“Work smarter, not harder” said... some wise person. But it’s actually true (and actually backed up by science). Only you can determine how hard you are working, but most of us judge how hard we are working by how much of our task we have achieved. There is more to productivity than looking at how much you have covered. This basic physics equation makes for a good analogy: Work Done = Force x Distance. Now it is true that work in this equation refers to the transfer of energy, but this is analogous to productivity. Consider this: if ‘work done’ is the task that you must execute, and ‘distance’ is how much of this task you have covered, then what is your ‘force’? Without looking at ‘force’ you’re basically saying Work Done = Distance. This is a false synonymy.
So back to the 9 life hacks to make you more productive at work. The art of productivity is never fully mastered; there are always things that could be done better. In order to increase the ‘work done’, two factors need to be considered: how much of the task is covered – ‘distance’, and the rate at which these tasks are performed – ‘force’. These 9 hacks are a compilation of means to improve both ‘force’ and ‘distance’, increasing the ‘work done’.
Rome Was Not Built In a Day
Get real. There are only 24 hours in a day - and even fewer in a working day. Create an itinerary of the tasks that must be covered for the day and rank them in order of priority. No two things can rank equally as important or this defeats the point of the list. So, itemise and prioritise for without this ranked list, the day rapidly descends into chaos.
Find the Beat of the Day
As much as possible, try and make your day consist of one theme. For example, if you are working on project X, the tasks of the day should be primarily concerned with project X, not A – Z. Consistency makes for a more conducive working environment. A better environment leads to more productivity in your day.
Get a Daily Planner – or an App
Allocate times to everything you intend to do. No matter how good your memory is, get a planner or an equivalent app so you know what you should be doing and when. If it’s an app, make sure it has an alert. If it is a physical diary, make sure it is always with you and within arm’s reach. You should be able to draw your planner quicker than a cowboy in a western movie. If you follow this rule, you can never miss a date, take too much on, or have a moment of unplanned drifting time.
Harness the Power of the Mini-Plan
So by blocking out your day you have a rough plan. But each task needs its own plan. If you need to compile that document by 12pm, then write down the necessary actions to take you there. By breaking up the larger tasks into mini or micro tasks, you can take everything in your stride and approach what might otherwise seem unapproachable.
No Really, Rome Was Not Built In a Day
Some days you will be able to work for far longer than others. This is just a simple fact of life. Be honest with yourself with how much you can actually do in a day. If you have enough foresight, you can probably block your day off into four hours of actual work. In doing so, you avoid feeling deflated on the less productive days and set an attainable work load.
Begin With Communication
A lot of time is wasted in the lead up meetings and conference calls preparing and waiting. Get meetings and the like done as early as possible in the day. It increases productivity where you’re not waiting for a meeting to start. You can spend your time elsewhere (hopefully being more productive at work).
There is No RAM Doubling Software for the Human Brain… Yet
If you open too many programmes on a computer it begins to move at an inferior rate. To combat this problem, RAM doubling software has been created. In this sense, the brain works like a computer. If you ask it to do too much at once, it does not perform at its optimal rate. And no, caffeine does not double brain RAM! It is more of a system override in that it allows you to resist sleep, but certainly does not make you work more efficiently. So, to increase productivity at work, execute tasks in a linear fashion, not by multi-tasking.
Things are bound to pop into your mind whilst working. Unless the answer is needed to complete the task at hand, don’t search whilst tasking, search later. The chances are, if you’re interested enough in the topic to ask yourself questions about it that burns a hole in the walls of your mind, you’ll most probably get side-tracked by looking it up. If you are that interested in it and are not simply trying to procrastinate, it will be just as interesting later. And in general, close your email program, Facebook and anything else that leads to discretion and unplanned “drifting”.
Step Away From The Desk. I Repeat, Step Away From The Desk.
Schedule breaks into your day. Although unplanned breaks are bad, planned breaks are integral to your working day. Without breaks, you risk becoming frayed at the edges and not really giving your psyche the breather that it needs. Breaks aren’t just for the tired either. If you break periodically throughout the day, you can combat that after lunch trough too. So a planned 15 minutes at the end of a task, or taking a breather between micro-tasks if the overall task is quite long, proves beneficial (and gives you some down time to work towards).
These 9 life hacks are a sure way to improve both the ‘force’ and the ‘distance’ of your working day. Remember to pay attention to the both if you are to be more productive at work.
Originally published April 1, 2017