Recently I have set a few productivity goals for myself. I know these work because I have gone long stints being totally dedicated to them with huge results. I’m jumping back on the wagon and figured I’d share them with my Type A brethren.
1. Check and respond to email twice a day. The first time being after 11AM.
This is the most important productivity step for any obsessive compulsive because we constantly check email and respond within minutes. When I’m not strictly following this guideline, my average response time to emails is less than 10 minutes. This probably impresses the people I work for and people who work for me, but the productivity losses are huge. Leaving your email open or constantly checking email is an excuse to distract your mind from your current task. It is scientifically proven that we need long periods of focused time to get things done.
The 11AM restriction helps you actually get the things done you set up in #3. If you open your email first thing in the morning, some “must do” task will jump out and get you off your priorities.
2. Remove yourself from all “chat” services like G-Chat. (Also, Twitter if you sit and stare at it all day like it’s a world chat box).
Anything that stays open on your computer that allows others to interrupt you without your permissions is a bad thing for productivity. For the same reason voluntary email checking causes harm when it breaks up your productivity blocks, chat services allow others to harm your productivity.
This one is one I have stuck to with great results, but it has not been easy. Particularly when I was a financial trader. Using chat services to communicate with prime brokers and other service providers was the norm. You just have to let people know that the phone is your preferred communication method if something is time sensitive. I find that people redefine the definition of “time-sensitive” when a phone call is mandatory. Videos of pandas sneezing are time-sensitive when it is just a chat away.
3. Use a robust task list like Evernote to set 3-5 must-do items per day.
I have found huge productivity gains to setting 3-5 main tasks I must complete per day. I usually set these up the night before an hour or so before I go to bed. The first couple hours of the day I dedicate to killing at least two of these tasks before I open any sort of communication (Twitter, Email, etc…). If by 11AM I can nail down two tasks, even if I run into several interruptions during the afternoon, I do find the time to finish up the remaining tasks.
The worst thing you can do is have an on going, 90 item task list. I see this all the time. People don’t know where to start and mentally it becomes a lost cause.