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8 Principles to Keep in Mind to Reach an Unprecedented Level of Productivity

8 Principles to Keep in Mind to Reach an Unprecedented Level of Productivity

We all have those days: we show up to work after not getting enough sleep, or getting too much, and find ourselves with our chin in our palm staring blankly at the screen. While it’s hard to get out of this mood, as we try to keep our eyes from falling shut, we have to keep these principles and quotes in mind for when we wake up and get back at it.

1. We should hold periodic meetings

Meetings are a great way to touch base with our team and make sure that everybody is on the right track. Keep in mind, however, that most actual work gets done outside of these meetings.

As Thomas Sowell said: “The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.”

Let’s keep meetings brief, with a clear focus, and make sure to summarize key takeaways at the end to ensure everyone is on the same page.

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2. We need to test new ideas

We should be careful not to get comfortable simply doing what’s “good enough”. Let’s make sure to continuously test new ideas in search of a more productive or efficient method to complete our workflow.

Mark Zuckerberg was right when he said, “In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

3. We mustn’t multitask

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work in hand,” said Alexander Graham Bell, “the sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

When approaching our work, we should give our full attention to one task at a time. Time spent transitioning between tasks can add up to hours out of your day. Not to mention, when we dedicate our focus to a single task, we’ll surely produce higher-quality results.

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4. We need to give ourselves a break

If we find that our productivity has hit the wall, let’s try getting away from our desk and giving our mind a chance to refresh. We need to take a a nap or spend the day at home.

“Being lazy does not mean that you do not create. In fact, lying around doing nothing is an important, nay crucial, part of the creative process. It is meaningless bustle that actually gets in the way of productivity. All we are really saying is, give peace a chance.” -Tom Hodgkinson

5. We have to “Automate”

With so much new technology, many human processes can now be replaced with apps and programs. Where automation isn’t possible, we can try to create a simple process that can be recreated.

“Improved productivity means less human sweat, not more,” said Henry Ford.

The easier our process becomes to repeat, the more time we’ll make for what’s most important.

6. We should delegate when possible

A wise man, J. Paul Getty, once said, “I’d rather have 1 percent of the efforts of 100 people than 100 percent of my own efforts.”

He had a good point. Our energy should be put to use to accomplish tasks that require our brainpower and expertise. Keep in mind, once we delegate a task, we have to let our team take care of it. Hovering over the tasks once we past them down wastes as much time as keeping them on our desk to do ourselves.

7. “Never mistake motion for action”

Just because we’re writing a to-do list and organizing our email doesn’t mean we’re actually getting things done. Let’s put aside small distracts that get us off track, and make sure we recognize the difference between busywork and actually getting work done. Do we really need to color code those sticky notes?

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8. We should get to work early

Our hours probably look like something from 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Rather than walking in the door at 8:59 AM so we can clock in right as the clock strikes 9, let’s try showing up 10-15 minutes early. This will give us time to focus in on the work in front of us, so we can hit the ground running as soon as we punch in for the day.

Now perk up! It’s time to get started.

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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