A hope for high productivity

Waking up in the morning with the hope of a highly productive day is not enough. Strategically set your intentions; this is an essential first step towards progress. Clearly picture in your mind what a productive day looks like for you. Clear space in your mind for the vision of accomplishment. Identify the feeling you will have when you complete  those tasks and goals. This meditation is the turbo boost to productivity. If you’re not familiar with meditation, I recommend starting with Lifehack’s How Mediation Can Improve Your Productivity.

Your list is ready. Your mind is set. Now, it is go-time for a productive day. Regardless of your productivity method, there are productivity myths and taboos that will hinder your progress towards accomplishing tasks. Let’s take a look at 8 of these taboos that will bust your productivity.

Settle in to work some long hours

hours worked and productivity

Percavel looks at hours worked and productivity

Civilization cannot drop this unfortunate productivity habit. The science behind this myth will help you dismantle any manager that wants to measure your performance by using evidence of a long work day. The Economist highlights results of a study where workers were put to the “how many productive hours worked” test. The results show that employees who work “below 49 weekly hours, variations in output are proportional to variations in hours. But when people worked more than about 50 hours, output rose at a decreasing rate. In other words, output per hour started to fall.”

Percavel also found a reduced work day doesn’t necessarily equal a productive output. When hours were reduced, and the work day was shorter, productivity was higher. If the workday was made shorter, and productivity was not initially high, there was a decrease in output. Finding the right balance is key to productivity, which means you need to understand your rhythm.

The early bird catches the worm

Successful authors tune into their inherit biorhythms. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont describes using inherit biorhythms in action. When her students ask her how to get their writing from the depths of the brain onto a piece of paper, she responds: “You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively.”

Biorhythms are unique to the individual. Learning to leverage your peak in productivity time is one of your most powerful tools. Keep track of your activities over a period of time to help you calculate a biorhythm. Look at everything you do, from writing emails, reading, or playing with your kids. Keep track of your energy level and assign a rating system for yourself.  Your system should include your perceived success in that activity. Do this without judgement and be kind to yourself. This is a journey to improving a small piece of yourself that will yield great results.

As you start to understand your unique biorhythm, this will inform a better schedule for your day. For example, my most creative time of day is the morning. It is generally my lowest for physical energy. I block my mornings for activities like writing or brainstorming with my partner. I reserve the pre-lunch hour for a work out. That is when I start transitioning into a “brain-dead” state and my appetite increases. I don’t want to eat my lunch at 10AM. So, I go to the gym and I get my heart pumping. I stall my hunger pangs to a reasonable time. My afternoons tend to be full of more energy because I have super charged my body with food and excercise. I’ve surmised over time that I am definitely a morning person.

Your butt needs to be IN your chair, IN the office

Sitting has been recently called the “new smoking.” It is unhealthy, and is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and premature death. Unless you need rest, or have a medical condition that requires you to sit, this is the most unhealthy lifestyle habit. Sitting hurts productivity and has long-term impacts for you health. Nilofer Merchant tackles this taboo in a Ted Talk. “We sit for 9.3 hours a day on average. That’s more than we sleep!” This is a short Ted Talk and worth a listen to motivate you into movement.

There is something amazing about getting out of the office box. Sunshine is an amazing thing. It is revitalizing and feeds you vitamin D. If your phone is loaded with IM and email apps, you can block out 30 minutes to go on a walk outside or on a treadmill. Answer emails, connect with clients, friends, and family. I often take the time to load up a podcast to learn a new subject. Right there I have tackled a task in “personal improvement” and racked up some steps on my FitBit.

Schedule a meeting with your co-worker or client outside. Take your meetings on the move with a stroll through a park or around your office. Your body, mind, and soul will love you for it.

Meetings are a marker for success

I was told by a manager once that the more meetings I was attending, the more I was contributing to the business. This was distressing. My day is often packed with back-to-back with meetings. Each one more redundant and less productive than the last. My attention is rarely focused on the words said, as I venture to different browser windows to make “harmless” updates to presentations or spreadsheets. I tell myself, “I’m listening. I’m just using the time to get more done.”

Ill-formed meetings kill productivity for everyone involved. Psychology Today delivers facts and figures that squashes the meeting myth. Many executives and managers do not support the meeting myth. One study showed that 45% of executives felt there would be more productivity if meetings were banned at least one day a week.

With limited amount of cognitive space, a productive meeting should be short. I schedule meetings in 15 minute blocks. If I don’t need to screen-share, I ask my invitee if they’ll walk to the café for coffee with, or take a stroll outside. I also keep this infographic on my desk to make sure I am holding effective meetings.

You can only get things done in the office

Technology supports a sophisticated and comfortable environment for those that need or prefer to work at home. Yet, there are still managers and organizations that do not accept this. Forbes reported that 91% of remote American workers felt they are more productive at home than in an office.

