Some days with the best will in the world productivity eludes me. I find myself constantly interrupted either by my own thoughts or others, flitting from one task to another, completing few and yet utterly exhausted by the time 6pm rolls around, maybe you can relate?
However, I’m comforted slightly by the fact that I’m not the only one who faces this dilemma, according to Henry Mintzberg and his research on managers within hundreds of organisations he says this:
We find that the manager, particularly at senior levels, is overburdened with work. With the increasing complexity of modern organizations and their problems, he is destined to become more so. He is driven to brevity, fragmentation, and superficiality in his tasks, yet he cannot easily delegate them because of the nature of his information. And he can do little to increase his available time or significantly enhance his power to manage. Furthermore, he is driven to focus on that which is current and tangible in his work, even though the complex problems facing many organizations call for reflection and a far-sighted perspective.
Wow, the situation sounds quite dire, it’s a good thing I like my job and love my team
So here’s a few solutions that have helped me boost productivity, maybe they’ll help you too:
1. Have a plan for your day
Even though your plan is pretty much destined to be destroyed the minute you arrive in the office, still make one! The reason is that it provides a point of focus for you to go back to no matter how crazy your day gets.
Tip: This doesn’t need to be long and laborious I take 5 minutes before I leave the office every day to prioritise the next day’s tasks and make a list.
Tool: Notebook. Good old fashioned pen and paper, sometimes going back to basics is the best idea
2. Take action on tasks immediately
Tip: As soon as I receive a new task I either do it immediately or schedule it immediately. This means that I never forget about or miss tasks. Sometimes I end up moving tasks in my calendar numerous times before it actually gets done but once it’s in there I know it definitely will be done
Tools: Outlook for work related tasks, Google Calendar for everything else
3. Time your tasks
Tip: Give yourself a time limit, to complete tasks. I don’t always complete tasks in the allotted time but I’m able to significantly dent them at least, and get more done in the time than I otherwise would have
Tool: Focus Booster. I love this tool, it’s based on the Pomodoro Technique and it really does work.
4. Turn off technology
Tip: If you’re anything like me social media and the world wide web is probably your biggest distraction. I tend to have periods of the day where I close Outlook and ignore emails for a period of time
Tools: Freedom, Cold Turkey and Anti-social allow you to block social media and your most distracting website
5. Capture your ideas as soon as they come
Ideas tend to pop into our heads at random moments throughout the day so make a point of always having a way of recording them quickly, you never know when that million dollar idea is going to hit you! For me this includes a notebook that is always with me and a voice recorder on my phone.
Tool: Evernote, I could literally write a complete blog post just on the virtues of Evernote, but instead I shall you this video
Lastly, in those moments when you feel overwhelmed I’ve learned that it’s cool just to stop and take a breather, even when your workload is threatening to overtake you, better to do that than crash and burn. For me this sometimes means sitting in my car with a book at lunch time and switching off completely for half an hour, taking a tea break and when I’m home chilling out with my Bible or an inspirational book as a reminder to focus on the most meaningful things in life.