Everyone I know is busy, or if they're not busy, they're looking for things to do. We live in a world that's constantly and anxiously active, and yet, it would seem that a lot of us still aren't managing to achieve as much as we'd like with our days.
A recent Independent study revealed that "Since 2006 the rate of growth of productivity has fallen everywhere." Why? Because we're over stimulated, bombarded with so much information that our heads are unable to properly function. To really see a change your productivity, you've got to change your routine, adopt new habits and practise, practise, practise, but for now let's assume you're reading this on the way to work. Here's what you're going to do to make today more productive:
Naturally, I'm not the most productive of people, but my PA introduced me to a method of organising my day so that when I get to work I immediately know what I've got to do that day and roughly how long each task will take. The method is time blocking, in other words chopping up the working day into easier to digest time periods that correspond to a task.
I use 20-minute blocks, but it's best to practise to see what length of time works for you and how long your concentration lasts. It makes the day more interesting as you don't get frustrated or bogged down on one task, and you save lots of time not having to decide what to do next in between tasks.
We all know that sitting at a desk all day is bad for our health and yet, very few people actually do anything to change that. You might not be able to persuade your office to buy stand-up desks, but you can certainly stand up.
Take business calls walking round the office, hold standing meetings, aim to move every at least every thirty minutes. When we sit down, our energy naturally decreases as our body goes into resting mode, which means our brains become sleepy too. You'll feel instantly more energised and positive, and as a result, your productivity will increase.
There's an increasing trend for employees to eat at their desks whilst continuing to work and though it might feel like you're getting ahead of your task list, if you don't take a break you're likely to run out of energy in the early afternoon. To work at its optimum, your mind needs time to refocus and relax. Go for lunch with a friend, take an exercise class, meditate, go to an art gallery, read your book in the park, or if you really are strapped for time, just take a quick walk round the block.
Employees often feel guilty about taking a lunch break if their boss is still in the office, but speaking from experience, it's more beneficial for a CEO to have a team of energised, productive workers, than tired, square-eyed robots.
If you're in the habit of multitasking, this way of working could be hard for you to adapt to at first, but try to make a conscious effort to only focus your attention on one task at a time. That means your full attention so you're not reading emails, answering texts in between or flicking between research and Facebook.
Our brains are not wired to multitask and whilst it might feel good at the time, the gratification is superficial and short-lived. In reality, multitasking creates chaos with our concentration, making it more difficult to organise thoughts and filter out irrelevant information. As the brain struggles to get a grip it actually slows down and starts being less productive. So put your mobile in the drawer, hold all calls, stick a do not disturb on your office door, and concentrate on being present with the task at hand.
This is probably the most important strategy to implement in the long-term, but you can start today too by introducing priority lists into you current working routine. As tasks come flooding in, number and file them according to their priority (1 being the top and 3 being the least). Then try to get rid of all your low priority tasks as these will distract you and increase your stress levels.
The most effective method is to delegate them to someone else ( a PA or colleague) as then you can rest in the knowledge that the task is being completed whilst you concentrate your skills where they're more urgently needed. You'll feel instantly liberated.
(Content provided by Richard Walton. Richard is the Founder of AVirtual (UK) a company that provides a virtual assistant to small business, entrepreneurs and start-ups.)