“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.”
We all know them: those among us who seem to defy the laws of time and space that bind the rest of us mere mortals. These are people who seem to accomplish double or triple—or more—than we do in the same amount of time. How do they do it? And once we crack the code, can we be ultra-productive, too?
I have good news for you: We have cracked the code, and yes, you can do it, too! You can make a quantum leap in your productivity. It’s a matter of reprograming your habits into those that will catalyze efficiency.
So, without further ado, here are the seven rules for being ultra-productive.
1. Achieve the 80/20 Ratio
It may seem counterintuitive, but, as Richard Koch outlines in his book, The 80/20 Principle, 80 percent of all our results in life stem from only 20 percent of our efforts. A key for becoming ultra-productive is to identify the 20 percent that counts and focus all your energy on accomplishing that every day. You can get more done with less effort and time. Conversely, much of what you currently do each day does not focus on the 20 percent that counts. Getting this ratio aligned in your life will go a long way to boosting your productivity.
2. Say Goodbye to Multi-Tasking
It’s bad for your brain. And your productivity. And the quality of your work. Don’t believe me? Stanford University has my back on this one. A study in 2009 revealed that multi-taskers, even though they might feel more productive, “do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.” This echoes the seeming paradox of the 80/20 ratio: in doing less, you can accomplish more.
3. Let Your Brain Work While You Sleep
End your workday by preparing for the next day. Identify what your most important tasks are for the next day. Set your list and let your mind percolate on what needs to be done overnight. The power of your subconscious is that it will think about the work you have to do tomorrow even while you’re not consciously thinking about it. When you get up the next day, you know what you’ll be focusing on and, quite often, your brain will have solutions, ideas, or direction for the work on your list.
4. For Every Task, a Finish Line
Give yourself deadlines. If you have them set for your most important tasks, your psyche will respond. The deadline will inform your actions and stoke the drive to complete them. A task with no deadline will have the tendency to float, easily displaced for other, less important but more urgent tasks. Urgency is not synonymous with importance. Set your most aggressive deadlines to your most important tasks.
5. Quantify Each Goal and Task
Breaking down goals and tasks into trackable units makes it easier to account for what you’ve done and what you have yet to do. It gives a specific target and a way to monitor achievements. As blogger Janey Osterlind notes, “How can you tell how well you’re doing if you can’t measure your progress?”
6. Sequester Yourself from Digital Distraction
It’s easy to check just one thing before you settle in to work—a newsfeed, a website, a social network. But that can lead to some other interesting link, which can lead to another, and before you know it, you’ve burned time without accomplishing anything. Don’t open your browsers unless you need them, don’t answer phone or email for the next 30-60 minutes, and focus on what you need to accomplish.
7. Break It
You are not a robot. You and your brain need breaks to foil fatigue, refresh energy, and re-calibrate focus. Take periodic breaks from what you are doing: get up and walk around, go sit outside, go to a different room and read. It will keep you sharp and efficient.
Make It Happen
Whether you’re pursuing personal or professional goals, these are seven core tips to becoming ultra-productive.
In fact, if you don’t yet have your college degree and have wondered how to fit it into your schedule, these productivity principles can help you maximize your time so you can get it done. Consider an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in healthcare, business, technology, or graphic arts from Stevens-Henager College. Investing in yourself is always an empowering strategy.
It’s time to make each day more productive and accomplish more than you ever thought possible.