ” I don’t have a problem with multitasking “.
Let’s check it with a simple exercise. Take a piece of paper and start to write your name. At the same moment, start making the circles with your right foot counterclockwise. Easy to do? I think that most of us will have a problem writing our name in the correct way.
After doing this for a longer period of time you will also experience an energy drop. The key message here is that there is no way to do two things in parallel when both require our full attention. There is always a huge chance that the quality of one of those things will be much lower. I think that quality is more important than quantity.
Another challenge in being more productive is switching time and, connected with this, switch tasking. It is a situation when you are doing something but something comes to your mind and you switch to a different task. After that, if you would like to go back to your original task it requires time and mental effort to be again in the right mood. It’s called the cost of switching.
This aspect of productivity reduces our ability to get things done and introduces chaos into our lives. A simple example is when you are doing something in your work and you immediately check “only for a moment” on social media (in many cases it steals you more than a while). Then it takes time again to go back to your work and require you more focus to remember at which point you finished before. Task switching is also a disease of our world today world. Later I will talk about how we can minimize these unnecessary costs, costs of switching.
The core idea of my productivity philosophy is how, when and where I’m collecting information about tasks to do. In other words – how I gather the data and things to process. I called them gathering points. It is an idea which I heard the first time in a LinkedIn course led by Dave Crenshaw – Time management fundamentals. I’d like to present in a nutshell this approach.
Where and what?
The first point is where you stored information about unprocessed items. We used to use email, notebooks, papers, sticky notes, and so on. However because they are scattered all over the room/office it is harder to find them afterward – the same if you are using multiple mailboxes – we waste time to find something which we have to process. Here is my approach – I’m using 4 gathering points to get my things to do sorted:
- Business mailbox – for everything related to my work. There, I can create to-do lists, reminders, planning my days ahead, and so on.
- Paper box – that stands in the corner of the room. It is the place where I’m putting all unprocessed papers, letters, or things for which I have to find the place later. If this is something big I’m writing sticky notes with information about this and putting it into the box.
- Personal email – which is used for everything related to my blog (blog’s email is connected with my personal Gmail account) and my personal life (bills and other things). It is also a storage of my ideas which I’m sending by my phone to my email if I don’t have access to my physical calendar. I’m using only two functionality – labeling something like a “to do” or archiving (and deleting of course).
- Calendar – the heart of my planning. I’m using the paper version because it is my preference (I know that there is a bigger chance to get lost so maybe in the future I will switch to the digital version). This the source of the tasks to do or plans in the future and the place where I’m budgeting your time and my recurring activity
My time during the day is divided into my usual work time and after work hours, when I’m writing the blog and other stuff. This determines my way of collecting data into gathering points and processing it.
- Work time – If I receive something to do during my workday I’m asking myself – is this something that I can do in under 2 minutes? If yes I’m doing this immediately, if not I’m creating a task and adding this to the respective day on my to-do list. If I process emails and follow up tomorrow or the day after I also create a task for this (in many programs is very easy to do).
Everything that is not work-related and I wouldn’t like to forget about it. I’m writing sticky notes and putting them into my box or schedule it into my physical calendar. Using that way I have a free mind and I can be fully focused on my work.
- Free time – the similar rules I have when I’m not working. If I know about any tasks to do, again I ask myself about the required time for that. If under 2 minutes – I do immediately. If something pops up in my mind I write it in my calendar, if I don’t have it at that moment – I’m sending an email to myself with this task/idea.
The hardest mindset change is about when to process items from your gathering points. No, the answer is not that you have to process all the time. It’s an energy drainer – like multitasking. This is the time where time budgeting plays a key role. Like you plan your expenses every month the same you can do with your time. These are my key rules:
- Every two days I’m checking my personal mailbox (for approx 1 hour) and things marked as “to do” I schedule in my calendar (unless it is something that will take under 2 minutes). All ideas and things from an email from me I’m putting in the main calendar as well – I’m finding for them a budget (my time).
- Items from the paper box I process two times per week (usually on Monday and Thursday) and if it’s something to be scheduled in the calendar I do it at this time as well.
- Tasks from a calendar I’m doing in the morning before my usual work starts or in the budgeted time. If this something that can be done only at a certain time I budget time for it as well.
and it’s really that’s it. I found this way very useful and saved a lot of my time. I just would like to add that I reserve time for unexpected events and being flexible because not everything can be planned.
I’d like to share also my tips to avoid switch tasking and in general, improve daily productivity and get more things done:
- Align your work to personality type – some of us are the most effective in the morning, others in the evening. However, most of us are somewhere in the middle. The thing is to align the most important work to the period of the day where we have the maximum of energy. I see in my example that it’s better for me to do the hardest thing during morning hours. If you would like to check what type of personality you are, you can do a test.
- Planning day ahead – simple and short (maximum 5 minutes) task before bedtime. It will give you a free mind and in consequence better sleep. Planning is the biggest part of productivity. Develop your own way to plan your days, you are always allowed to change your plans.
- Avoid being fully booked – if you plan your tasks or meetings, give yourself time between them for the unexpected situation and for breaks. A fully booked calendar might look like you are very effective but without breaks, you will be less concentrated and without full energy.
- Automate – everything that is possible. By this, I mean anything that you have to do on a regular basis and which can be set up once and next occurrences will happen without your effort – for example paying your bills.
- Setting time for social media – checking your social media causes switch-tasking. You can avoid it by scheduling time during the day for this activity.
- Learn how to say “no” – this skill is all about calculating if something is worth doing. If the received value is less than your input it is easier to refuse at the beginning rather than withdraw at a later stage.
- Delegate – if you are in the position that your tasks can be a delegate – do it. Trust people who will do something on your behalf.
What are your tips to be more productive? Share them in comments!
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