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Productivity Tips at the Office

Posted in Business Advice on December 11, 2014

Is this you? You look ahead to your day and decide on five things that you know must be done and so you decide to get them done.

The day ends and you look at the list of your five must-dos and you see just one – one! – scratched off, accomplished.

But at the start of the day you knew all five were doable. So what happened?

Multi-tasking. So called “emergencies,” Distractions. That’s what happened.

Read below for some tips on how to tame your productivity killers.

•    You may think that doing two or even three things at once is efficient, but you’re wrong. Multi-tasking is a myth: the human brain simply cannot do two things at once. Understand this: you cannot do two things at once. So don’t even try. (Researchers have found that those people who say they’re great at multitasking — as in very productive and efficient – actually perform poorly when they work to switch quickly between different tasks.) You actually will be more productive if you do one thing at a time.

•    Create an early deadline. Remember how it is when you have all day to do something? It takes you all day to do it. If you have just an hour to do something; it tends to get done. So if you do have all day to complete a task, make a deadline of half a day, or two hours, or however long the task should truly take.

•    To help you focus on one thing only (no multitasking) and get something done in a short period of time, try something that is known as the Pomodoro technique. This is where you focus on one task for 25 minutes. You do absolutely nothing else. No phone calls, no checking e-mail, no chatting with a co-worker. Then you take a five-minute break (surf the Web, make a call, go to the restroom). This works because researchers have found that 25 minutes is pretty much how long humans can focus before our attention starts to veer. In order for this to work, you must push through your desire to take a short break within the 25 minutes. Instead, you must push through. Remember: nothing but the task before you for 25 minutes.

•    See if you can limit the amount of time you check e-mail. Check e-mail in the morning and afternoon. Turn the program off for the rest of the day. In fact, don’t check e-mail first thing in the morning. Work for an hour or two and then check e-mail.

•    Do the hardest or most unpleasant thing first. Get that monster out of the way. Or do the most important/critical thing. You’ll feel as if you truly accomplished something of value (because you have). And, if nothing else productive occurs during the day, you will at least have completed one necessary task.

•    Focus on the urgent and important and learn to spot the non-urgent and unimportant. Do the urgent and important tasks first (make sure the report your boss wants by 10 a.m. is done by 10 a.m.,) and then start on the important but not urgent. These types of tasks are those affiliated with your goals. Ask yourself “does this task move me toward my goal?” By the way, tasks that are neither urgent nor important (checking e-mail every half hour, for example), should be discarded.