Some days, you feel like you got nothing done at work. It's not uncommon: The email inbox grows, an instant messages pop up and colleagues interrupt your workflow. Productivity consultant and author of “The Accomplishing More With Less Workbook” Pierre Khawand says: “When we are working a few minutes here and a few minutes there, we are staying at the superficial level and not getting deep into anything.” Here are his strategies for digging in deeper to get more work done.
How can people reach their level of optimal productivity?
The first element has to do with how results change with time when we are working on a task. When we start to work on the task, we get results. But at some point, the results level off and then diminish, because either we get mentally tired and are no longer productive, or we need someone else to do their part before we can continue. This is all good in theory, but what happens in reality is that a few minutes after we start to work on a task, we get interrupted. When we get interrupted, our results go down to zero — this happens again and again, and again. It's part of life in today’s work environment.
So how do we stay on task?
A key element is starting the day by identifying what we intend to accomplish that day and ending the day with a reconciliation process. That ensures that we close the loops on open issues. Instead of starting the day with e-mail, we should stop for a minute or two to reflect on what is important and what we want to accomplish. Then, put it in writing.
The idea is that we need to stay focused long enough so that we can achieve in-depth thinking, creative problem solving and get meaningful things done. Depending on the task, it can be 15 minutes, 30 minutes or several hours. Once we have accomplished something meaningful, it is time to stop our “focused” session, and switch to being collaborative — handle email, phone calls, have live discussions. This is the collaborative work where we get the most of our team productivity and equally important results. After the collaborative session, it is time to take a break — do something that gets us re-energized and ready for the next focused session. No significant productivity gains, and therefore no significant accomplishments, can be achieved if we don’t optimize our workflow by recognizing the concepts described above: focus, collaborate, then play!
Working in bursts manages tasks, interruptions and energy. It makes you feel invigorated and accomplished as a result.