14 Ways To Dramatically Increase Productivity

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Photo: statigr.am/sofi17j

Many of us struggle to check everything off our to-do lists.Harvard lecturer Robert Pozen, in his latest book, “Extreme Productivity,” outlines the keys to getting things done. “The key to productivity is to achieve results, get more results, and better quality results,” he tells us in an interview.

We’re sharing 14 of Pozen’s best tips from his book so you can learn how to do exactly that.

Thanks to Dr. Pozen for permission to feature his work

Rank your priorities by importance, and allocate time accordingly.

Pozen notes a careful difference between which tasks are high priority, which ones are low priority, and how much time you should allocate between them.

Write down all the things you plan to do and organise by weekly targets, yearly objectives, and long-term career goals. Then rank each task by relative importance. In the most productive scenario, you should be spending more time on the higher-ranked ones, and less time on the lower-ranked ones.

Source: 'Extreme Productivity'

Know what results you're looking for, and make a beeline for them.

The number of hours of work you put in doesn't matter nearly as much as achieving the best possible results. If you determine what your final outcome needs to be, it can help you lay out a more efficient plan on how to get there, which actually frees up time.

Always pause halfway to the end to make sure that you're on track and, if working with others, that you coordinate approaches. If the end goal seems far away or too daunting, set mini deadlines for yourself to make the work more manageable.

Source: 'Extreme Productivity'

Ignore 80 per cent of emails and requests you receive during the day.

The amount of time you devote to project has to vary based on the importance of your project. Pozen says that doing B+ work on your low-priority tasks is usually good enough.

There's no need to put in the extra time and effort and focus on all the minute details on these tasks. Pozen even suggests discarding or ignoring 80 per cent of the emails and requests you receive, as 80 per cent is typically low priority.

Source: 'Extreme Productivity'

Don't fill up every hour in your schedule.

Keep a careful, daily calendar with notes reminding you of the purpose of each appointment or meeting. Writing the purpose will keep you from straying off-topic. Pozen recommends not to fill each hour in your schedule in order to leave time for yourself to react to anything unexpected that may come up.

organise yourself for the following day each night by reviewing your schedule and mentally preparing for upcoming tasks. Pozen notes that everyone should always make personal time for themselves, including getting a good night's sleep on a regular basis, exercising, and spending time with friends and family.

Source: 'Extreme Productivity'

Create a travel to-do list that you can use for each trip.

Don't leave anything up to chance when you travel. Make a to-do list that you can recycle for future trips so you know what to pack, what transportation to book, and anything else you may need to prepare.

Know what your goals are for the trip so there is no time wasted before you have to leave. And Pozen warns NEVER to check luggage if you're travelling for less than a week. Take a large carry-on instead to cut time waiting at the baggage claim.

Source: 'Extreme Productivity'

Meetings should be left for introductions and serious conversations.

Meetings can take up about 35 per cent of the workday for middle managers, and up to 60 per cent for top executives, says Pozen.

Try to limit meetings to introductions to new clients or coworkers, or to having serious discussions that cannot be done by email or over the phone. Anything else can be done effectively with email, document sharing, video conference, and other luxuries that technology affords.

Source: 'Extreme Productivity'

When reading anything, absorb the conclusion first.

Make sure you're reading with a purpose. Ask yourself why you're reading what you're reading, and what you're getting out of it that you can't get anywhere else.

That includes knowing what you're looking to find when you read, be it news, advice, tips, or information relevant to your work. Pozen also suggests reading the conclusion and introduction to a piece of work first so that you know where the author is heading with the piece, and so you know what main points to hit.

Source: 'Extreme Productivity'

Use short sentences and always proofread for great writing.

Writing skills are increasingly more important because emails often now take the place of phone calls. Pozen recommends creating an outline when you start writing that shows a logical progression in your piece. If you're writing a long, dense document, create an executive summary so the reader can see the big picture.

Throughout your piece, be sure to use effective language like short sentences and clear relationships between clauses, Pozen says. And always make sure you proofread multiple times. Your writing will never be perfect the first time around.

Source: 'Extreme Productivity'

The key to great public speaking is preparation and audience awareness.

The key to effective speaking is preparation. Preparation is divided into three main events: 1. Know your audience -- who they are, why they are attending and what they care about. 2. Structure your speech -- write an outline of your presentation and make sure your line of argument is crystal clear. 3. Rehearse the speech -- rehearsing will make you comfortable and appear confident when it's go time.

Source: 'Extreme Productivity'

When planning your career avoid specialisation and don't have a long term plan.

The first thing to know about planning your career is that you don't need a long term plan. When first deciding on your career, Pozen suggests making a list of a few jobs you eventually hope to hold as your 'Career Aims.'

After you list the jobs that appeal to you, ask yourself what skills you can offer the world and see if that matches up with any of the jobs you listed. Research the jobs and find out the demand for that profession. Avoid specialisation and always look to maximise the number of options you have in taking next steps. Revise your goals annually so you know when it's time to move forward.

Source: 'Extreme Productivity'

To work well in a team, avoid criticising your employees at all costs.

It's vital to manage and build productive relationships with your coworkers. The best way is to build trust. That way you can delegate your low priority goals and spend the most time on your top objectives.

When delegating tasks and projects to your subordinates, set goals broadly so they can decide how to best meet them. It's critical to discuss progress on these goals as you go. Whenever possible, avoid criticising your employees unless mistakes are repeated or ethically concerning. And most importantly, there is no such thing as too much positive reinforcement.

Source: 'Extreme Productivity'

Embrace change by recognising your bias toward stability.

People avoid change because they fear its negative effects. Pozen says to make productive choices, learn to embrace change, and take advantage of the opportunities it presents.

recognising your subconscious bias toward stability is the first step to accepting change. Keep in mind that holding a job for life is the exception, not the rule. And in the end you should stay the same by upholding consistent ethics. Acting ethically should be your top priority and will pay off in the long term.

Source: 'Extreme Productivity'

Stop trying to get along with your boss and start managing him or her instead.

Managing your boss is just as important as managing your team. It's less about getting along with your boss and more about managing the relationship so that he or she becomes a resource for achievement and personal success. As with any relationship, communication is key.

Make sure you're on the same page regarding what your assignments are, then match your communication style with your boss to know how to effectively interact. If a disagreement leads to transferring jobs, make sure you leave your current job with tact so you don't burn bridges on the way out.

Source: 'Extreme Productivity'

Calculate productivity based on where you spend time, not how much time you spend.

The whole point of being productive is having a more rewarding life. The more efficient you are at work, the more time you'll have for your personal life. The key to getting there is being aware of where your hours are more valuable.

Four hours spent with your spouse are more valuable than four at work, so push hard to improve your organisation's flexibility so you have more control where you spend your time. And when you leave the office, avoid as many interruptions from work as you can. It's healthy and necessary to give your mind a break.

Source: 'Extreme Productivity'

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