Mastering Productivity and Time Management

In a world that gets busier and nosier by the day, productivity is on the minds of many. But instead of researching and downloading the latest productivity/time management apps, or forcing yourself to stay at work for hours on end - you may be better off following and understanding the concepts that this article talks about.


Mastering Productivity and Time Management

First things first - what is Productivity? Most of us assume - the more, the better. Wrong. Productivity is focusing on consistently achieving the important things. And despite what you are sweating on and how it appears at this point, there are only very few things that are truly important. Being productive is about keeping a constant and moderate velocity on a few things, rather than an interruptive and high velocity on everything.

The Multitasking Fiction

Napoleon Bonaparte had a special skill - he could think and speak so fast that he was able to dictate five letters to his secretaries at the same time. And of course, we are, capable of responding to an e-mail while walking the dog while listening to music. But it’s not all the same when it comes to productivity. When people asked Napoleon’s wife how was her husband after she’d received a letter from him, she would always answer that he is “fine”, because she couldn’t understand a word from that letter.

Unfortunately, it is beyond the bounds of our possibilities to fully concentrate on two tasks at once. Multitasking forces the brain to jump rapidly back and forth from one task to another - which is by all means counterproductive.

Every time we are jumping back and forth between our tasks - we pay for the time disruption. A study published by the International Journal of Information Management, concluded that “the time it takes the employees to recover from an email interrupt, and to return to their work at the same work rate at which they left it, was found to be on average 64 seconds.” Simply saying, solely because of email we generally lose 1/6 minutes. So try handling just one task at a time, you will complete it faster and more efficient, promise!

Use the "Eisenhower Box"

Dwight Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States. Eisenhower’s method for tackling work, prioritizing todos and time management is straightforward. By applying the Eisenhower diagram below, you will prioritize your tasks based on four prospects.

We find that the Eisenhower Method is really effective for the reason that it urges you to debate if a task or project is really vital. This leads you to be more predisposed into moving a task to the “Delete” category, alternative to automatically doing it. As Eisenhower said, “What’s important is seldom urgent and what’s urgent is seldom important.”

Kill the Half-Work by All Means

Let’s face it, we are rarely fully focused and engaged in one task at a time, unless we really force ourselves to do that and later praise our “achievement”. Well, guess what - it shouldn’t be such big of an achievement. It should be your daily routine and habitual activity.

You start writing an important email and you get called in an impromptu meeting. You start a project but out of the blue check in on your social media accounts. You are editing your batch of photos and your phone starts aggressively ringing.  Doesn’t matter where and how you fall into the trap on half-work, the outcome will be unvarying: you’re never fully focused and engaged in the task at the moment. That is the reason (for the majority of us) why it takes twice as long to accomplish half as much. Did you ever wonder why are you able to accomplish and get more done on your last day or two before vacation? That’s when you really focus on things, as compared to the 2-3 previous weeks, when you got regularly distracted.   

Allocate yourself on each day 60-90 minutes of concentrated work, with 10-20 minutes for breaks. Maybe try varying the time fraction so it would fit your type of day/routine and workload.

Use the The Ivy Lee Method: Do the Most Important Thing First

The famous productivity method:

1.  At the end of each work day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
2.  Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
3.  When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
4.  Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
5.  Repeat this process every working day.

This method works efficiently for the pure reason that it is dead simple. As would Holmes say, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” There is nothing magical, just prioritizing and executing.

Accept and Plan Failure

Regularity and results are indispensable for progress in any field. But we have to accept that there will be always circumstances that are out of our control, and no matter how hardworking and productive you are, they might outscale you. It’s not necessarily that you are going to fail 100% every time, but more what will be your actions if so happens. That is why you have to first accept and secondly plan for a situation of failure. Have a plan B - the second best outcome. For example, if you overslept and don’t have time to run the desired 2 miles, then run 1 mile or make some time in the evening. Don’t just totally quit the “task”.

With all of that being advised, just remember, if you want to manage your stress levels, keep your sanity, and amplify your chances for the long-term accomplishments - you need to prioritize, drop the multitasking game, accept and plan for failure and be consistent. Nevertheless, ease up. Don't be so hard on yourself. Get some quality sleep, binge watch your favorite show, read a good book and drink a tasty cocktail - put these on your priority list!

Squaremuse Team.