We often confuse being busy with being productive. They’re two separate things, and they should never cross paths — even when we’re tempted to slack off a bit when the pressure is on.
Think about this: Who’s not busy? Everyone’s busy!
“Busy” is just the word we use when we’re trying to trick ourselves into thinking we’re being productive with our time, but our to-do lists know us better than that.
They know we’re not crossing off tasks and moving on to other items. Instead, we’re juggling too many tasks simultaneously while adding new ones to our lists.
Unlike being busy, being productive requires concentration and an understanding of what needs to get done first and why.
There are several questions you should ask yourself if you’re looking to improve your productivity.
Are you trying to multitask?
To get through our to-do lists, we sometimes skip from item to item instead of focusing on completing one task at a time. In our minds, we believe this tactic moves things along and we tell ourselves we’re being efficient. We feel as though we’re getting more done by touching more tasks, but sadly, we’re not.
The truth is this: We’re simply lying to ourselves. In “The Myth of Multitasking” (a book everyone in TruMethods is required to read), Dave Crenshaw highlights how our brains aren’t capable of multitasking. Lining up your work and completing items before moving on to others is more effective than working on various tasks simultaneously or changing between tasks as you go along.
Basically, what we call multitasking is actually task switching and there are costs associated with it. For example, every time there’s an interruption — whether it’s a new email or a colleague’s thoughts on last night’s ballgame — you not only lose focus but have to get yourself back into a flow state. That decreases your productivity by simply taking time away from the task you’re trying to complete.
To improve productivity, you must do your best to reduce task switching. Otherwise, you’re never going to complete the tasks on your to-do lists — especially if you’re unorganized.
Do you organize for the day ahead?
Before you begin your day, take fifteen minutes to organize your workload and situate yourself. If you’d rather do this the day before for the following day, do that; that’s what works for me. Follow whatever personal organization system increases the likelihood of improving productivity throughout your day.
Now, it’s a lot easier to organize for the day ahead when your tasks are all in one place. When they’re not, you waste a lot of time gathering them instead of spending time on completing them.
Where do you manage your tasks?
If there’s anything you take away from this blog post, let it be this: Use a task management system to manage your tasks.
It’s nearly impossible for you to keep track of pending tasks when they’re spread across various platforms. There are emails, voicemails, tickets, social media networks, notepads and sticky notes. To increase productivity, you need to have a centralized location where you can easily manage your tasks.
We at TruMethods recommend Trello. (The free version works for many of us.)
To increase your personal productivity, you must first get a better grasp of what limits it and how you can introduce more structure into your workflow.