Posted by Hays UAE, January 2016
Author: Alex Shteingardt, Managing Director, Hays Russia
1. Plan ahead: Such a large part of being productive comes down to being organised. Plan tasks for specific times of the day based on their difficulty. I often tackle my most challenging task of the day first. The sense of achievement I get from doing so helps to sustain my energy and productivity for the remainder of the day.
Similarly, schedule your routine tasks – those which you can do with your eyes closed – around low energy periods. I spend my low energy periods, which normally occur at around 4-4.30pm, signing papers or reading market analytics; most people experience a mid-afternoon lull at around 3pm.
I would recommend also always creating agendas for meetings, conferences and calls. This saves you and whoever else is in the meeting from veering off-piste.
2. Put pressure on yourself: A really great way to make sure you don’t slack on your schedule is to let your team members know when you plan on completing a certain task. Now it won’t just be yourself you’re letting down if you miss the deadline.
3. Look after yourself: Many workers feel increasingly under pressure to go to extraordinary lengths so as not to appear lazy. A report featured in the latest issue of the Hays Journal discovered that almost half of us have gone into work when ill in the last year. This is a phenomenon that is prevalent in lunch breaks also. Desperate not to appear idle, most of us eat lunch at our desks, whilst an alarming number don’t even venture outside the office.
Reclaiming your lunch break is vital to getting your adequate nourishment, which the World Health Organization believes leads to a 20 per cent increase in productivity.
4. Be punctual: Just as many of us feel peer pressured into relinquishing our lunch breaks, many of us are also coerced into working long into the night – to such an extent in Japan that the government has had to intervene.
It’s important that you think about the bigger picture. If you leave in good time today then you’ll feel fresher and more capable tomorrow. Being productive is about making the most of the time available to you, not working for as many hours as possible without any sort of urgency.
Be punctual with your meetings also. Don’t hold them unless necessary – I’ve known quite a few people who schedule meetings simply because they think it’s the proper thing to do – and keep them brief when you do.
5. Optimise your workspace: Your workspace has a significant impact on your overall mood and, consequently, how well you’re able to perform. We spend so much of our week at our desk that it’s foolish not to make an effort to create a warm and pleasant atmosphere for yourself during this time. Here’s a very comprehensive list of workplace tips.
6. Delegate: The most valuable tool a leader has at their disposal is delegation. Richard Branson recently remarked that, “if you want to learn as an entrepreneur, then you’ve got to learn how to delegate” – I would go one step further and say that this applies to not just entrepreneurs but all leaders.
Don’t shirk responsibility for tasks, but don’t overburden yourself either. Focus on the most important tasks to you, and defer everything else to your most competent team members; thus letting you get more done in less time. Teach your people how to hold the rod properly instead of fishing for them all the time. By spending time helping them grow in the short-term you can reap the long-term rewards of their added value and expertise.
7. Prioritise: Work on one task at a time, starting a new one only once the previous one has been completed. Juggling tasks has been scientifically proven to “decrease the performance of workers, raising the chances of low output, long duration of projects and exploding backlogs”.
The Pareto Principle (or The 80/20 Rule) observes that most things in life aren’t distributed evenly. In business terms this could mean that 80 per cent of your revenue comes from 20 per cent of your customers or that 80 per cent of your bonus depends on 20 per cent of your responsibilities. Decide which tasks are most important to you and then focus the majority of your energy on them.
8. Collaborate: Sometimes you can get so caught up in a project that you can’t see the wood for the trees. Seeking the feedback of others can help you to gain a clearer perspective on the task, both helping you to complete it in quicker time and, from soliciting their feedback, to make the task as successful as possible.
9. Change your thought process: A real mark of someone’s professional merit is how well they’re able to perform under pressure. Changing the way you think about stress can increase your productivity and overall chance of success – our CEO has some useful tips on this in his LinkedIn Influencer blog. Reinforce positive thoughts and discard of the negative. Instead of thinking “I’ve got so much work on, how am I ever going to manage?” put together a manageable plan of action, tackling each task in order of priority. A systematic approach such as this will help you to rationally assess the urgency and relevancy of each project.
10. Just do it: Last but not least, just do it! The previous nine points are of no use unless you’re determined to put in the extra effort required to maximise your productivity.
You’ll often find that once you’re in the groove and are busy getting on that it’s easier to keep working than it is to stop. “Immediate action fuels a positive feedback loop that drives even more action,” says author and leadership expert Robin Sharma.
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