You Are Doing Too Much
You want to get more done. You want to be more productive. I know. We all do. The problem is that you are already doing too much now. Most people spend their day doing entirely too many things at a time and pulling themselves in entirely too many directions all at once. Does that sound like you? If you really want to get more done, you have to do less. Believe it or not, if you do less you will produce more.
Workers are being asked to do more and more stuff and to work longer hours doing it. Tightening budgets have employees putting in a lot of effort and hours to get things done. The labor market is making it very hard for employees to say no.
The real problem, however, is not that you are being asked to do too much or that you need more help. The problem is that you are working on too many things right now, all at the same time.
What Is Important?
Take a look at what it is you did today. How much of that work was really important? I mean really important? Was it all due today? Did you get pulled here and there throughout the day? Did you know before you got to work what you were going to carry out that day?
People don't spend most of their time on the important stuff. Likewise, most people don't do one thing at a time. These two things pretty much sum up what a lack of productivity is in the workplace. Doing the wrong thing at the wrong time and doing too many wrong things at once. Maybe there is a right thing mixed in there, but it's surrounded by so many wrong things it has no chance.
You need to figure out what is important, and quick. Start by figuring out what is really important now, meaning it should be worked on right now. Put things into three categories; urgent, important but not urgent, and not important.
Take your urgent list and rank it. Guess what? The number one item is what you need to work on first, before you do anything else. It is your most urgent and most important thing.
Take your important but not urgent list and don't rank them. You shouldn't worry about them now anyway, so don't bother. When you have no urgent things you can tackle this list. Don't lose track of them - they are important. Just don't work on them.
Take your not important list and throw them away. Put them out of your mind. These are the things that are killing you. There are too many of them and they don't matter. You might even notice things on this list that are pretty old. That's because nobody cares about it and they aren't waiting for you to finish it. When you get another unimportant task refuse it. Decline. Just say no. Don't let it even get to the point of being on a list.
Do One Thing at a Time
Here's where productivity really gets some help. Now that you have your urgent list ranked, work on thing #1. Don't worry about thing #2. If you do, you won't get thing #1 done, and you said it was the most important. Thing #2 an all the other things will be waiting for you when you are ready.
The fact is that it is unproductive to switch back and forth between tasks all day long. Your brain takes several minutes to switch on and off like this. If your work is complicated it takes even longer. Allow yourself to be committed to one thing at a time and your production will go up.
Set your IM to busy and turn your cell phone ringer off when you need to get some work done. These are just additional distractions that will interfere with your work.
When your email chimes, ignore it and create a once per hour or twice per day email reading routine. Stay focused on what you are doing and get it done. Completely. Only then should you clean up email and make the contacts you put off while you finished your task.
After you finish thing #1, clean up your email, return your calls, and get on to thing #2.
I know what you are thinking. Your job is too important to behave this way. Really? Are you sure? Many companies establish walk-up times where employees can bother each other. What that really means is that they should leave each other alone during other times to get stuff done. Talk to your co-workers about this idea. They might be thrilled by it.
You may be thinking if only people would stop scheduling meeting for me I could try this. Well here's a thought. Many workers block time in each day known as "personal work time" or some other term to be used specifically for getting things done. This helps to deter the calendar hogs out there and leaves you with a block of time each day that you know you can focus. Give it a try to see what happens.
We've established that you are trying to do too much at once and that things that are not that important are eating up your time. Here's the way out.
- Get your urgent list in order
- Get your important list written down
- Ignore everything else
- Work on your most urgent thing first
- Avoid distractions
- Set personal work time to get things done
- Complete your one thing
- Feel the accomplishment
- Move to the next thing on your list
If you give yourself permission to do less by taking one thing at a time, your productivity will go up and you will get more done. It's really as simple as that.