After receiving some interesting responses to my last post, where basically I highlighted that you actually only have about 6 months worth of productive work days left in 2015 I wanted to talk more about it and hopefully give you something that will help you increase your own productivity.
Knowing that you need to be more productive is one thing but actually being it is quite another. It requires, focus, discipline and self-awareness and various techniques. And it takes time to become very productive.
One way to become more productive is to increase the feeling of urgency by restricting the time you have available.
Remember way back when you had to get your homework in the next morning? The fact that you had all week to do it didn’t matter…you were busy doing other stuff and it wasn’t on your urgency radar.
But then the week’s gone in a flash, it’s the night before or even the bus ride in that morning and boy is it on your radar now. Suddenly you’re focused, you’re in the zone and you get this thing done with only a few minutes to spare.
When at work, there was nothing like a deadline to focus the mind. Whether it was preparing for an important customer meeting, a presentation to your bosses or completing your part of a product development on schedule. That sense of urgency really focused the mind and with it increased our productivity.
In that last post, I worked out the amount of productive time left for the remainder of this year, based on being productive 5 hours out of an 8-hour day. In hindsight I think that I might have been a little generous and that a more realistic average might be 4 hours out of an 8-hour day, which includes lunch and breaks.
So let’s work on the basis of 4 hours worth of real, solid complete productivity per working day (which by-the-way leaves you with 5 months left of the year not 6), because that feels closer to reality and makes the percentage calculation a nice round number.
This means you’re productive 50% of the day. (See…a nice round number.) So, how do you increase this productivity percentage? How do you get it to say 80%? Well, you could increase the urgency…you could act like you have a looming deadline to meet.
One way to increase this urgency is to restrict your working hours. If you’re productive 4 hours out of 8 then restrict your hours down to say 5 hours. Now your 4 productive hours out of a 5-hour day makes you 80% productive and still gives you time to have a 2 or 3 short breaks. What is doesn’t give you is time to relax and surf the web, check emails (unless you need to in order to get your work done) or chat about what you did last night.
Now that you only have 5 hours to get 4 hours worth of work done you will straightaway become more focused on the work you need to do and far less inclined to be interrupted or distracted.
You’re not likely to manage this first time of asking but each time you try you’ll get closer to that 80% productivity mark. Once you can regularly achieve this level of productivity you can, if you wish, increase the number of available hours say from 5 to 6, which will give you almost 5 productive hours. Or you can decide that because you’ve always done about 4 hours productive work a day you’re going to spend the extra time you have left to do something else.
You may decide to then use your extra time to surf and chat or you may decide to use the time to learn something new, exercise or spend more time with family, whatever it might be. And if you do this, don’t feel guilty that you’re not working 8 hours because you’ve done your 4 productive hours and have been as productive as you usually are.
The difference now is that, not only do you have more time for other things but your work rate is far better, your productivity rate is much improved and so if you do need to work 8 hours you’ll get far more done than you ever did. This logic may seem a little twisted at first but try it – decide what you need to get done in the day then constrain your hours to say 5 and after 5 hours see how much you actually got done. But it will only work if you have a firm plan of what you need to do and are determined enough to stop after 5 hours…instil that urgency.
There’s a mind set issue to get over here. When I started my own business it took me years to stop thinking 9 to 5. Like all new business owners I was working way more hours than that anyway, but I felt I had to be at my desk by 9 and not finish until at least 5. If I didn’t then I was somehow cheating and not working a full day.
I’m far more relaxed about my day now. If I’m not seeing a client or have some other engagement then I’ll get up around 06:30, have breakfast with my wife or get in the gym. I’ll then walk the dogs, tidy up the kitchen, have a coffee, read then, when ready, head up to my office to start the day.
I’m then very productive and pretty disciplined and so can get a lot done in a few hours. If I get everything done that I planned and it’s say only 1 or 2 O’ clock and I decide to call it a day then I don’t feel bad about it. If I have more to do or I’m happy to keep going then that’s what I’ll do.
My mind set is right and my productivity is good but it did take me quite a while to get to this stage. I had to overcome my psychological boundaries that came with working 20 odd years of working 9 to 5 and I had to consciously work on my productivity.
I’ll talk about techniques another time but meanwhile, think about your productivity. How productive are you really? Reduce your available hours – increase your urgency – and aim to get the work done you would normally do in an 8-hour day. In time you’ll see a big change. Oh, and don’t forget, your productivity is hugely important because you have far fewer productive hours left this year than you first thought.
Image courtesy: Wikia