How Productive Are You?

Time Management and Productivity: 15 Tips

 I have been getting ready to teach time management next week and have been thinking about productivity and have come up with a list of helpful ideas.

Do you have problems with managing your time? Maybe you have too much to do?  What are some of the things that can help you to get more done and feel less stressed?  Here are some ideas of how you can better manage.  Of course, there are other things you can do, such as using the Eisenhower Matrix and the Pareto Principle, but here I have some general ideas.

1)   If you live in most places in Europe, take the train and get work done while commuting. It’s good for the environment and maybe you can even negotiate to get paid for travel time, if you are working.

2)   Do it now, if it only takes a minute (or two, maximum).  This frees your mind for the bigger things and you won’t have to remember to do it later.

3)   Perfection is not the goal and is usually not possible.  Get over your perfectionism and set your boundaries at work against perfectionist expectations.

4)   Distractions cannot rule your life at work or you will not get your real work done. Set times of the day to answer emails and stick to those times.  If you communte by train, those might be perfect email times, for example.  Decide when you will take calls (and from whom, if it’s a possible emergency) and have someone screen the calls for you.  Also, either turn of the notifications on your cell phone, or turn off your phone, period.

5)   Stop multitasking- it actually gets in the way of getting things done well.  So, turn off your phone (or at least set in on silent) for your focused work times and limit or eliminate other distractions. One person, Dr. Caroline Leaf, calls it is “milkshake multitasking”; in other word, it’s really a mental mess when you multitask.

6)   Set a specific block of time to work on a specific task and make it realistic.  So, the optimal focusing time is between 45 and 55 minutes for most people.  If you think you will need more time than that to accomplish your task, set more blocks of time, or set the blocks in several days.  People who write can do this by planning to write for 45 minutes, take a break, write some more, take a longer break, and so on.

7)   Speaking of breaks, remember to care for your body: get enough sleep, eat healthily, drink enough water, and exercise regularly.

8)   Set a time at the end of the day, either on your commute, or just before you leave, to plan the next day.  On Friday, do the same, but for the next week, so you are ready for what is coming up. 

9)   Speaking of breaks, take them!  Take regular breaks to keep your mind fresh and the ideas coming.  You may have to set a timer to remind you to take those breaks but do be serious about them.  At lunch it is suggested to walk or exercise so you get the blood going again, and maybe in the afternoon you can climb some stairs at work.  Your heart will thank you for it and it helps your productivity, too.

10) Set deadlines for yourself and keep to them. But be realistic.  When someone asks to add another big project into a really full week, either say no- or probably not.  Be realistic so you can keep your promises and do your job well. It’s better to under promise and over produce rather than the opposite.

11). Keep your to-do list as short as you can and keep it realistic (with deadlines and timelines)- you may need a monthly to-do list, if your job is repetitively seasonal, so you know what’s coming up, and you do not over commit.

12). Say no.  Learn that you cannot please everyone all the time (especially yourself), and also, try to keep meetings to a minimum (say no to them, too) and if they tend to get longer than needed, suggest having standing meetings.

13). Ask for help when you can’t do more- delegate and get someone else to join you if the task is too big.  At the same time, keep a can-do attitude.  Being optimistic is very helpful for success.

14). Make work beautiful and pleasant.  Your working environment is important for productivity.  Do what fits you and don’t worry about what others think, as long as you keep in line with company policy.

15). Remember to reward yourself, especially if your company (and your boss) doesn’t. Buy yourself a nice lunch, or go out and treat yourself to a celebratory dinner when you accomplish something big. Celebrations can be small, too. Maybe you buy a plant for the office because you are pleased with a god job well done. 

Have a very productive fall!

Patricia Jehle