Everyone is looking for ways to boost productivity and make the most of their time. The New York Times even reported that some young workers are abusing stimulants normally used to treat A.D.H.D. Before you resort to popping pills, try these four steps to plug productivity leaks.
Do a brain dump – We cannot keep nearly as much information in the forefront of our minds as we think we can. That's how we get overwhelmed, distracted, and forget things. Once a day, make sure you do a brain dump. Get everything out of your head and on to a piece of paper or into a document. Write things down as you think of them, and devote five or 10 minutes a day to getting it out of your head and onto paper.
Manage interruptions – It is estimated that each interruption wastes between 10 to 15 minutes, including time to re-engage in the task we were doing before we were interrupted. Turn off technology distractions for times when you need to focus, and train family friends and co-workers that is not OK to interrupt you during these times. Tell people that if they need something, unless it is an emergency, you can help them before or after the time you've carved out to be uninterrupted. She also explains how to track interruptions so you can limit them.
Eat your frog – Make a habit of the strategy first suggested by Mark Twain and promoted by Brian Tracy: “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, nothing else will seem that bad for the rest of the day.” Determine your most distasteful task of the day and get it done first: If you can't eat the whole frog, set a timer for 30 minutes and eat a frog leg. Do as much as you can in 30 minutes and feel good about getting some of it done.
Take control of technology rather than letting it take control of you – I don't know why, but the “You've Got Mail” notification is like crack. As soon as we see it, we have to check. Why? If something is that urgent, email is not the best way to communicate. Turn off your email reminder. If you can, dedicate a couple of times a day to check email and return voicemails.
Remember, you train people how to treat you. It doesn't mean you're not responsive. It means you have the ability to redefine what responsiveness looks like.
Anne Grady is an author, corporate leadership expert, and expert in personal and organizational transformation. She shares lessons she has learned in her new book, 52 Strategies for Life, Love and Work. For more information, visit www.AnneGradyGroup.com