We live in a hyperactive world. People are either busy or stressed about not being busy enough. Almost every hour of every day is scheduled with activity, most of that involving work and communication, thanks to technology, is immediate and constant. Yet despite all the apps and software that's now available to supposedly make our lives easier (and some of it definitely does), we're still battling with the issue of productivity. Our demands have increased, but time hasn't. People are working longer hours, losing more and more of their social existence, with very little to show for their efforts. The way to really boost your productivity isn't to try and do more, but to change your habits. Here's how to start:
It's not a weakness to ask for help. All the best leaders understand the importance of delegation to lighten their workload, introduce new perspectives to their work and allow them space to think. It's about understanding your priorities and your skills so that you can make the most effective use of your time. If you're battling with mundane tasks that are consuming hours of your day and giving you little satisfaction, you should delegate to a colleague or personal assistant so that you can concentrate on actively working towards your vision.
Over my career, the most important thing I've learnt is the power of communicating and sharing ideas. First of all, it's a release. When your mind is constantly turning over ideas or problems, it can get confused and frustrated, speaking your thoughts aloud allows you to verbally organise and encourages a response from someone else, which could introduce an interesting new perspective or solution. Secondly, it gets you excited. Discussing a vision or plan with a colleague or employee is a great way of building enthusiasm and a sense of unity.
Whilst multitasking creates the illusion of increased productivity, it creates chaos with our concentration, making it more difficult to organise thoughts and filter out irrelevant information. To maximise your productivity, it's important to learn focus your concentration on one task at a time. That means turning off notifications on your apps, closing down tabs on your desktop, putting your phone on silence and hanging a do not disturb sign on your door. I use blocking to assign specific time slots to each task so that I don't waste any time on deciding what to do and never agonise over one task for too long.
Make exercise part of your daily schedule, even if it's just a lunchtime walk. It will give you a break from staring at your screen, elevate your mood and refresh your enthusiasm. Throughout the day our productivity naturally dips as we become tired and restless, exercise gives your mind a break and actually enables you to soak up more information.
Most of us think that resting is an indulgence. In fact, it's crucial to productivity. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we override the signals with caffeine and sugar in a desperate attempt to get more done. Eventually, we end up burning out. Relaxing, reading a book, spending time with friends, meditating, taking naps are all ways of allowing your body and mind to recover and refocus. It means that when you work, the work you do is actually productive.
Richard Walton is the Founder of AVirtual a company that provides virtual PAs to small business, entrepreneurs and start-ups. He is regularly featured in the press talking about topics such as work life balance and productivity.
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