Eliminating these 6 bad habits will increase your productivity overnight. Not-to-do lists can be just as helpful as to-do lists. What you do not do determines what you can do. Here are 4 activities you should stop doing if you want to increase your level of awesomeness.
Do not let unknown or unwanted calls and emails throw you off your momentum. Creating focus and momentum is key to streamlining the completion of a task. You can spend 30 minutes organizing your thoughts and getting the ball rolling only to have some unnecessary external event shift your focus. This can detract from your progress and set you back to the beginning. It’s better to let phone calls go to voice mail, ignore text messages and batch emails rather than checking them often. There is a cost to task switching. When you go from task to task oftentimes you will not complete the task you started.
I cannot emphasize enough the need tobatch your emails. Email is another person’s agenda for your time. Pick one or two times during the day to address and empty your inbox. You don’t do your laundry every time you have a pair of dirty socks but wait until you have a critical mass. Emails are still mail. Recently I’ve been addressing and clearing my inbox only once or twice a week. I has freed me up to stay focused on activities I want to do rather than reacting to a message I get from the inter web.
I find that its is possible to gain momentum for multiple projects if they are somewhat related. For example, I played up to 16 tables of online poker simultaneously. These tasks are related and my mind remained focused on the overall opportunity and allowed me to allocate my attention for each table. Keeping in mind that I notice much better results the fewer tables I play. Playing 12-16 tables forced me to play a very automatically. I missed information I could be aware of playing fewer games and my decisions reflected this. Playing 6 tables let me focus more on individual reads and tables dynamics allowing me to incorporate more marginally +EV (positive expected value) situations into my playing style. Cutting it down to playing 4 or fewer table allows me to absorb the most information about game dynamics and anticipate the games flow along with my table image. My per table win rate increases significantly the fewer tables I play. While we have an ability to multitask when handling related projects, we must take into account that we have a limited attention span and focus. The more we devote our mental RAM to one task, the higher the quality of it.
I notice carrying this ability to ‘multi-table’ over to projects I’m working on online. Whether it’s writing multiple blog posts, organizing a new book release or developing multiple websites. I will often start a project that needs to be completed and while that window is loading or if I find that another variable is needed to complete the project, I’ll open other windows or tabs which adds multiple paths related to my original intention.
I find myself opening tasks while leaving the other tasks I had previously started waiting. Sometimes I will have as many as 10 tasks open at the same time. As I wind down my session, I will begin finishing the tasks that were left open for that particular project. If I were to be distracted with answering email or phone calls while this process was in full effect it would cut me off from my ability to organize the different tasks in my mind and cut through them efficiently.
Do not email first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Make sure to do at least one creative non-reactionary task in the morning before getting sucked into reactionary mode with email and other worldly meanderings. As Brian Tracy would say ‘eat your biggest frog first.’ We never have time to do everything we want to do, but we always have time to do what we need to. This will drastically increase productivity.
Remember Parkinson’s law: The adage that ‘work expands so as to fill the amount of time available for its completion.’ Force yourself to cram work within tight hours so your per-hour output is increased and focus on tasks most vital so you minimize wasted time that doesn’t move you very far up the field. This brings us to our next Do-not on the list.
Do not agree to meetings or calls without a clear agenda or end time. If the outcome is defined clearly and the topics to be discussed are defined, the call should not last more than 30 minutes. Hours can be wasted bullshitting.
A big part of getting activities done is getting to the point. Don’t let people ramble. Stick with ‘what’s up?’ Over ‘how’s it going?’ Remember this is a cost to task switching and interruption. The less you variate from what you are trying to accomplish, the less time you’ll waste shifting momentum.
You can use tools such as boomerang to set and organize follow-ups to emails to make sure you’re getting back to people who don’t respond or need further attention. This allows you to delete your inbox as soon as you clear it.
Obviously this rule doesn’t apply when building a relationship is prioritized over accomplishing a task. Cultivating relationships can often bring much more long-term potential than ‘completing daily tasks.’
Do not work more to fix overwhelm, instead prioritize. If you don’t prioritize everything seems urgent and important. If you prioritize, that priority will stand out as a force multiplier rendering all other options less important. This reduces overwhelm and makes it easier to know which direction to allocate your immediate energy and attention. Which will increase productivity.
Sometimes this can be a matter of letting unfortunate events unfold — returning a call late and apologizing or returning something past it due date and paying a small late fee. Even losing an unreasonable customer to get other important tasks accomplished. Make sure you’re continually evaluating yourself for places where you can adhere to the 80/20 rule.
A great way to prioritize tasks is by creating an ABC list. Rank the objectives you need to accomplish by marking the tasks with A, B or C in order of importance. A tasks are the must dos. These are the items you will check off and complete first. B tasks are less time sensitive but still important. C tasks become the items you would like to get done but are not vital nor urgent. Always do your A tasks first moving down the list in priority. Never attack a B or C task until all A tasks are complete. Never do a C task until all B tasks are completed. You can further divide each level of tasks with +’s and -‘s or by adding a numbering system.
If you don’t have time, the truth is you don’t have priorities.
Do not carry a digital leash 24-7. Take at least one day off a week or a couple hours off a day where you can disconnect from the digital world. Pick a digital detox day like Sunday where you don’t carry your phone around with you. Or consciously isolate yourself from technology for a couple hours by putting your phone in a drawer where you won’t hear it ring or vibrate with text messages. We can clear a lot of mental RAM by unplugging from the digital world for a period of time. We do not notice how distracting our little connections to the inter-webs become until we have learned to distance ourselves from them .
Do not expect work to fill the void that non-work related activities should. Schedule life and cool activities and defend it just as you would a business meeting. If you are not putting yourself first you will not produce the highest quality work of which you are capable. If you are not taking the time out to eat healthy, exercise and meditate, your results will reflect the less than optimal state you were in when you produced it. The quality of work will not be as high, your ideas won’t be as good and your capability to link thoughts and materialize concepts will suffer.
What one habit would increase your productivity if you eliminated it?