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9 Small Changes You Never Realized To Supercharge Your Productivity

9 Small Changes You Never Realized To Supercharge Your Productivity

You know you need to get more done in your week, but tackling the ominous task of figuring out how to supercharge your productivity sounds like too much hard work – right? No, there are simple tricks and changes you can make throughout your week to make sure you are firing with all cylinders! Try implementing a few or all of these nine changes and you will notice a big difference.

Read emails after you go through your to-do list for the day

Make your to-do list document, or the app you keep your list in the first thing you open. Email is not to be looked at until the to-do list is reviewed and a plan is in place for what tasks you are tackling today! Tell yourself email can wait until you have a plan in place.

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Get tough things checked off first

Move difficult conversations or complex tasks to the top of your to-do list. The energy and time you will free up by getting the task you dread the most done will make a huge difference to your day. Instead of constantly thinking you must get to that task, it will be done and you can move on to more rewarding projects.

Plan to discard unnecessary mail before bringing it to your desk

Use the mailroom or your kitchen as the place to read through postal mail. Open it and immediately toss out items you don’t need to take action on or aren’t relevant. Only take back to your desk items that need to be reviewed. If in doubt – toss it!

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Put a post-it on your computer screen

Have a pad of post-it notes handy on your desk. Whenever you are interrupted or heading off to a meeting, write on the post-it note what you are working on. When you come back to your desk you will immediately see what you are working on and can get back to the task at hand.

Commit to end one-hour meetings early

Suggest to all attendees that the meeting finishes 10 minutes early. For the competitive meeting go-ers suggest setting a timer with a goal to complete all agenda items before the timer goes off. Having the focus of getting more done in less time will keep the meeting on track.

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Start with water not coffee in the morning

To be more productive you need to be alert. A sluggish mind will decrease your productivity. A simple fix is to get water into the body early in the morning. This will jolt the brain into action.

Check in with yourself

Set a timer to go off randomly throughout your day. When it goes off ask yourself, “Is this really a good use of my time?” Look at your to-do list and see if what you are working on is in alignment with what you need to get done today. Keep reminding yourself not to get distracted with busy work and come back to the task at hand.

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Shut down programs you don’t need

Look at the software programs or apps you have opened. Are they needed for the task you are working on? Seek out the “X” on those programs on the top right-hand corner of your screen and shut them down. Less clutter on your desktop will add to your productivity.

Wear headphones

Get into the habit of putting your headphones on when you are at your desk. You can listen to soft music to lessen the office noise or your over-active mind. You can just have them on in silence. The added bonus is colleagues who see you with headphones on are less likely to interrupt you!

There you have it: nine small changes to implement. They don’t have to be big sweeping modifications to get you achieving more. Small tweaks throughout your day can make a big difference at the end of the week with what you get done. Try it out and enjoy the feeling of ending the week knowing you were super productive!

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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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