When I returned to work after my having my second child, my manager grew the team 5-fold. With that growth came an intolerance to a flexible work schedule and where work was being done. I quickly found myself at the lowest plateau of creativity and productivity ever.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners often have the luxury to change their scenery. The Muse suggests “the best workspaces are ones that offer people a bit of freedom to move around and get a change of scenery.” If you’re an entrepreneur working at home, invest in a standing desk or position yourself just right in your kitchen nook to diversify your working environment. Head over to a local coffee shop to take in some ambient noise while you tackle a task or two. Small business owners with a storefront or office can create co-working spaces or setup a couch.

This is the digital age, just send an email

Communicating with your customers and vendors by email is effective and efficient on most days. Sometimes, it is better to pick up the phone. Customer service is not always about putting out fires from unhappy customers.

Building relationships over the phone is an investment and also productive for your business. Even if it may not always be efficient. Language is a powerful tool that does not always translate into written word. ” unlike e-mail, the phone forces you to be more emphatic, more accurate, more honest.” says Ross McCammon, an Entrepreneur contributor.

Building relationships is a more productive activity for small businesses. Our clients, My NC Homes, is a real estate firm. Larry Tollen, co-manages the firm with Andrew Palumbo. He is extremely efficient and reliable to get in touch with by email. However, he understands that he is providing a service as an advisor. He is quick to pickup his phone and call clients or vendors. He actively connects with his clients in order to make a more direct and clear communication exchange.

Multitasking

There is a large volume of science and multiple studies on multitasking and its ability to kill productivity.  Yet, just like the long workday, we are guilty of attempting damaging multitasking habits. Identify some of the worse offenders, such as looking at browsers during a call, or glancing at your phone during a meeting. Knowing your worst habits is a start towards producing productive entrepreneurial workstyle.

Close your browser windows

It is a guilty pleasure to bounce from one browser window to another. I sit down to start a blog and my research windows have somehow lead me into the abyss that is cute puppy pictures on Facebook. I catch myself watching far too many minutes of Game of Thrones analysis videos on YouTube. Productivity is about staying focused and completing tasks. You’re not going to do that if you’ve wasted 30 minutes looking at celebrity pictures on Instagram. One solution is to create a browser profile and start blocking those sites that you cannot resist.

Clear off the monitor farm

Much like your browser windows, too many monitors are a distraction. The New York Times explores the benefits of using a single monitor to cut out distractions to survive and thrive on one monitor:

With a single screen, I was forced to fight my distractions. I had to actively prevent myself from falling into email and Twitter, from ever losing focus on my main window. It took some time for me to exercise that willpower. But by finding methods of sticking to my task rather than coping with my distractions, my single-screen machine ultimately improved how I work. It can for you, too — if only you resist the pull of two displays.”

Silence notifications

Every ping will cost you lost productivity. Close your email and turn off your phone notifications. Studies show that your notification pings pull you away; you lose focus and productivity even if you do not interact. “Our results suggest that mobile phones can disrupt attention performance even if one does not interact with the device. As mobile phones become integrated into more and more tasks, it may become increasingly difficult for people to set their phones aside and concentrate fully on the task at hand, whatever it may be.”

Email is just as distracting. Reserve four 30-minute blocks of time during your day to answer email. If you focus on those emails and dedicate yourself to completion, you will accomplish your communication goals. Knowing this, you can confidently close down your inbox at all other times of the day to power through your to-do list.

Isolation is bliss

The average worker is interrupted almost every three minutes. As an entrepreneur, I am tied to my own revenue. If I am interrupted every three minutes, like the average person, I will lose almost two hours of productivity in a day, according to the Washington Post.

In desperate times (desperation likely caused by procrastination), I seek isolation to complete my tasks. I will isolate myself from WiFi and from people. I tend to seek a place where I can either be outdoors or see the outdoors to channel some creative energy.

Productivity is your super power

Mastering the art of productivity is a learned skill. It requires a keen sense of self-awareness as you navigate your strengths and weaknesses. Discipline is essential to practice and push through failures. As you learn new techniques, lean on your new routines help you become productive.

As you explore and learn about your productive capabilities, know that you are not alone when you accidentally get trapped in a wasted hour, afternoon, or even a day. This is a journey, and we are all going to work better and harder together. As a small business owner, we can make sure our productivity improves a little each day by:

  • Building a work day that is just right to fit our individual levels of productivity. Because working 70 hours a week is a waste of everyone’s time.
  • Tuning into our personal biorhythm to maximize our outputs for each type of task we need to tackle.
  • Getting out of our office chairs and finding creative ways to excercise our body and mind.
  • Eliminating pointless meetings and setting efficient agendas for the meetings we must hold.
  • Building a workspace that encourages movement and a change of scenery. (We have a great Pinterest board for some Home Office ideas).
  • Picking up the phone to connect with customers and vendors to make honest and direct connections with others.
  • Addressing our multitasking monsters head-on:
    • Close your browser and email windows
    • Work with 1 monitor
    • Silence notifications
    • Find an isolated place to work when necessary.
  • Picking up the phone to connect with customers and vendors to make honest and direct connections with others.

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