July 15, 2011

Productivity at work

By sebastian.suttner

When it comes to work, being organized and having good habits always helps. The more we know our working habits, the better we exploit our virtues and manage our weaknesses. Increasing productivity is not about working harder and harder, but about using every available resource to achieve better results—with no extra effort. Many small decisions we take throughout the day can lead us to either a very productive day, or end up turning it into a complete failure.

Now I’ll point out some concepts I think can be very useful to optimize our way of working:

Tasks

Planning

Spending the last minutes of the day planning for the next one could end up being highly productive. We can go home knowing which tasks will be the important ones to accomplish, as well as our goals for the following day. It’s about knowing what to do, what may go wrong, and being prepared for unexpected problems, which can always surprise us whether we like it or not.

Key tasks

Always identify the most important tasks for the day. It’s highly recommended to start by one of them, also keeping in mind that those tasks will probably represent more than 50% of your productivity.

Routine tasks

Do not start with these ones. The key is to find the right moment for doing them. Maybe when our workflow is low, we are less tied up with things, or our productivity is not at our highest. Sooner or later, we’ll have to deal with them.

Large tasks

Don’t be afraid of them. Finishing those ones early will clear the rest of the day up. Divide & Conquer is a great strategy that can helps us out a lot. We can accomplish great things by breaking them up into little ones. Solving simpler and smaller stuff first, and then putting everything back together is a good practice. Although it seems pretty intuitive, most of the times we forget to do this.

Microtasks

It could be very productive to apply the “2 minute” rule. It states that whenever we come across tasks that can be finished in one or two minutes, we should do them right away. If we are not in the middle of something important, getting those sort of tasks done can speed things up a lot. The only thing we should ask ourselves is whether we think a task can be wrapped up quickly, and if so, go ahead and do it. If we put them off, they will slow us down later.

Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking generates stress and most important reduces our concentration and creativity. Let’s focus only on one thing at a time and do it right.

Concentration

Digital environment

For those of us who work all day long with our computers, there is a great variety of sites and applications that are just one click away. As exciting as it may seem, it also ends up being a true source of distraction. It’s considered a good practice to think of them as if they were not there, that way we can focus entirely on our tasks until having them finished.

Interruptions

Automated notifications and cell phones are the two main concentration breakers. How many times do we check our phone just to see if anything new came up? How many mouse clicks do we spend on closing notification pop-ups? We should deactivate them and keep our phone away so we can work disconnected and check any of them when we are not in the middle of something.

Intensity

Doing work sprints, i.e. working non-stop for short periods of time, helps to stimulate concentration and to increase intensity. It also lets us rest from time to time and stay relaxed.

Information

We’ve never had that much information at the reach of our fingertips. Maybe too much. That’s why it’s important to know how to ration it out.

Feeds

Choose carefully which ones are interesting, meaningful or simply those ones that are worth reading. Ignore the other ones or spend the rest of the day reading them.

Social networks

A well known sickness for some of us. They always manage to take a lot of our precious time, therefore we should avoid them at work or use only the ones that have something to do with it. Don’t keep them open in the background.

E-mail

Knowing how to use it wisely is very important for those of us who employ it both as a working and as a communication tool with colleagues and clients. We have to make it wait. To check it obsessively generates too much distraction and gives us the wrong feeling of being more effective, but it’s not true. It’s better to read it periodically and answer only the important ones. It also helps a lot if you keep it organized, e.g. with the use of labels and filters or any other technique. What you shouldn’t do is to get lost inside of it searching for a message.

Rest time

Free time

Always find time for hobbies. Sports, outdoor activities, or some kind of art, can all help to enhance our creativity and mental clarity. That’s exactly why here at Moove-IT we always arrange extra group activities we can enjoy together.

Night’s sleep

A good night’s sleep is imperative to make our day pay off. Between seven and eight hours should keep us far from being a zombie in front of a computer.

Breaks

It’s always good to take a break and stretch our legs a bit. Free our mind from work for a while. Here we simply go to the kitchen and have a cup of coffee with some of our colleagues. There’s always someone willing to have a nice short chat!

Tools

Paper & pencil

A faithful friend by our side. Some of us can find very useful to have both paper and pencil handy and write everything down. Even when something looks extremely trivial, we might forget it and it’ll still be there when we need it. There’ll always be time to decide what to do with it later.

Whiteboard and post-its

A great way to keep every important tasks in sight. We use them to manage our TO-DOs, so that everyone can be aware of everyone else’s responsibilities.

Software

We all work with the software we find more comfortable. There are a lot of tools, some tend to be more productive, others have some other kind of advantages. “Different strokes for different folks”.

Projects

Fake limit date

It helps a lot to set a fake previous date limit and work hard to finish in time. If so, we can have time to review everything. Otherwise we can still try to get it done.

Phases

As I said earlier, breaking things up always helps. Then we can base ourselves on more estimable parts of the project and make a more accurate planning.

Daily and weekly evaluation

It’s absolutely necessary to know if the project is going in the right direction. Making evaluations helps to keep track of everything and plan following phases even better.

Proactivity

Solving our problems and being successful in what we do is strongly related to be the ones who take the initiative. Take the first step, call for a meeting, be the one who investigates, make a phone call, stay always active and most important, be positive about it. Getting desperate is the first step into failure.

Restrospective

By keeping record of our achievements, we’ll always be aware of the things we can accomplish and also find motivation in times we need it the most. It’s very important to be self-critical, learn both from our mistakes and our successes.

All these things I’ve mentioned are not meant for you to do by the book, I just think it can turn out to be quite useful to bring some of these good practices into our work routine. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, I also have a hard time trying to do so. Let’s always try to improve and better ourselves. Enjoy the jokes!

References

Productivity tips from thinkwasabi.com

Click on images to see their source.