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33 Rules to Boost Your Productivity

33 Rules to Boost Your Productivity

Breaking the deadlock of indecision and taking action, any action for that matter, as long as it won’t lead you to another deadlock, is OK. Besides, when talking about improving productivity, you will surely boost yours once you imbibe all the rules presented in this article. As we all know, boosting productivity is one aspect of life we can’t overdo.

That’s why the suggestion — keep on improving yourself because this will help you become more productive, is one of the best precepts of work.

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Now, regarding the rules, one rule which helps me all the time is…Nuke it! The most efficient and effective way to get over a task is to delete it.  If it is not needed, take it off your list. Simple.

Another one of my favorites is — Relaxify.  This means minimizing stress by decluttering your workspace. This is one of the most basic rules; however, once you can master it, you will get ahead in your work. A clutter-free work station helps you to intensify your focus which ultimately improves your productivity.

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33 Rules to Boost Your Productivity

Heuristics are rules intended to help you solve problems.  When a problem is large or complex, and the optimal solution is unclear, applying a heuristic allows you to begin making progress towards a solution even though you can’t visualize the entire path from your starting point.

Suppose your goal is to climb to the peak of a mountain, but there’s no trail to follow.  An example of a heuristic would be:  Head directly towards the peak until you reach an obstacle you can’t cross.  Whenever you reach such an obstacle, follow it around to the right until you’re able to head towards the peak once again.  This isn’t the most intelligent or comprehensive heuristic, but in many cases it will work just fine, and you’ll eventually reach the peak.

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Heuristics don’t guarantee you’ll find the optimal solution, nor do they generally guarantee a solution at all.  But they do a good enough job of solving certain types of problems to be useful.  Their strength is that they break the deadlock of indecision and get you into action. As you take action you begin to explore the solution space, which deepens your understanding of the problem.

As you gain knowledge about the problem, you can make course corrections along the way, gradually improving your chances of finding a solution.  If you try to solve a problem you don’t initially know how to solve, you’ll often figure out a solution as you go, one you never could have imagined until you started moving.  This is especially true with creative work such as software development.  Often you don’t even know exactly what you’re trying to build until you start building it.

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Heuristics have many practical applications, and one of my favorite areas of application is personal productivity.  Productivity heuristics are behavioral rules (some general, some situation-specific) that can help us get things done more efficiently.  Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Nuke it!  The most efficient way to get through a task is to delete it.  If it doesn’t need to be done, get it off your to do list.
  2. Daily goals.  Without a clear focus, it’s too easy to succumb to distractions.  Set targets for each day in advance.  Decide what you’ll do; then do it.
  3. Worst first.  To defeat procrastination learn to tackle your most unpleasant task first thing in the morning instead of delaying it until later in the day.  This small victory will set the tone for a very productive day.
  4. Peak times.  Identify your peak cycles of productivity, and schedule your most important tasks for those times.  Work on minor tasks during your non-peak times.
  5. No-comm zones.  Allocate uninterruptible blocks of time for solo work where you must concentrate.  Schedule light, interruptible tasks for your open-comm periods and more challenging projects for your no-comm periods.
  6. Mini-milestones.  When you begin a task, identify the target you must reach before you can stop working.  For example, when working on a book, you could decide not to get up until you’ve written at least 1000 words.  Hit your target no matter what.
  7. Timeboxing.  Give yourself a fixed time period, like 30 minutes, to make a dent in a task.  Don’t worry about how far you get.  Just put in the time.
  8. Batching.  Batch similar tasks like phone calls or errands into a single chunk, and knock them off in a single session.
  9. Early bird.  Get up early in the morning, like at 5am, and go straight to work on your most important task.  You can often get more done before 8am than most people do in a day.
  10. Cone of silence.  Take a laptop with no network or WiFi access, and go to a place where you can work flat out without distractions, such as a library, park, coffee house, or your own backyard.  Leave your comm gadgets behind.
  11. Tempo.  Deliberately pick up the pace, and try to move a little faster than usual.  Speak faster.  Walk faster.  Type faster.  Read faster.  Go home sooner.
  12. Relaxify.  Reduce stress by cultivating a relaxing, clutter-free workspace.
  13. Agendas.  Provide clear written agendas to meeting participants in advance.  This greatly improves meeting focus and efficiency.  You can use it for phone calls too.
  14. Pareto.  The Pareto principle is the 80-20 rule, which states that 80% of the value of a task comes from 20% of the effort.  Focus your energy on that critical 20%, and don’t overengineer the non-critical 80%.
  15. Ready-fire-aim.  Bust procrastination by taking action immediately after setting a goal, even if the action isn’t perfectly planned.  You can always adjust course along the way.
  16. Minuteman.  Once you have the information you need to make a decision, start a timer and give yourself just 60 seconds to make the actual decision.  Take a whole minute to vacillate and second-guess yourself all you want, but come out the other end with a clear choice.  Once your decision is made, take some kind of action to set it in motion.
  17. Deadline.  Set a deadline for task completion, and use it as a focal point to stay on track.
  18. Promise.  Tell others of your commitments, since they’ll help hold you accountable.
  19. Punctuality.  Whatever it takes, show up on time.  Arrive early.
  20. Gap reading.  Use reading to fill in those odd periods like waiting for an appointment, standing in line, or while the coffee is brewing.  If you’re a male, you can even read an article while shaving (preferably with an electric razor).  That’s 365 articles a year.
  21. Resonance.  Visualize your goal as already accomplished.  Put yourself into a state of actually being there.  Make it real in your mind, and you’ll soon see it in your reality.
  22. Glittering prizes.  Give yourself frequent rewards for achievement.  See a movie, book a professional massage, or spend a day at an amusement park.
  23. Quad 2.  Separate the truly important tasks from the merely urgent.  Allocate blocks of time to work on the critical Quadrant 2 tasks, those which are important but rarely urgent, such as physical exercise, writing a book, and finding a relationship partner.
  24. Continuum.  At the end of your workday, identify the first task you’ll work on the next day, and set out the materials in advance.  The next day begin working on that task immediately.
  25. Slice and dice.  Break complex projects into smaller, well-defined tasks.  Focus on completing just one of those tasks.
  26. Single-handling.  Once you begin a task, stick with it until it’s 100% complete.  Don’t switch tasks in the middle.  When distractions come up, jot them down to be dealt with later.
  27. Randomize.  Pick a totally random piece of a larger project, and complete it.  Pay one random bill.  Make one phone call.  Write page 42 of your book.
  28. Insanely bad.  Defeat perfectionism by completing your task in an intentionally terrible fashion, knowing you need never share the results with anyone.  Write a blog post about the taste of salt, design a hideously dysfunctional web site, or create a business plan that guarantees a first-year bankruptcy.  With a truly horrendous first draft, there’s nowhere to go but up.
  29. 30 days.  Identify a new habit you’d like to form, and commit to sticking with it for just 30 days.  A temporary commitment is much easier to keep than a permanent one.
  30. Delegate.  Convince someone else to do it for you.
  31. Cross-pollination.  Sign up for martial arts, start a blog, or join an improv group.  You’ll often encounter ideas in one field that can boost your performance in another.
  32. Intuition.  Go with your gut instinct.  It’s probably right.
  33. Optimization.  Identify the processes you use most often, and write them down step-by-step.  Refactor them on paper for greater efficiency.  Then implement and test your improved processes.  Sometimes we just can’t see what’s right in front of us until we examine it under a microscope.

33 Rules to Boost Your Productivity Steve Pavlina

More by this author

Anthony Dejolde

TV/Radio personality who educates his audience on entrepreneurship, productivity, and leadership.

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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