1. Reduce your multi-tasking. Stanford University researchers found that simultaneously performing multiple jobs diminishes the ability to pay attention, recall information, and move from task to task, thereby extending the time needed to complete any single action item, Forbes reported.
2. Leverage time-blocking. Successful leaders focus on driving results rather than on being busy. Using a productivity tool called time-blocking maximizes these results because it allows you to schedule your day strategically based on top priorities (no more than 5 ) you value at any given time, according to CEO.com.
In creating time blocks, consider the “natural rhythms of your work style and personality, so you can match the task of the time block appropriately compared to the effort you’ll expend doing it, based on your energy level throughout the day,” CEO.com advised. For example, if you’re at your best in the morning, try to schedule important meetings over breakfast rather than dinner.
3. Stop using your email inbox as a to-do list. Relying on your email inbox to function as a to-do list is a natural instinct, but it’s a poor way to manage time because “everything has the same weight,” said Michael Pryor, CEO, Trello, in an interview with Time. Using your inbox to manage tasks means the latest joke, spam, marketing, and newsletter emails occupy as much space on your to-do list as key imperatives. You then waste time identifying items that warrant your attention. So make a to-do list another way, Pryor advised.
4. Then, rein in your to-do list. People often try to be more productive by entering “everything” into a computerized organization system with infinite space for entries, only to create “this giant backlog of things they may do, that they’re never going to do,” Pryor told Time. A computerized organization with finite space for entries, or a cork board on your office wall, offers built-in constraints and forces you to choose the most important tasks, he said.
5. Get smart about communication. Wendy Lea, CEO of Cintrifuse and former CEO of Get Satisfaction, a customer engagement solutions provider whose clients include Procter & Gamble, each Monday morning sends her team an email with a list of the five things on which she will be concentrating throughout the week. “This keeps me on track and gives me the focus I need in my personal and professional life,” Lea told Fast Company.
Moreover, approach every conversation with an eye toward next steps, and instruct staff to do the same. According to Fast Company, President Obama’s memos include standard checkbox-style calls to action with three options: agree, disagree or discuss. Additionally, consider using text expander tools, which work in combination with Windows programs to create auto-fill responses based on the unique words and phrases you frequently type into emails and similar business communications. Many cloud-based apps let you harness a mobile device to accurately produce typed responses from spoken words, so you don’t waste time typing yourself.
6. Police your Internet habits. Fred Bateman, CEO and founder, The Bateman Group, relies heavily on Internet research in doing his job, but has a tendency to jump to other sites to look at irrelevant information. In an interview with Fast Company, Bateman said he uses StayFocused, a software extension to his web browser, to keep a list of websites he can “get lost on for hours—like the New York Times.” The software alerts him after he’s been perusing one of these websites for more than 10 minutes and blocks him from returning there during his current online session.
Interruptions and other snafus may cut into your productivity, but using these suggestions can kick interruptors out and keep your productivity at the highest level possible.