The Art of Productivity

The Art of Productivity
Productivity is a tantalising mixture of motivation, mental energy, alertness and attitude - and (in my experience at least) can be boosted by exercise, eating healthily and sleeping well.

Why do we come to work? Why do we do anything at all? And why – if we are doing something – is it important to be done as efficiently as possible? Last month, my colleague Wajdi Al Jallad explained how Keypoint, as a consulting firm, adds value, not just to its clients but to the general economic landscape.

Almost the next article in last month’s magazine was on how to beat procrastination–summed up as finding a way to make your ‘present self’ act in the best interests of your ‘future self’ – with three primary options: making the rewards of longer-term behaviour more immediate; making the costs of procrastination more immediate; and removing procrastination triggers from your environment.

How then can we ensure that we are as productive as possible? Having worked in Bahrain for longer than the majority of the population has been alive, I would love to be able to say that I know the answer. However, as we all know, life is infinitely complicated – and what works for Ali may not work for Layla. My top tips for maximising productivity include:

Learn to distinguish between what is important and what isn’t – I know people with ‘to do’ lists that include dozens – and sometimes even hundreds–of tasks. Even if each task only takes 10 minutes, a ‘to do’ list with 50 items on it is going to take up almost two working weeks – even if no more tasks are added. Prioritise what needs to be done – and delegate or delete tasks that can or should be done by someone else or do not need to be done at all.

Be organised – schedule your day so that you are clear on what you are going to do and when you are going to do it. Also, be tactical with your scheduling–if you are more productive in the morning, frontload your schedule. If you are a late riser and find you get more things done at the end of the working day, then be tactical – but be aware that nearly everyone is better able to focus in the morning.

Set deadlines – deadlines can be something of a double-edged sword. As an audit engagement partner, I often saw deadlines that gave individuals and teams far more time than they needed. Deadlines – by their very nature – should be challenging, if not impossible. If you have to work hard to achieve a deadline, it is more likely that you are going to achieve that deadline – and you will save a lot of time in the process!

Concentrate – last month’s article on procrastination stressed the importance of removing procrastination triggers from the environment. We are surrounded – or is it besieged? – by noise: emails, WhatsApps, phone calls, colleagues “just popping in to say hello”, to-do lists (see above), Twitter, Instagram … the list goes on and on. Focus on a single task, set a deadline to get it done– and then get it done! Equally, recognise that focusing intensely is mentally exhausting – so plan breaks, create opportunities to rest and give yourself some downtime.

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Batch non-essential tasks – in the same way, that you shouldn’t put the dishwasher on each time you have a cup of tea, don’t interrupt your flow to complete less strategic tasks. Make a window in your day to reply to emails, answer calls and those other things that need to be done – but are not priorities. You need to answer emails – no one should have an inbox of over 15,000 emails – but being strategic means that a lot of those emails can be delegated, deleted or done in batches.

There are only 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, and 52 and a bit weeks in a year. Nothing you can do will change that. Productivity is a tantalising mixture of motivation, mental energy, alertness and attitude – and (in my experience at least) can be boosted by exercise, eating healthily and sleeping well. The converse is also true – a bad night’s sleep is almost certain to mean a less productive day in the office –

so why not use it to get some less important, more mundane (and less mentally taxing) jobs done.

As a senior decision-maker, I know that productivity translates into results – both personal and corporate. Productive employees are not only happier – they are also more successful. So – if you are looking for that next promotion, take a moment to reflect on how productive you are – and how you could be even more productive.

Why do we come to work? Why do we do anything at all? And why – if we are doing something – is it important to be done as efficiently as possible? Last month, my colleague Wajdi Al Jallad explained how Keypoint, as a consulting firm, adds value, not just to its clients but to the general economic landscape.

Almost the next article in last month’s magazine was on how to beat procrastination–summed up as finding a way to make your ‘present self’ act in the best interests of your ‘future self’ – with three primary options: making the rewards of longer-term behaviour more immediate; making the costs of procrastination more immediate; and removing procrastination triggers from your environment.

How then can we ensure that we are as productive as possible? Having worked in Bahrain for longer than the majority of the population has been alive, I would love to be able to say that I know the answer. However, as we all know, life is infinitely complicated – and what works for Ali may not work for Layla. My top tips for maximising productivity include:

Learn to distinguish between what is important and what isn’t – I know people with ‘to do’ lists that include dozens – and sometimes even hundreds–of tasks. Even if each task only takes 10 minutes, a ‘to do’ list with 50 items on it is going to take up almost two working weeks – even if no more tasks are added. Prioritise what needs to be done – and delegate or delete tasks that can or should be done by someone else or do not need to be done at all.

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Be organised – schedule your day so that you are clear on what you are going to do and when you are going to do it. Also, be tactical with your scheduling–if you are more productive in the morning, frontload your schedule. If you are a late riser and find you get more things done at the end of the working day, then be tactical – but be aware that nearly everyone is better able to focus in the morning.

Set deadlines – deadlines can be something of a double-edged sword. As an audit engagement partner, I often saw deadlines that gave individuals and teams far more time than they needed. Deadlines – by their very nature – should be challenging, if not impossible. If you have to work hard to achieve a deadline, it is more likely that you are going to achieve that deadline – and you will save a lot of time in the process!

Concentrate – last month’s article on procrastination stressed the importance of removing procrastination triggers from the environment. We are surrounded – or is it besieged? – by noise: emails, WhatsApps, phone calls, colleagues “just popping in to say hello”, to-do lists (see above), Twitter, Instagram … the list goes on and on. Focus on a single task, set a deadline to get it done– and then get it done! Equally, recognise that focusing intensely is mentally exhausting – so plan breaks, create opportunities to rest and give yourself some downtime.

Batch non-essential tasks – in the same way, that you shouldn’t put the dishwasher on each time you have a cup of tea, don’t interrupt your flow to complete less strategic tasks. Make a window in your day to reply to emails, answer calls and those other things that need to be done – but are not priorities. You need to answer emails – no one should have an inbox of over 15,000 emails – but being strategic means that a lot of those emails can be delegated, deleted or done in batches.

There are only 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, and 52 and a bit weeks in a year. Nothing you can do will change that. Productivity is a tantalising mixture of motivation, mental energy, alertness and attitude – and (in my experience at least) can be boosted by exercise, eating healthily and sleeping well. The converse is also true – a bad night’s sleep is almost certain to mean a less productive day in the office –

so why not use it to get some less important, more mundane (and less mentally taxing) jobs done.

As a senior decision-maker, I know that productivity translates into results – both personal and corporate. Productive employees are not only happier – they are also more successful. So – if you are looking for that next promotion, take a moment to reflect on how productive you are – and how you could be even more productive.

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