A lot (I mean a l o t) has been written about productivity. So how will I define unusual? I am defining it not by awareness, but by application. For me to provide five productivity ideas that will really help you and that you haven’t heard before is a tall order. But giving you five that you seldom or never use is easier. That is where I will focus. By the time you reach the end of this short article, you will have five ideas that will move the needle for you – but only if you move yourself, and try them until you get better at them and they become habits.
I think this word is highly misunderstood in common practice. Let me give you an example.
You own a long haul trucking company and have two drivers who both logged 750 miles yesterday. Which one had higher productivity?
If you said they are equal, you are wrong. They had the same production – 750 miles – but their productivity requires more information.
If I then tell you that Driver A drove for 12.5 hours and Driver B drove for 15 hours; now we can determine productivity – Driver A averaged 60 miles/hour and Driver B averaged 50 miles/hour.
So if you want to think about productivity, make sure you are considering the production compared to time (or some other measure). All of the tips below focus on real productivity not just raw production.
But before we get to the tips; here is what you need first to make them work for you. You have to be borderline obsessed with how you use your time and what you accomplish in that time. In other words, productivity has to matter to you and you need to hold yourself to a high standard regarding it.
The Five Unusual Tips
Take Intentional Control. Most people act as if they have no control of their time. They release control to Customers, email, the weather and who-knows-what-else. The most productive people take more control of their time. While this idea is a big one (and relates to the other tips that follow), let me give you two simple examples.
- When you schedule phone calls, be the one to place the call. That way you aren’t waiting if the other party is late. If you call and they don’t answer, you can leave a message and you can get on to a new task.
- Schedule meetings where people come to you. I rarely have meetings at coffee shops or other people’s offices (outside of our building). Why? Because my travel time is lost productivity.
As I have gotten better at this, I have become far more productive.
Block Your Time. One of the best ways to take control is to block your time. I know that in some people’s work this might be easier than in others but everyone can find times of the day or week to block for specific (important) tasks. When you block your time for a task, you help yourself be more focused and therefore will be more productive. This is the best way to make sure that you achieve important outcomes and aren’t simply working on whatever seems urgent at that moment.
Be Prepared for Waiting. It seems that life always leaves us waiting. The most productive people have a plan for waiting that allows them to be productive during those moments. You might not know at the start of the day what you will be waiting on, or when, but chances are you will be waiting. Have a notebook for brainstorming, a book to read or a call to make – have a plan and be prepared to use those minutes that are otherwise lost forever. (Oh, and unless you are a social media professional, checking Facebook probably doesn’t count.)
Have Your One Thing. Focus is a key to heightened productivity. Do you know what the most important thing for you to accomplish each day is? Make sure you have an outcome that matters above all else and focus on achieving it each day. You may not bat 1.000 in achieving it; but having that task, activity or outcome firmly planted in your mind will improve your odds greatly.
Take a Nap. You can struggle over something for 20 minutes and not be finished, or take a ten-minute nap and then finish the task in the next ten. Your productivity has soared, and you will be fresher (and more productive) for the next five tasks on your list too.
I could make this list far longer, but the key ideas of many of the further tips would be extensions of what you see above. If you are serious about improving your productivity and effectiveness in any area of your life, put these ideas to the test in your life and work – you will be glad you did.
Important note: None of this means that you have to be a type A, hard-driving person to be highly productive. Because we can be productive at anything – including how we spend quality time with others, how we perform a hobby and much more. In fact, when you become more productive in your work, you are learning habits to help you in other parts of your life – and providing yourself more time for those other important activities. Think about productivity as a life goal, not just a professional one.