Working hard can take you a long way in life, but working smart can take you farther. It’s no secret to anyone who is truly successful: maximizing productivity is no small task, but it’s one worth striving toward.
Developing the right mindset to be consistently productive requires establishing and maintaining certain behaviors, and it necessitates a certain level of self-discipline. With that in mind, let’s look at some strategies and behaviors to help you increase productivity. And no matter what AEM member company you work for – be it large or small – these seven tips apply to you:
1. Wake up earlier. – Wish there were more hours to accomplish all of the tasks you need to get done? Well, you can buy yourself one or more hours a day by getting out of bed earlier. Whether the extra time gained is used for work, relaxation, recreation or whatever else you deem a priority, chances are you'll find fewer distractions get in the way of productivity during those early-morning hours. Just make sure to use your time wisely.
2. Prioritize. – Do you want to know what really hinders productivity? Indecisiveness. It doesn’t get much worse than those times where you have a dozen things you could focus your time and energy on, but you end up wasting precious minutes or, in many cases, hours trying to determine what you should tackle first. While it’s easy to tell yourself you should prioritize, but how many people actually take a minute or two at the start of each day to analyze their to-do list and develop a reasonable plan of attack? Plan your day out, identify what you hope to accomplish, try to anticipate stumbling blocks, decide what to do first and – most importantly – execute.
3. Multitask when necessary. – Being able to conduct more than one task at a time is an admirable quality to possess, but it’s not one to be relied on a daily basis. Think for a moment about the best work-related projects you’ve done over the course of your career? How many of them were accomplished in the midst of those stressful times where you were juggling several tasks at once? How many of them were completed during those times where you were able to give one task your full and undivided attention? Exactly.
4. Employ routines. – Life has a tendency to throw something unexpected at you at inopportune times. But for those days where everything does go as planned, make sure to stick to your routines. Think about it in the following way: A routine is basically a gameplan for getting your day to play out exactly how you want it to play out, given certain opportunities, challenges, assets, liabilities, etc. Going with the flow is great when you are on vacation or (literally) have nothing to do, but routines make the world go around.
5. Use technology wisely. – Technology, at its essence, is a tool. And a tool isn’t worth anything unless it’s being used properly and for the right application. While there’s value in staying informed on the latest technological trends and investigating new offerings on the market, it’s important to remember the vast majority of technology out there simply isn’t going to help you be more productive. Know what works for you, and use it as needed. Everything else? It's not worth your time, money or attention.
6. Make email work for you. – Some people are great at using their email to communicate, stay informed, organize tasks, etc. Most people aren’t, though. In fact, there’s every reason to suggest email can actually hinder people’s productivity. Email’s not going away anytime soon, so it’s critical for people to be aware of how they can use it more effectively. In what ways is email working for you? In what ways isn’t it working for you? Answer these questions honestly and adjust accordingly.
7. Learn from others – An argument could be made this is the most important productivity tip of them all. There is simply no more effective way to better yourself than to learn from others. And it’s not just about emulating successful people you admire. It’s also about learning from the mistakes of others. More simply stated, find productive people, adopt the strategies and behaviors they have established, and then see what works for you.