By Sharon F. Danzger
If you're like me, you are always searching for ways to improve work performance and find more time. You have a ton of work. Your task list keeps growing. You're drowning in emails. Yet, the number of hours in a day remains unchanged.
These 3 simple and powerful productivity hacks will offer some guidance for getting more quality work done in less time.
I am sure this is not the first place you've read it, but it bears repeating. You need to stop constantly checking your email. According to a recent article on TIME.com, Americans check their phones 46 times a day, on average. If you assume 8 hours of sleep, that's about 3 times an hour. Most people I know check their email far more often than that. It's amazing we get any work done at all!
Turning off email notifications (computer, tablet and phone) is a great place to start. When notifications are on, every visible box that floats on your screen, or ping that indicates a new inbox item, is a distraction.
Researchers in England found that this small distraction (even if you do not go check your email when notified) has the effect on your brain as if you have been awake for 36 hours or as if your IQ is 10 points lower.
HACK #1: TURN OFF EMAIL NOTIFICATIONS
Up until recently, multi-tasking was considered an enviable skill. Science tells us that, at best, 2% of the population is actually capable of doing two activities at the same time. What we refer to as multi-tasking, is more often switch tasking where you are rapidly shifting between tasks. You believe that the switching is seamless but it can actually take as long as 20 minutes to refocus on the original task.
When you switch task (think writing an email, answering the phone and then completing the email) both tasks take longer to complete, have more errors, and you experience greater stress levels. While you don't always have the luxury of working on a single task at a time, when you have an important project that requires significant concentration, you should uni-task, focusing on only one thing.
By scheduling to work on difficult tasks earlier or later in the day, you will have fewer interruptions and produce better quality work in less time.
HACK #2: DON'T MULTI-TASK
Before you leave work, spend the last 10 minutes of your day planning for tomorrow. Review your task list, prioritize what needs to get done, and schedule the time in your calendar to complete your most important tasks. Actually make an appointment with yourself to do your most important work. Be sure to keep in mind the parts of the day where your concentration is best and there are likely to be fewer interruptions. For many people this is first thing in the morning, shortly after they arrive at the office. For those who operate in global work environments, your optimal work zone might be after the close of business in Europe.
Being mindful to schedule your hardest tasks for your window of peak performance will enable you to get more quality work done in less time. Sometimes, having planned your day the night before, you can arrive at work only to find that everything has changed. You must allow yourself the flexibility to adjust and accommodate tasks and projects that might be more urgent and more important than what you had originally planned.
Regardless, when you have a plan in place the night before, you will certainly sleep better.
HACK #3: MAKE A PLAN AT THE END OF EACH DAY
These 3 productivity hacks will help you gain greater control of your time, produce better quality work, and improve your overall performance.