How to increase your productivity


(Well you could probably do something more productive than reading this very long post so…)

Yeah, this is another installment in my humble advice series. I call it humble because I believe someone’s about to comment “who the fuck are you to give people advice about this and that, you don’t know jack shit!” but maybe that’s just some small spark of internet forum fear (people seem to find it easier to be rude on the internet than face to face, gee, I wonder why?).

Anyway, back to the subject which is productivity and if you read the kind of pointless first paragraph you might think I’ve already wasted my own and YOUR precious time so how can I REALLY give advice about productivity, but if you read on a little bit further I will tell you how.

I’m might as well just come out and say it: I’m a major procrastinator, maybe not so much anymore, but I used to horrible. I used to find one million things to do instead of doing what I actually HAD to do. Talk about not knowing your priorities.

If I was working in my home office I would rather clean the house OCD-style (I’m no clean freak to tell you the truth) and in the end almost alingning the pens with a ruler until I actually started working. Everything else came first all the time. And with the event of multi-tab browsers, multi-tasking computers, I went in over my head and my brain whirred through different tasks, starting many, finishing few.

I’m now typing this blog post on my iPad. It’s going fairly well and I’m about halfway through it. If I was on my Macbook Pro I would probably slide my fingers on that clever Mac trackpad thingy and open up Twitter, another tab, Outlook or something to detract attention from what I was doing and make me lose concentration completely. This is very dangerous behaviour. Maybe I would check my book-selling stats, start reading an article in the New York Times or check out a new gadget I want to buy on Amazon. I would always find a way to escape what I was currently doing.

Why did I do this? I don’t have ADHD or any other disorder that I’m aware of. I used to play chess on world junior level for chrissakes! If you can’t concentrate during a chess game and stick to doing one thing at at time, you’re pretty much screwed or at least lost (on the chess board).

Maybe the abundance of choice got me? When you’re on the web or just at a computer the possibilties are endless. The world is your oyster (too poetic maybe?) and there’s too many temptations to fight boredom. I think this will be a big problem for future generations. The need to have too much going on at the same time will put both the attention span and the boredom threshold on a minimum. You have Skype conversations, a few poker tables, a word document, an e-mail you started to compose and perhaps also something else, just a click away. It’s too easy to lose your concentration!¬†Or maybe they will all be multi-tasking masterminds because the human race always evolves and adapts to the circumstances that they themselves create. We made technology and technology has changed us and will keep changing us.

But I’m off topic. Well, I’m still writing this blog, I haven’t even switched app once and I’m happy about that. Why I didn’t? Let me tell you.

1. I’ve made a promise to myself to do the most out of myself. I’ve made that promise to myself many times, but now I’m sticking to it. I hope.

2. I have a rule to always finish the task I’m about to start unless something non-boredom-related intervenes. Like someone calling you or telling you to do this instead

3. If something takes less than two minutes, just do it straight away. This is from David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and it’s the real gem in that book (the rest is not bad but overly long).

4. Find peace and quiet and know where you work best. This is very personal. When I’m at my desk at work I get disturbed all the time. People sit down next to you when you’re in the middle of something and expects you to open the e-mail that they JUST sent. It doesn’t have to be urgent. I think this is inconsiderate. Why not just ask if I’m busy first? Or maybe they’re assuming I’m on Facebook or streaming a tennis match? Hard to tell. They need to practice patience skills though or I’m going to ask for a door.

What I can do to battle these ASAP-people is to book a conference room and close the door, put on the headphones and look very, very busy. I’ll also prefer to bring the laptop or the iPad to a restaurant or coffee shop. These places are crowded but if you’re disturbed it’s staff 90% of the time. Not co-workers with problems or questions.

5. If you can, I would greatly urge you to get an iPad. It’s excellent because it’s kind of distraction-free because there’s only one window/one app on your screen and it takes at least two clicks to get to another one.

6. Write things down. There’s a million of these productivity apps out there. Not all of them are good, but find a simple one you like and start writing stuff down (I like Things, but as I said there are countless good ones) Do you need to buy lightbulbs? Call the sales dude? Pick up the kids from soccer practice? Be specific and write it down. One place. Sync it between all your gadgets and devices and you’re set.

7. Organize your e-mail into folders like asap, ongoing, cc, etc. Put all the stuff you want done today in the asap. This is a must if you spend 70% of your workday in your Outlook. This sounds bloody depressive when I think of it, but I think it rings true for many office jobs these days.

8. If you lead a team or just work in one invest in a project management tool. I’ve tried many of them like Basecamp, ApolloHQ, Teamproject, but the one that fit my needs best was MyIntervals. It doesn’t looks so hot but does the trick and more.

9. FOCUS! Don’t try to learn scuba-diving, unicycling and horse-riding over the same period of time. Prioritize what you want and need to do the most and just DO IT. Nike got it right from the get-go. Just Do It. I just to waste time on a trillion hobbies but I’ve cut down. Priority 1: Family 2: My health (including exercise) 3: My Career 4: The rest.

10. Don’t stay the extra hour. Maybe if you’re young and you want to show your skills, but as soon as you know who you are, your colleagues will know too. You don’t show skills by working overtime.

11. Avoid meetings. Some of them you have to go to, but then set a goal for them, what do you want to achieve out of the meeting. Because they always seem to drag on and waste your precious time.

12. Turn off the wifi or unplug the internet cable. If you need to write this will minimize the number of distractions the internet provides!

I know this was long so thanks for listening!