Nov 262011

Increase Your Productivity

A Simple Tip To Increase Your Productivity

Would you like to increase your productivity?  It can be done pretty easily if you are able to say no and to politely ask people to go away and not disturb you.  The idea is simple:  in order to be more productive, you must have uninterrupted periods of time to work.  That’s it.

Ok, so the idea is simple, but the execution may not be so simple, particularly if you work in an office.  The idea for this post comes from a TED video I recently watched.  It was a talk given by Jason Fried of 37 Signals, entitled “Why Work Doesn’t Happen At Work”.  He made some great points about the inherent evils of meetings and of bosses who interrupt you at inopportune moments, to make sure you are being productive.  It’s ironic, isn’t it?

One point that Jason made that really resonated with me is that work is like sleep, in that there are phases, and that once you are “awoken” from a particular phase, you have to start all over again.  Regardless of the scientific accuracy of this analogy (who cares), it really resonated with me.  All of us have been woken up from a deep, high quality, restful sleep, only to not be able to get back to sleep afterwards.  We then wake up miserable the next day, feeling unrested and cursing the noise or whatever else may have woken us up.

Isn’t work the same way?  We go through phases of productivity in our work, particularly if we’re doing work that requires significant thought and focus.  We start out slowly, getting in the right frame of mind, getting all the facts straight, creating a space in our mind that has the right context for productive thought, then we start making some progress.  What happens if the phone rings at that moment, or someone walks in and interrupts us?  Can we simply start up where we left off?  Not usually!

So what does this imply about how we should manage our workspace and our work time?  In my case, I try to get all work that requires deeper thought done early in the morning, when I’m fresh and no one else is even awake to disrupt my train of thought.  For others, they are better able to focus late at night.  You probably know which is best for you.

Another implication of this “work phases” line of thinking is that even during the work day, when there are lots of potential distractions, we should be diligent, some would even say ruthless, about keeping those distractions to a minimum.  This is particularly true if we can’t push all “deep thought” work to when others are sleeping.  We don’t want to be rude, of course, but depending on the demands of your business at particular times, you may need to be a bit tough about protecting your time.  The alternative is to allow your productivity to be undermined by unnecessary interruptions.

Finally, I’d encourage you to test what works best for you.  I have spent my whole adult life working on this issue, so I’ve found some ways that really work for me.  I encourage you to do the same.  A couple of suggestions:  music, particularly classical music that doesn’t require you to listen to the words, and earplugs.  Also, turn off the phone, Facebook, texting, email, Twitter and various other potential distractions during those times when you want to be at peak mental productivity.  Those activities are fine during downtime and other times when you don’t have to have your brain focused and operating at peak productivity, but they are a detriment otherwise.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.  I’d love to hear any other tips you may have to increase your productivity.

Paul Morin

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  • Wendy Cassera

    Smiles – what a great reminder that we occasionally need to turn off all the electronic gadgets including the phone and get some things done. I think sometimes we lose sight of the fact that we are doing all this social media to develop relationships, but also to develop clients, and if we don’t get the work done that they ask then what is the point of it all?!!

    Thank you again for some great information!!

  • Sherrie Koretke

    Hi Paul,
    I agree so much. Even when I work at home by myself there are many distractions. House cleaning, pets, hunger . . . I could go on. 🙂 Anyway, the moments where I can work for an hour or two with little distraction are priceless and I treasure them. My productivity goes up drastically.

  • jaegar

    The productivity formula is just a fraction, with the output on top, and the input on the bottom. For example, if a company puts out 100 million dollars worth of products in one year, and spends 90 million dollars doing it, then that company will have a +potential profit from good productivity (the top number of the fraction is higher than the bottom). The law of diminishing returns is different. The point of that law is that if a company increases one type of input (expense of producing its products) without increasing all types of input across the board, then the overall return will not increase proportionally. That is, you can’t become more profitable just by increasing one type of input expense. For example, if a company has an output of 100 million dollars worth of products, and an input of 90 million dollars worth of expenses to produce that output, that same company might decide to increase all types of input (such as labor and materials) by the same proportional amount, until the input reaches 180 million dollars.

  • KateW81

    This post is very beneficial for me, it’s really important for every person to be productive in every thing that he is doing. Thanks for the motivation.

  • Grady Pruitt

    When you are working from home and have a child in the house, that can be easier said than done. However, there is a lot of truth to that statement. I try to reduce my options as must as I can. I guess that’s one reason why a lot of my best work gets done late at night after everyone else has gone to sleep.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Very true, Grady. Distractions can come in many shapes and sizes. The key is somehow finding those uninterrupted stretches, when you’re able to keep your train of thought.

  • Great point, Wendy. At the end of the day, you have to get the work done! Find uninterrupted stretches of time is key, for all tasks, but in particular if you have to get something creative done.

  • Sounds like we’re very much on the same page. Thanks, Sherrie!

  • Knikkolette

    For me, I find that I can get much more work completed if I’m held accountable to someone. If I set a goal and tell someone (a client), or if someone else sets a goal for me. If I have a list and check it off – that’s also good, but that can sometimes just be busy work. If I start the day and start working with none of these in play… well I find I’m very busy, but at the end of the day I didn’t get much accomplished.

  • Truer words were never spoken! Productivity is usually a choice. If you allow distractions and interruptions in, it typically takes much longer to complete any given task! Like you, I am most productive in the morning, and I find that I get the most done if I write a blog post or work on my book before opening email or social media.

  • CarmelaJones

    I think the best thing to do about this is take your time management, Finish your assignment and trying to find the solution for it…

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