According to this Inc. article from 2016, an average worker is only productive for about 3 hours out of the 8 hour work day. THREE HOURS!!
Despite the amount of time we spend trying to be more productive, we should focus instead on being efficient and effective. We’ve heard the typical tips for productivity time and time again: delegate, prioritize, get sleep, etc. That’s why, in this Thrive in Five, we’re focusing on the nontraditional tips to help you complete your work in the smartest way, not the hardest one.
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Nontraditional Tips for Being Effective
Our goal in this Thrive, besides to make you more effective, is to blow your mind, so why not start off with a bang?
Tip 1: Procrastinate
That’s right. We said it! Think about it… You have a week to complete a task. How long does it take you to do it? Now think about how long it takes you to complete a task that’s due in less than a day. Way less time, right? This ideology is called Parkinson’s Law: tasks expand to the time allotted. Now, does this mean you should always wait until the last minute to do something? No, but you should give yourself shorter deadlines or a specific amount of time to work on something. It will provide a sense of urgency and light a fire under your butt, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can crank out work!
Tip 2: Go Home When You’re Behind
Research has shown time and time again that your capacity to be productive ends at 55 hours a week. Working that extra 5 hours when you’re behind will make you no more productive. Go home, rest up, and come back ready to re-engage instead of trying to catch up all in one day.
Tip 3: Expand Your Definition of “Work”
A lot of people define “work” as what they do to make a living, but if you’re spending time and energy on other things outside of your “day job,” that’s work, too! For example, if you work 50 hours a week and then coach your kid’s soccer team for 5 hours a week and then spend 6 hours at the gym every week, you’re “working” 61 hours a week! You need to make sure you account for all the other activities you’re dedicating energy to outside of your “day job” to make sure you’re not setting yourself up to burn out.
Tip 4: Don’t Multitask
Ok, ok… so if you read these Thrives regularly, this is an old tip, but it’s an important one! Our brains are not designed to switch quickly from task to task or to do more than one thing at one time. The rule of thumb is to work on one thing for at least 20 minutes before switching to the next task. That includes taking a quick phone call, checking an email that just came in, grabbing a snack, or taking a bathroom break. If you decide to work on something, do that something until you’re either done or have worked on it for 20 minutes.
Tip 5: Know Yourself and Commit!
This one might seem obvious, but if you know little tips to make you more motivated, commit to them! For example, if you know working in public makes you more motivate because you like the idea of others seeing you as a hard worker, then go work in a coffee shop! If you know you need familiarity and structure to work, then have a dedicated home office to work or make yourself go into the office. If a change of scenery sparks focus and motivation for you, move your work to a different desk or different location altogether. Need quiet? Book a conference room by yourself and close the door. Work better with collaboration? Ask someone to bounce ideas around with you. Work better when you write versus type? Find a pad of paper or a whiteboard. We think you get the idea!
Apply the Five!
Luckily for us, MindTools has a plethora of self-assessments, one of which is about productivity! The areas they focus on are not exactly aligned with the tips we list above, but this self-assessment will give you a good baseline measurement of how productive you are and where you can improve.
Once you take the assessment, develop a game plan working on one area of improvement at a time. We might sound like a broken record, but change is a process and improving one thing at a time will help you reach your end goal of “working smarter” faster!
Learn How Evans Thrives!
What better way to inspire you to thrive than to hear about real people making it happen? And what better way to learn about Evans than to make those real people Evans employees and partners?
Meet Margit Jochmann!
In hindsight, this is something I should have focused long ago, but it was not until our family expanded that it finally clicked.The challenge: I love what I do, so pairing that with my tendency to perfect things often led to long hours in the past. With that also came never ending to do lists. I didn’t really mind, as the extra time spent was on activities that I enjoy, but, that’s not a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
With a little one in the picture, there are naturally boundaries as to how much time is available, and thus came the quest to transform myself to work smarter, not harder. Ultimately, I also want to be good role model for our little one, so I wanted to figure this out.
To maintain my wellness and focus, I practice the following:
- Prioritizing: I keep my to do lists for the day lean and mean by focusing on the 3 to 5 most urgent, important, and challenging tasks for that day. I also try to make sure that one of those tasks is tied to a long-term goal to ensure that the day’s activities have a good mix of my various responsibilities.
- Reducing distractions: When I need to focus on a task, I turn off all notifications for a while. Using the “working offline” function in Outlook can also be great stress relief.
- Resting the mind: I prioritize breaks to refresh my mind and focus. Staying seated in front of my laptop for hours is just not a good approach.
- Letting go: I try to accept the 80/20 principle and that 100% is not always what is needed – I have to recognize when to let perfectionism go. I also try to remind myself that I don’t have to do it all. Granted, having a fabulous team to work with also makes this much easier!
- Focus on me: “Me time” has become very important to recharge. Whether I’m going for a run, enjoying the sun, or relaxing with a glass of wine (soon again!), I carve out time and make it a priority. The sense of renewal promotes my personal wellness, allowing my whole self to thrive and be more present.
These tips have helped me to accomplish more, and I also feel much better about it. It’s definitely a journey, though, and I’m sure it will take continued practice to stay at it!
Until Next Time…
Evans’ Talent Engagement Team
(Kaitlin Hurley and Nicole Anderson)
(This image was adapted from a commonly shared internet image.)