With staffing and budgets being slashed, only the top producers have real job security.
Efficient, highly productive people will always be in demand because they’re rare and extremely valuable. They make more sales, get more promotions, and are given more responsibility than their peers.
In this article, I’d like to share with you three simple but powerful ways for you to maximize your productivity.
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This point is so important it can’t be over-emphasized. The #1 killer of productivity is distractions, and it’s much more insidious than many people realize.
A study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University had participants perform a sequence-based task on a computer. 3-second interruptions doubled the error rate of the task, and 4.5-second interruptions tripled the errors.
In this study, researchers gave 300 middle school, high school, and university students something important to study for 15 minutes, and observed them. Unsurprisingly, most of the distractions came from various phone notifications, and the students that got distracted performed poorer than those that didn’t.
What’s a little surprising, however, is that just one distraction was enough to negatively impact their ability to study. If they checked Facebook just once during the 15-minute study period they were worse students. It’s also interesting to note that researchers found the worst students consumed the most media every day and had a preference for multitasking (more on that in a minute).
According to research conducted at Microsoft, on average it takes people about 25 minutes to return to a task after being distracted, if they return at all. That would help describe these findings that distractions waste just over 2 hours of workers’ time every day.
What kind of distractions are we talking about?
How many times have you been working on a project while thinking about the fight you had with your partner, flipping back and forth between your work, your e-mail, the web, instant messages, text messages, phone calls, etc. Hours go by and you look at your work and not much has gotten done, right?
In order to maintain high productivity, you HAVE to “get in the zone.” This is where you’re so focused on what you’re doing that nothing else exists but the work in front of you. You need 100% of your attention on that activity.
When you allow yourself to be constantly distracted, you will NEVER get in the zone and your productivity will suffer severely.
So here are a couple tips and action items to start eliminating distractions right away:
Schedule times to check your e-mail.
Many people start with e-mail first thing in the morning and leave it open all day, hopping over as soon as a message hits their inbox. This is extremely distracting.
Instead, it’s much better to schedule times to handle chunks of e-mail at a time (do it in “batches”).
For instance, I check my email once at 12 PM and answer emails for about 1.5 hours, and I scan it at 5 PM for any pressing matters, and that’s it. Otherwise my inbox is closed and completely off limits.
Close all Web browsers (unless you need to use the Web for your work, in which case you close all other unnecessary browsers), put your cell phone on vibrate, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign up on your door, log off any instant messaging services and turn off the television.
Be the antisocial guy or gal at the office and you’ll get a lot more done. Schedule in breaks to check messages, browse the Web for a few minutes, etc., but don’t do these things randomly.
Many people pride themselves on being able to efficiently perform multiple tasks at once or switch back and forth between tasks.
While it would be nice, the research is abundantly clear: multitasking is counter-productive. Studies show that it reduces mental sharpness and wastes time, and I think we’ve all noticed that it can also increase stress levels and make us feel mentally dispersed and “on edge.”
Here is one of the simplest, most powerful productivity principles I know: Do what you’re doing while you’re doing it, and do nothing else.
Don’t try to do 5 things at once. Work on one project at a time.
A real insidious productivity killer is low energy levels, both mental and physical, which are often a result of too eating too little food, eating too much junk food, sleeping too little, and not exercising the body.
This has a HUGE effect on your mental processes and in turn, your productivity. When your mind is tired, foggy and slow, your productivity suffers, and a slow thought process can eat up a lot more time than you would believe.
The easiest way to fix this is to ensure you get enough sleep, eat plenty of nutritious food, and get some exercise every day. These things may seem unrelated to productivity, but they are absolutely crucial to be maximally productive and have it feel effortless.
Commit to using these strategies for ONE MONTH and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much more productive you’ve become. And remember that in the beginning, it’s going to feel weird and uncomfortable. That’s just part of the process of breaking and replacing habits–it always feels weird at first, even if the habits being ditched are terrible.