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Productivity Hacks: 7 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Productivity Hacks: 7 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

A common misconception is that if you are productive you will get more done. Another theory is that by staying busy you are going to be more successful. However, we all know from firsthand experience that choosing quantity or quality isn’t always the right way to go about doing things. One way to realign your approach to success is to work smarter, not harder. This school of thought pertains to not squeezing as many items into your day as possible but rather simplifying how you can tick them off your task list. The expected outcome is faster achievements, less stress, and improved time management. Here are seven tips for working smarter on a day-to-day basis.

1. Start the most important items first

It sounds simple, but we’ve all made the mistake of leaving the most important task until the very end when there’s little chance of ever completing it. To avoid falling into this trap start by identifying the two or three tasks that are the most important to complete, and do those before anything else, regardless of how long they may take. There are multiple steps to prioritizing you can familiarize yourself with for extra assistance in planning.

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2. Get a full night’s sleep

Your body needs sleep, as most experts will agree. Getting your regular 7-8 hours will help you focus and think more creatively because your cognitive abilities will be enhanced. A common mistake is to stay up late to get tasks done and limiting your sleep time, but the sacrifice will come back to haunt you the following day. Instead, stick to your normal schedule.

3. Wake up early

They say that to be successful you need to get an early start. It’s logical that the greater the number of hours in the day you have at your disposal the more opportunity there is to dedicate to completing your business. Waking up early goes hand in hand with forming a healthy sleep pattern in that it becomes easier to get out of bed if your body has received sufficient rest the night before.

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4. Give each task your full attention

Distractions make it harder to focus on the task in hand. As you are reading this you may have more than one tab open on your computer or even one eye on the television in the background. Your attention is torn between multiple points of interest, and your ability to concentrate is severely reduced. These techniques for improving concentration can assist in teaching you how to shut out all distractions and be more productive on the whole.

5. Don’t be a perfectionist

Don’t get hung up on how much detail should be spent on ordinary tasks, particularly those which require minimal planning. Time is easily wasted if you constantly review the work you have done again and again, as this plants doubt in your mind as to whether you have truly completed the task to a satisfactory level. Finish up, move on and revisit at the end of the day if you absolutely need to.

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6. Set time limits

Most of us can admit to doing a better job at managing our time on a daily or weekly basis. It’s a huge part of being productive that’s often difficult to conquer. One way to get around this is to allocate a set amount of time for each task in your schedule by using an app or online tool. Record your time spent to work out which items are taking longer than others.

7. Take regular breaks

Staying motivated means having the energy level to push on at any stage of a project regardless of what’s going on around you. No one expects you to go full steam ahead every minute of the day, for the sake of your mental and physical well-being. So utilize the pockets of time you have to recharge your batteries so you can return with greater focus and concentration levels. Fresh eyes may even offer up a new solution to getting the job done.

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These tips have helped me streamline the way I work on a daily basis and I hope you fine them to be of use in your routine.

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Tom Willis

Web Marketing & Content Producer

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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