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Productivity Primer

ProductivityI’m always interested in reading books and articles that address the concept of productivity. After all, learning to balance work and personal responsibilities is a challenge that we all face.

A while back, I read a book called “The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy” by Chris Bailey. It prompted to me to look at my own effectiveness and assess what’s working and where I could improve.

Here are the things I learned to increase my productivity:

  1. Rule of 3 – Bailey talks about starting each day with the question, “By the time today is done, what three main things do I want to accomplish?” It sounds so simple, but, for me, it’s an effective way to determine what’s important and what’s not. That’s how I start my to-do list.
  2. Schedule Your Time – Every time we’re interrupted, we can lose up to 25 minutes of productivity, according to Bailey. The solution is scheduling. When you set aside the time, you’re more effective in using it. For example, I have scheduled meeting times with key employees to address issues. I also try to schedule time to check phone and email so it doesn’t take away from more important things like writing or reviewing reports.

There were a couple of things I worked on after reading the book:

  • Stop Spinning My Wheels – When it comes to bringing in new clients, I need to focus on the opportunities and put the less-than-ideal ones to the side. I need to qualify prospects quickly and dispense of those that aren’t a good fit.
  • Working Longer Isn’t Working Better – Working more hours doesn’t necessarily increase productivity. However, I often fall victim to the belief that the more hours I work, the more I will accomplish. While researching for his book, Bailey worked 90 hours one week and 20 hours the next. He reported feeling more productive during the longer workweek, but actually only accomplished a little more than in the shorter week. Why? Because he extended his work to fit how much time he had. I could do better at thinking strategically about what I need to do and expend my energy accordingly to achieve my goals in a shorter amount of time.

Reining in Meetings

One thing we could all do to improve productivity is to hold more effective meetings. According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), meetings can be a major waste of both individual and group time. In a survey of organizations, a majority of respondents—54%— said that they suffer from a ‘triple whammy of meetings that are (1) too frequent, (2) poorly timed, and (3) badly run, leading to losses in productivity, collaboration, and well-being for both groups and individuals.’ Further, the HBR cited research showing that executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in meetings, not including impromptu gatherings!1

One way that I have found to manage meetings is by creating an agenda that serves as a framework for the time spent together. To keep meetings shorter, agenda items can often be handled through an e-mail. I also concur with some tips recommended in a New York Times article I recently came across. They include always starting and ending meetings on time (no matter what) and concluding each meeting with an action plan that includes next steps and discussion of task assignments and responsibilities.

I wish you much success on your journey to greater productivity!


1https://hbr.org/2017/07/stop-the-meeting-madness