I am always looking at ways to increase my productivity. I realised several years ago some of the things I would say to myself were making me less productive rather than more productive. Here is my list of six things I no longer say or think.
1) "I will just quickly check my emails"
No you won’t – it is impossible. Each email needs you to open it, read it and respond to it – even if it is only to delete it. At best, an email will distract you for a few moments, but at worst it is divert your focus and attention for 10, 20 or even 30 minutes!
Rather than 'quickly' checking emails, block out some time during your day, maybe once or twice, to look at and process a collection of emails. DO NOT let emails manage you, instead manage your emails.
2) "If I work through lunch I will be able to leave work early"
No you won’t – you will just end up having a late lunch or worse still, no lunch. Our bodies and mind need fuel for productivity. If you are hungry, it is your body’s way of letting you know it needs re-fuelling, so take a break.
3) "I will get into work early and go home early today"
You might think this is the case, but I have got some bad news for you – the chances are you will NOT leave early. Experience tells me that establishing and keeping to a set routine works best. If you start coming in early and never leave early that will become your new routine which now involves longer hours. Protect your start and finish times and improve your productivity.
4) "That’s great, I’ll catch up with you on that later"
More bad news I'm afraid. Most people do not ‘catch up later’ and even if they do, they waste time recalling and reviewing what it was they agreed to catch up on. A word that springs to mind when I hear the words, "catch up later" is PROCRASTINATION.
When most people say "catch up later", they mean they want to procrastinate (i.e. put off something they do not want to do). My advice is to finish the discussion and make the decision NOW and NOT later.
5) "My door is always open"
Be aware that if you have a door is always open policy. People will gladly come through it to talk to you – unfortunately more often than not it will be for the wrong reasons. They will chat to you, steal your time and/or even worse try to leave you with one of their problems for you to work on.
If you try to use your boss’s open door policy, it is unlikely that you will be welcomed and leave with your issued resolved. Why? Because your boss is busy and did not really mean for people to come through the ‘open door’.
My advice is close the open door and book specific times and meetings with people making sure you never conclude a meeting with the words, "That’s great. I’ll catch up with you on that later".
6) "Not sure what to do with this, so I'll put it on my miscellaneous pile"
Miscellaneous work gets bigger and bigger, rarely gets done and often cannot be found if and when it is needed. My strategy with almost everything is to use the TRAF system.
The TRAF System
Taking everything into account, do I TOSS it (i.e. throw it away) REFER it to someone else to take care of it; ACTION it right now or book it into a fixed time in my schedule to action it; or FILE it in a specific place where it is supposed to be.
For me, if you want to improve your productivity, the bottom-line is DO IT NOW and if you cannot do it now, schedule exactly when to do it.