Who doesn’t want to be more productive? Yet, when we talk about being productive, we often think about working harder or spending more hours in the office. This can also mean sleeping less, exerting additional energy and filling your calendar with seemingly endless checklists of things to do.
But have you also heard that it’s not about working hard but about working smart?
Ironically, many of the ways you can really be productive require you to do less of the things you have been accustomed to. Here are 7 of them:
Just because you’re working longer doesn’t mean you’re more productive. In fact, working for longer than 40 hours can produce just the opposite.
This is why the 40-hour work week was implemented by many companies. In 1926, Henry Ford, American industrialist and founder of Ford Motor Company, conducted experiments with interesting results: when you decrease your working hours from 10 to 8, and shorten the work week from 6 days to 5, your overall productivity actually increases.
Replace work with rest and “me” time
Instead of working overtime, use the extra time beyond 40 hours to give your body rest. An article from Alternet referenced research that showed US military personnel who lose one hour of sleep per night for a week can already suffer from cognitive impairment similar to someone with a .10 alcohol level in their bloodstream.
And when not resting, at least find some quiet time to be alone. Solitude can benefit both mind and spirit. As one Harvard study found, we form more lasting and accurate memories if we believe we’re experiencing something alone.
Learn to say no. Stop saying “yes” to tasks that offer minimal or no results. As per the Pareto principle, 20% of the results you produce already come from 80% of your effort. Conversely, you should focus primarily on those efforts that produce 80% of the results and forgo the rest.
Less task overloading
Delegate appropriately. Time is your most valuable asset so if you can enlist someone responsible to save time, do it. Instead of wasting time trying to figure out something all by yourself, leave it to the hands of the experts. This will give you more time to focus on the most important things.
Likewise, learn to accept help, lest you burn out from doing everything on your own.
For instance, if you’re a marketer or a trainer and have an upcoming presentation to deliver but aren’t really savvy in the design or art department, stop wasting hours trying to perfect your presentation design or brand logo. Hire someone else to do this for you so you can start focusing on what you do best: boosting content and marketing strategy. This is part of what our team in 24slides hopes to unload from your daily tasks.
Less manual tasks
Stop doing repetitive tasks and start automating whenever you can.
In one research, a team who spent 20%, 25%, 30% and 70% of their time on repetitive tasks respectively reduced this time to 10%, 15%, 15% and 10% after 2 months of automation.
Ask yourself from time to time: “Which tasks do I consistently or repeatedly do wherein I can find or buy a program to do instead?”
In this age of digital and electronic technology where instant access and information is possible, there’s also the demand to produce speedy and voluminous results and hence, the temptation to multi-task. Plus, studies show that when we multi-task, we often experience a thrill and adrenaline that makes us feel we’re doing so much more.
You may be doing a lot but are you being productive? When you do many things simultaneously, this makes it harder for your mind to focus. Result? You finish less in the same amount of time it would have taken you if you were focused on one thing at a given time. The quality of your output also suffers as a result of this fragmented attention.
Allow room for mistakes. As a University Affairs Magazine reports, there is a strong correlation between the increased need to be perfect and decreased productivity.
Here’s why being a perfectionist can hamper your efforts to be productive:
- Trying to always perfect something means spending more time than required on a task.
- Waiting for the perfect timing can simply cause you to procrastinate. In business, if it’s the perfect moment, you’re already too late.
- In your desire for everything to be perfect, you fuss over the small details and miss the bigger picture.
To be truly productive, you have to realize that productivity doesn’t necessarily equate to being busy all the time. Remember, time is a limited resource you have and can’t take back. So more than just focusing on how you manage your time to be productive, focus on how you can manage your energy to do more.
What other activities should you cut down to do more? Let us know through your comments below.