Working smarter and faster is a must in today’s increasingly complex world. But productivity hacks don’t have to be complicated. Here are three simple tips that have made a big difference in my own ability to get things done.
1. Always ask “Why?” Meetings are an unavoidable fact of life in the working world. The trick is to approach them with purpose. Before every meeting, make sure you understand what its purpose is, and take time to identify the outcome you want to achieve. It’s important that all parties are on the same page about the “why” of the gathering, so agendas are a must – as are meeting summaries that identify next steps and who is responsible for each one. You can also use this approach to be more productive with your phone calls or any other type of work encounter in your day.
2. Know thyself. Figure out what parts of the day you are most/least energetic — and plan your schedule accordingly. I’m a morning person who starts the day strong. Whenever possible, I schedule my most demanding activities for the early hours. It’s surprising how much more productive you can be when you work in sync with your own natural rhythms.
3. Unplug. One of the best routes to being more productive is to regularly schedule time when you’re not trying to be productive at all. Simply put, you must take time away from work. It’s not just about using your vacation time, which is important (although surveys show that only about half of American workers actually do so).
Recharging needs to happen on a regular basis. That means refraining from working 24/7. I find that it’s essential to my own productivity to rest and reflect on the weekends. Ironically, some of my best ideas about work come then, when I’m not actively focused on work. I am also a firm believer that some of your down time should be devoted to exercise. I work out for about an hour every morning, because it enables me to keep my energy up and focus strong for the rest of the day. I wouldn’t be remotely as productive without it.
There’s nothing earth-shattering about any of this advice, but sometimes it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference.