In today’s technological age, you may spend much of your day in back-to-back meetings, checking emails, text messaging, and replying to voice messages — and the rest of the time burning the midnight oil to feel productive.
If this is your typical workday, it’s time for a productivity make-over.
Learn from the experts how to decide when and where to get things done, multi-task, turn your stress into an asset, and take steps to get your new hires involved to add immediate value.
When and Where to Get Things Done
In today’s busy workplace, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the emails, daily tasks, and deadlines. To help you manage your work, experts recommend working backward from your goal to milestones to tasks. Here is how to do it.
Rather than writing your big goal at the top of your to-do list, such as “write 100-page report on company X,” break it up into small chunks that can be accomplished in a few hours or less. Mark your calendar with dates and times to get each manageable item done and stick to the plan as close as you can. Avoid distractions during that time, such as checking your email or phone, and focus instead on the task at hand.
Knowing When and How to Multi-Task
It wasn’t long ago when experts told us that multi-tasking was the key to workplace efficiency. New studies, however, suggest that multi-tasking not only makes us less efficient, but impedes productivity.
Some experts even go so far as to say that it makes us “dumber.”
According to an article in Inc. Magazine, changing tasks more than 10 times a day makes you dumber than being stoned: When you’re stoned, your IQ drops by five points. When you multi-task, it drops by an average of 10 points — 15 points for men, five for women.
Yes, men are three times worse at multi-tasking than women.
But before you stop reading in protest, there are certainly those who believe that multi-tasking is not only essential to survive in today’s workplace but is helpful.
So another way to think about multi-tasking is to do it better. Here are some guidelines.
When You Get Stuck
When you feel that you’re butting your head against a wall, switching to another task and then coming back to the original task could actually make you more productive.
Gives You Critical Information Faster
Having diverse technologies at your disposal can give you a competitive edge and make you more productive — provided you think ahead and use the tools to your advantage.
For instance, if you’re stuck in a meeting, you can use your iPhone or Blackberry to complete other tasks that would otherwise need to wait; this also allows you to respond to critical information right away.
Turn Your Stress into an Asset
Stress is unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to paralyze you. When managed correctly, stress can actually make you more productive and help you perform better. Here are three tips to use stress to your advantage.
Focus on What You Can Control
Stress can be unhealthy if you get into a situation in which constant worrying, negative thinking, and ruminating take over your emotions and away from your ability to think. Consider this exercise instead: In the book, The Happiness Advantage, the author has an exercise called the Island Experiment. When you feel stressed, the author suggests writing a list of stressors and then putting them into two circles or “islands” — one holds the things you can control and the other things you can’t. Ignore the second circle and choose one concrete action to take in the first circle. This will help you solve the source of stress and move you to a better place where you feel in control.
Create a Supportive Network
Knowing that you have a support network of friends and family to turn to in stressful times can be important. You want to build this network during times when you’re not stressed so they know you’re not just turning to them during hard times. Furthermore, surround yourself with positive, supportive people and avoid people who will bring you down.
Learn How to Handle Stress
Another effective way to deal with stress better is through practice. It’s no accident that younger people tend to fly off the handle faster than older people, according to the Harvard Business Review. It’s not so much a function of hormones than life experience. The more you put yourself in a game-changing situation or go out of your comfort zone, the less pressure and fear will get to you.
Get New Hires Involved
Providing time for new hires to read through your website and go through training is one way to integrate them into the workforce, but they might get up to speed more quickly if they understand the company culture, how the organization functions and how work gets done, and are introduced to the right people. Here are three tips for more productive hiring from the Harvard Business Review.
Before you hire someone, introduce the candidate to the organization’s culture and be honest about its vision rather than overselling the company. Recruit for cultural fit, skills, and experience, and identify transition risks such as lack of skills or tenuous relationships to ensure that it will be a good fit for both of you.
Introduce Them to the Right People
Introducing new hires to the right people early on is the best insurance for them to know who to approach for information and how to get things done. These go-to people aren’t necessarily the highest-ranking people but rather those who have key information and insights. Experts suggest identifying 10 key people in your organization and making sure that new hires either meet them during the interview process or shortly thereafter.
“Onboarding” Made Easy
Too many organizations waste time by not connecting new hires with the right people to solve problems and tackle issues right away. Consider teaming up new hires with one or more mentors to help them transition more quickly. Rather than spending endless hours on training, integrate new hires into real projects and help them make critical connections early on so they can contribute faster.