Personal Guide to Peak Productivity
Why Peak Productivity Matters
Productivity is embedded in the business vernacular, associated with optimum work output to maximize profitability. Truly being productive means using your time effectively to get the most critical work done.
“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.”
– Franz Kafka
Personal productivity engenders a sense of accomplishment, control, and empowerment. When we function at peak performance, hitting milestones and completing deliverables, the rewards are both intrinsic and extrinsic.
Here are five productivity behaviors that you should master:
1. Set the stage.
Create a work environment conducive to peak performance. If you are working from home, carve out a dedicated space so that your mind automatically shifts into productivity mode when you cross the threshold into that area. Keep the area unfettered from clutter, entertainment devices, and other distractions.
2. Get the most critical activities done first.
The following is a process to reduce stress and complete the most important work.
• Create a to-do list using whatever tool you are comfortable with, such as Outlook Tasks, Microsoft To-Do, OneNote, or even a planner notebook in hard copy.
• Over the course of the day, add tasks you need to accomplish, assigning a date and priority ranking, and remove items no longer relevant.
• At the end of the day, review your list and select two or three priorities for tomorrow. Reschedule tasks that aren’t as important or appropriate.
• First thing the next day, review your list again. Make adjustments to accommodate rush requests, competing priorities, and new events.
3. Avoid multitasking.
Rather than allowing emails, social media, and personal business to disrupt your day, schedule two or three breaks to address these items. Some people block off time to read business emails as well. Knowing that time has been set aside to attend to some issues should reduce anxiety and keep you focused. Worry is a distraction that erodes productivity.
4. Take care of yourself.
When you’re working on multiple projects and people depend on you, it’s hard to pull yourself away. Working straight through the day is counterproductive, though, and the stress will ultimately impact your overall health.
Block out lunch in your calendar so people cannot schedule meetings with you during that time. Getting away from your desk is necessary to clear your head and re-energize. Eat healthy meals, listen to music, stretch, take a walk, meditate, have a cup of tea, or close your eyes for 15 minutes. Whatever your preference is, guard this time for yourself.
5. Remember Parkinson’s Law.
In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parkinson said that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This is known as Parkinson’s Law, often referenced during discussions about low productivity. Although the statement had been a commentary on government bureaucracy, it has application for many of us.
In the absence of a tight deadline, there’s a tendency to work at a slower pace until a whole day is occupied on activities that could have been wrapped up in a fraction of the time. To avoid this, try the Pomodoro Technique. With this approach, you would set a timer for working on a task, incorporating time for breaks. This is essentially self-imposed urgency to improve your focus on the task at hand.
Leverage the principles of Workplace Culture and Neuroscience
Georgetown University defines neuroscience as “the study of how the nervous system develops, its structure and what it does.” Neuroscientists observe the brain and its effect on behavior and cognition. We can leverage learnings from neuroscience to understand how to improve productivity. According to a research article in Scientific American, productivity increases when people take physical and mental breaks from work. These breaks restore attention, strengthen memory, and promote creativity.
The challenge is the American workplace culture. There are no federal U.S. laws that guarantee paid time off, sick time, or vacation. Even worse, many Americans choose not to take advantage of the vacation benefits they have. Use these benefits, and resist checking work emails until you return.
Busy Is Not the Same as Productive
Sometimes, we confuse being busy with being productive. Think about the times when you worked all day and came home exhausted, yet you felt like you hadn’t accomplished anything. It’s frustrating.
“Focus on being productive instead of busy.”
– Tim Ferriss
I hope this productivity guide inspires ideas on how to be more productive. What steps will you take to increase your productivity? Reach out to the Leonard Productivity Intelligence Institute to learn more.