I don’t know about you guys, but I am always looking for ways to get more done in less time. To this end, I have become a student of productivity methods and theories for a while now. Let’s start first by defining what productivity is and is not. Contrary to popular belief, productivity is not the amount of time you spend producing. Productivity is the end result or “product” which you produce; in other words, it’s what you produce not how you produce it. How many times have you worked an entire day only to get to the end and realize you haven’t actually produced or accomplished anything?
The first step in becoming a more productive person is a shift in mindset away from the old equation:
Time + effort = productivity
And toward an equation more like this:
Amount produced = productivity
If you are anything like me, this is equation is both a relief and oddly unsettling. It takes a while to adjust! I’ve been operating under this new mindset for a few months now and I’ve already seen it’s benefits. Integrating this new way of thinking along with the four hacks I’m about to share with you has made me a much calmer more focused person. I no longer worry that something may fall through the cracks.
Parkinson’s law states that work will expand to fill the time available for its completion. What this essentially means is we will take however much time we give ourselves to complete a task. If we give ourselves a week to complete an item that can be done in a morning, it will take the entire week to complete the item. When I sit down at the computer every morning and review my to-do list in Trello (more on this in a minute), I always slot a certain amount of time for each task. I’ve found that giving myself a strict deadline leads to more focus and getting more done in less time.
The key to making this hack truly effective is to eliminate as many distractions as possible. Closeout your email and put your cell phone in your desk drawer. I’ve even heard of fellow Executive Assistants creating and posting a sign requesting that colleagues and coworkers not interrupt them.
What is batching? Batching is when you “batch” or group similar tasks together. This method helps our brains transition easily from one task to the next because our brains love familiarity and repetition. My groupings consist of calendaring items, organizing items, and bookkeeping items to name a few. The best part about working this way is that I feel genuinely calmer and less “all over the place”. I also find I spend less time logging in and out of different programs.
Here are a few examples of my batching categories
Errands (I group my personal errands and work errands together)
Of the three hacks I mention here, this is my favorite due to the surprising calming effect it has on my brain.
In my research, I’ve learned that the human brain can only focus anywhere between 20 and 45 minutes before it seeks a break. I schedule my day, setting time restraints (hack #1) and planning my batches (hack #2) to only be 45 minutes long with the understanding that I will be less productive after this time frame. Once the time is up for any project or batch I take an intentional break and step away from my desk and computer screen. I realize it may be tempting to spend your break on Facebook or checking your Instagram feed but I would caution against it. Our eyes and body need breaks too! My favorite break spot is up on the roof of our office building, especially during the warm months. Getting a bit of sun and giving my body and mind a break, leaves me ready for the next batch of tasks.
Now it’s time to hear from you! What are some productivity methods you’ve found helpful? Please leave a comment below the hop on over to the Whole Assistant Facebook Group and join the conversation.
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