This post too has its origins on Quora, so I recommend you check out the other answers on the thread. And, if you like my answer, consider voting for it. But, I digress. Here are some tips on enhancing productivity.
I agree with a lot of salient points that Yishan Wong raises, esp. batched email / IM processing, but I guess it’s effectiveness also depends on what kind of role you find yourself. For someone in Public Relations that just may not work out.
That said, I think there’s one simple approach that hasn’t been explicitly called out, that could truly make a difference:
- Start work rightaway each morning
- minimize interruptions, feed reading, chat / IM
- maximize working on one thing at a time
- use phone or in-person visit for roadblocks or questions (not chat)
- send email anytime
- check email only at 10am, 1pm, and 4pm
- no email evenings or weekends
- focus on 1 – 3 activities each day
- stop work at 6pm no exceptions
Some of these remind me of Yishan’s tips. Also, if you’re brave enough to jettison email watching, I’d recommend saying so in your email signature in case people wonder why you haven’t responded yet. Again, depends on the precedent you’ve set.
2. Paper rocks!
I think just getting your tasks down on paper at the start of the day (maybe the prior day) helps keep in context the “why / high level picture” behind the numerous tasks you find yourselves doing each day.
Increasingly I’ve found Google Docs an effective replacement for my moleskine and saves me the trouble of figuring out a way to destroy the old notes. I break down my To-do page into the following cascaded task sets:
- Whiteboard: As soon as I get to my desk each day, I write down the 3 – 5 urgent tasks I know I need to complete rightaway.
- Today: Everything besides the 3 or 5 key tasks that also need to be complete today.
- Next: This is unlikely to be complete today but needs to happen to achieve milestones for the next week. So, if for e.g. I need to make a decision on finding a web dev consultant by next week, I may need to fire off a bunch of emails with project requirements and that may need to happen tomorrow.
- Weekend: Every once in a while, I remember something I need to buy at the groceries that I don’t want to lose track of. That goes here.
I also use separate browsers to compartmentalize my work units. Chrome full-screen for all google apps / work email, etc. and Firefox for all my browsing needs (as a blog editor, I need to do a ton of research online – Techmeme, etc).