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Let’s Get It Done

Secrets to Improved Productivity

 Sometimes feel like you have more than ever to do, but less time to do it in? Associations are tasked with accomplishing a wide range of tasks and activities often with limited budgets and resources. If you find yourself having to do more with less, take a look at your productivity. With the goal of working smarter, not harder, consider some of these tips from David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

1.    Where does the time go?
How much time are you really spending on tasks and projects? Chances are you don’t really know. According to research from This vs That, only about 17 percent of people are able to accurately estimate the passage of time. By using a time management tool like Rescue Time or Toggl, you can get a clearer picture of the time you’re spending on daily activities from social media and emails to larger, big picture projects. And when you start a daily task, you can set an accurate time limit to allow you to check it off your list.

2.    Give yourself a break.
Short breaks during long tasks have been proven to benefit performance. Taking short breaks can help boost your concentration and allow you to power through those lengthy projects.

3.    High performance in 90 minutes.
According to research from Florida State University, elite performers such as athletes, chess players and musicians who work in intervals of no more than 90 minutes are more productive than those who work for more than 90 minutes at a time. They also found that top performers tend to work no more than 4.5 hours per day. Sounds good, but not feasible for most of us at work. The takeaway here? After 90 minutes on one project, take a short break or move onto something new.

4.    Make up deadlines.
Have a list of open-ended projects that never seem to get done? Try setting a deadline and actually sticking to it. (If you’ve been tracking your time, you’ll know about how long the task should take.) The self-imposed deadline will help you stay focused and be more productive.

5.    Follow the two-minute rule.
If you can get it done in two minutes or less, do it. By immediately taking advantage of these small windows of time, you’ll end up spending less time on a two-minute task than if you put it off and come back to it later.

6.    Skip the meetings.
The average office worker spends more than 31 hours each month in unproductive meetings, according to software company Atlassian. Even though they’re a major time drain, we continue to schedule and attend meetings. So next time you’re about to book a meeting, consider whether or not you could accomplish the same objectives by email or phone.
7.    Stand up for meetings.
If there’s no way to avoid a meeting, don’t take it sitting down. Try a standing meeting. Evidence has shown that meetings in which everyone stands can produce better results, including group performance and interest and decreased territoriality.

8.    Stay single-minded
The ability to multitask is often touted as an essential skill. However, focusing on a single task, rather than trying to do several at once, may boost your efficiency. Psychologists have found that taking on several tasks at the same time can actually result in lost time and productivity.

9.    Bonus time.
Instead of wasting those extra pockets of time, like when you’re commuting or waiting in line, spend it productively. You could quickly respond to a few emails or voicemails, create a to-do list or plan for upcoming projects.

10.  Nobody’s perfect.
Give up on trying to be perfect. Instead of getting sucked into a task or project that you’re trying to make perfect, complete it to the best of your ability, and then move on. You can always come back to it for fine-tuning, if necessary.

11.  Get up and move.
According to a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, using work time to exercise may actually improve productivity. So why not use your break time to take a quick walk, or go to the gym during your lunch hour? You’ll likely return to your desk with renewed focus.

12.  Be proactive, not reactive.
Don’t let unexpected issues derail you from your planned activities. Rather than putting out fires throughout your day, establish a set time to respond to emails and phone calls, and stick to it. To help you follow this plan, try turning off notifications, so you’re not constantly distracted by email, voicemail or text notifications.

13.  Room with a view.
Even if you’re in a gray cubicle without a window, give yourself something beautiful or inspirational to look at. Some research shows that offices with aesthetically pleasing elements such as plants can increase productivity by up to 15 percent. So add some pictures, flowers or decorative items that make you happy to your work space.

14.  Cut off the interruptions.
While it may not be possible to completely avoid people interrupting your work or stopping to chat, you can find ways to at least minimize interruptions. This might mean setting up office hours, closing your door or working in a quieter place. Even brief interruptions can disrupt your work flow and decrease productivity.