While we all seem to be working longer hours, we’re not necessarily upping our output. With never ending alerts, pop ups, pings and constant distractions, these little time-wasters rob us of laser attention and focus throughout the day, rendering the extra hours we put in inefficient. Here are some productivity hacks to take back your time and be more effective while connected to work:
1. Waste less time on email
Email is at the top of everyone’s time-drain list. Do an “email purge” to unsubscribe from all those newsletters you don’t really read or need. Try calling or messaging people in real time instead of sending yet another email. And try using an app to organize your email: there are dozens out there that do everything from automatically categorizing emails to helping you achieve the holy grail of inbox zero.
2. Be (sensibly) social
The C-suite needs to stop thinking that social time equals playtime. According to a 2013 survey by Microsoft, 46 percent of workers say their productivity has improved thanks to social media and social media tools. Why? Most respondents to the study said that social tools enhanced their ability to communicate with coworkers, share and review documents, and better engage with customers and clients.
3. Split your hours the 45/15 way
If you’re like most people, you have two types of tasks: work that you have to do, and work that you want to do. The 45/15 system lets you break each hour into 45 and 15 minute segments to accomplish your must-do jobs and as well as your “want to do” items. Devote the first 45 minutes of each hour to your must-do list. Then finish each hour with 15 minutes of pleasurable tasks. Dividing your hours this way lends a sense of urgency to your tasks, while allowing the last quarter hour to be a reward for all you’ve accomplished.
4. Manage your energy, not just your time
Some people blast out of bed at the crack of dawn, ready to wrestle dragons (good examples are Ben Franklin, Condoleeza Rice, and Ernest Hemingway). Others reach their maximum potential later in the day (F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t write a word before 11 a.m.). And still others are inveterate night owls (and even though early birds supposedly get the worm, studies indicate that night owls are more creative and have higher IQs). Depending on your personality type, as well as your energy level on any given day, determine your most productive time of day and schedule your most complex tasks accordingly for maximum efficiency.
5. Try the GTD method: Getting Things Done
One of the most famous and successful productivity methods is Getting Things Done (GTD). Developed by David Allen, a productivity consultant and author, this five-step method focuses on control and perspective in order to reduce that dreaded feeling of being overwhelmed. The GDT method is designed to increase confidence and promote creative energy. Here are the five steps:
- Capture: collect whatever catches your attention. Note everything, from ideas to epiphanies to personal or professional tasks that require your attention. Use a to-do list or a notebook or a voice recorder, but note everything as soon as it pops into your head so you won’t forget.
- Clarify: process what the information you’ve collected means. Is an item actionable? If not, take it off your list. If it is actionable, decide what your next step should be. If it will take less than two minutes, do it right away. If not, delegate whenever possible. And break big projects down into more easily-handled and less intimidating subprojects and subtasks.
- Organize: put things where they belong. Place action items in specific lists according to priority, like people to call, emails to send, errand to run, or papers to write.
- Reflect: review your lists frequently. Perform a weekly review to remove completed items, update your lists, and note your progress.
- Engage – “Use your system to take appropriate actions with confidence”, says David Allen. In other words: just do it!