Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
WORKPLACE / AUG. 10, 2016
version 7, draft 7

How to Easily Boost Your Productivity

Handsome young man in formalwear looking at his watch

Time is money and it is generally assumed that the better you use your time the more money you will be able to make. How can you be productive though?

Money, however, little we possess, is a renewable resource, what is not a renewable resource is time. It passes by no matter what actions we take, the only thing we can do is use it as effectively as possible. How can you be productive though? Are there things that you routinely do that hurt your productivity and in turn squander precious time?

Don’t worry; there are certain measures you can take that will optimise your routine and get the most out of every single minute of your day. Here’s how to easily boost your productivity.

Counting The Minutes

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This may seem over the top, but people in the upper ninety-five percentile do not schedule their days, hours at a time. Instead, they organise their schedules down to the minute. Scheduling every minute of your day can be the most effective way to maximise your time. Shaving one measly minute off of thirty tasks throughout the day will give you an extra thirty minutes a day to invest in something that will progress your career, better your workflow or dedicate to a task you find important.

If you find it challenging to schedule every single minute of the day, start with every fifteen minutes or if you have to every half an hour. Always remember the point is to maximise your time, so if you believe a 7 minute meeting can be condensed into 5 minutes do so, those are two extra minutes you’ll have saved for yourself.

No To-Do

This is an interesting entry since most people assume that organised and highly productive individuals often have very strict to-do lists they adhere to. The paradoxical reality is that to-do lists can actually hurt productivity because almost half of the items on your to-do list won’t get done - up to 41%. This can lead to the Zeigarnik Effect, which are those annoying gnawing thoughts one has when things are left unfinished.

Another dangerous pitfall of using a to-do list is over-stretching yourself, adding too many items to the list and not being able to complete them. This can create even more feelings of dread and anxiety. None the less it seems that to-do lists are the go-to option for working individuals, 63% or professionals still use them according to the Wall Street Journal. The same article says that although the majority of professionals use to-do list only 11% report actually finishing their lists in a day.

Take Time Off

Maybe even more counter-intuitive than not using a to-do list, not working is another great way to increase productivity. Spending time with friends and family may seem unrelated to work, but there might be a cognitive connection. Numerous studies have shown a connection between socialisation and a boost in cognition. The boost was noticed in what are called cognitive functions, a set of mental abilities that include functional memory, monitoring/filtering (in a linguistic sense) and focus (or a restriction of external and internal inputs, i.e. distractions). All of these abilities or cognitive functions, according to social scientists, are crucial for problem solving and interpersonal communication.

A lack of effective interpersonal communication can have an effect on morale which in turn has a huge effect on productivity. Although the most productive people in the world know that work is important, they also realise that sustaining a healthy work/life balance is something that can help you stay in peak cognitive condition and further facilitate efficient workflow.

Never Trust Your Future Self

We frequently dump our responsibilities onto our future self, even though we are fully aware that our future self is neither reliable nor punctual. Instead of putting something off and then being surprised or frustrated it wasn’t completed, try anticipating what your future self would do. For example, if you are currently working on something that is exciting and stimulating but you predict a bottleneck of mundane tasks, try to finish them when they come up.


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I’m not referring to the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology but the “Most Important Thing”. Generally, extremely productive people concentrate on the most important items first, this also has to do with the Pareto Principle, but we’ll touch on that later. The idea is that you should dedicate the majority of your time (ideally it all of it) to things that will help you progress your career, your personal or professional goals.

The earlier you start the better because your mental faculties tend to diminish as the day progresses. Most individuals will be at their cognitive peak during the first two hours of the workday, so if you are going to do anything during your most productive hours, it should probably be something that can help you advance your business or career.

Keep Notes

You might’ve thought that your note-taking days had come to a close when you graduated University, but the reality is the most productive and successful people always carry a notebook with them. Even Sheryl Sandberg, COO of one of the most tech-centric companies in the world; Facebook, is seldom seen without a spiral notebook in her hand. Aristotelis Onasis, yes the shipping tycoon, said that the one thing that they will not teach you in business school but is a million dollar lesson is always to carry a notebook with you and always take notes. Other high achievers amongst the notebook carrying elite include Richard Branson, who recommends you ceaselessly take notes and always carry a notebook. Do I have to say anything else for you to see the value of carrying a notebook?

Distracting Emails

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Emails and internal messaging systems can be invaluable communication tools; they can also be a huge time suck. Most people that use their time effectively avoid dropping everything to respond to every email and message that pops up on their phone. According to researchers after being distracted it takes people an average of 25 minutes to refocus themselves on the task they were working on before the distraction.

Other researchers found that rapidly changing mental tasks uses extraordinary amounts of glucose, the more tasks you switch between, the more glucose you extend and the less energy you will have to work on other tasks. Finally rapidly changing between cognitive tasks in combination with glucose depletion can result in bad decision making, inhibited problem solving and ineffective communication.

Pareto Principle

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Although I’ve spoken about this before, it is pertinent to the conversation at hand. The Pareto Principle is born out of a noticeable pattern of economics in which 80% of company’s revenue is a result of only 20% of their clients (and inversely 20% of profits a result of 80% of their customer base), and it is applicable to time management. 80% of your results are created by 20% of your time and inversely 80% of your time is dedicated to things that only give you 20% of your results. Taking this principle as a baseline, theoretically, if you were to cut out tasks that only create 20% of your work, then you could regain 80% of your time.

Do you have any other recommendations or have any additional things you would like to add? let us know in the comment section below...

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