How to Increase Your Productivity by Doing Less
Inspired by: Feliks Eyser on Medium
The word productivity is thrown about a lot. At Swipii, we use it occasionally, but we’re more inclined to think about focus or alignment. That said, there is a case to be made for making the effort to boost your own productivity. It may be a buzzword, but it’s true. We need to find ways to work ‘better’ and spend our time making positive changes in our lives and in our jobs. Productivity doesn’t just happen.
With this in mind, I wanted to take some time to share some ideas on how you can actually increase your productivity by doing less. Wild, right?
Spend less time travelling
Although there is something to be said for the mind-wanderings you can get with an hour train journey to and from your office each day, simply staying at home can do wonders for your overall effort and the amount of work you can get done. At Swipii, some of our staff actually regularly work from home- because it suits their lives better to do so. As a result, often they’ll experience time at home when they were so focused. When in the office, we want to get answers to questions ASAP. We want to make sure we’re talking to the right people about the right things. By working from home, you eliminate all of the noise that will buzz around your head and put you off of your current project.
Take a break every now and then (strategic laziness)
Now I’m not saying you can slack off (I swear). Obviously, it’s important to take time for yourself and just relax. However, what I’m talking about it taking a moment to allow yourself to do some deep-thinking. I always have a-ha moments when I’m out for a walk, for some people it’s when you’re in the shower, who knows what it is for everyone. You can do this at work. Go make a coffee, listen to some music for ten minutes.
Once, in a songwriting class at summer school, I was taught to do something called a ‘dive’ when I was struggling to come up with lyrics. You need a timer, a notepad and a pen. You start with an idea, a concept, a problem, a word- whatever it is. Then you give yourself a set amount of time (I usually did 5 or 10 minutes) and write whatever pops into your head. Call it word association or anything you like, but I thought it was brilliant. Anyway, back to being lazy.
You’ll have read it a million times. Workers nowadays are obsessed with being busy. You don’t need to be at full-throttle 100% of the time. You need to leave room in your day-to-day to allow for thinking, reflecting, planning and improving. Plan time into your day for a temporary ‘shutdown’ to allow you to process what’s happening, reflect on how you’re working, and improve for the future.
Focus on your goals and beware WIP
Have you ever had one of those weeks where you have started ten projects and finished two? It can be very frustrating. Distractions and “interrupt work” as our team call it, can stop you from feeling and actually being productive. Is your Work In Progress actually going to help you achieve your objectives? Or do you need to allocate time to just focus on that? Your to-do list should never be a mile-long, you’re not superhuman. When you have team catch-ups, or standups (a favourite of almost every team at Swipii), you should think about how you can work together or focus your efforts in order to get work completed that is going to improve the experience for your customers. As Shrikant Vashishtha said in one Agile Buddha article, you need to “Stop Starting, Start Finishing”.
While we’re on the topic of getting stuff done, stop trying to juggle tasks and keep all your plates spinning AND breathe at the same time. It’s draining. When you want to get one thing done, focus on it. Immerse yourself in the task. If you spend your deep-thinking time thinking of creative ways to attack your goal, you may just have a lightbulb moment. If you switch off from the outside world and get motivated, you’ll finish faster than you probably thought possible. Focussing on one thing at a time instead of trying to take on the whole world at once.
Simplify your company’s processes
We are a start-up fintech company. We like technology, we want to make our technology available to local, small businesses everywhere and make sure communities are being rewarded. Being so enthusiastic about our own technology means we’re always buzzing to hear about new advancements in tech and love nothing more than a good ol’ gossip about the latest software or app. That said, we know that if we just became “yes people” and implemented every new process and system, we’d end up with a wildly complex system that no-one really would know how to use.
When I started at Swipii, we had 5 separate systems for our various emailing processes. Five. Over the past while, we’ve been working on simplifying this, mainly so we don’t have to stop what we’re doing to sit down and think about where we are going to send our next email from. Overall, our emails have been tidied up (and improved) massively. Happy days.
After a talk by Richard Lennox at the Swipii office, we know that with growth, our communication within the company and our process are going to get more complex. However, by keeping things simple now, we’ll be able to handle the complex when it comes.
Have a calendar clear-out
Meetings are a hub for creative juices to flow, but they can be detrimental when you’re trying to get something done and you’ve got 4 half-hour meetings dispersed throughout an afternoon. It leaves you no time to really become immersed in your work. In a Harvard Business Review article, they found that (out of 182 senior managers) 64% said that “meetings come at the expense of deep thinking”. On top of that, 65% of them said that “meetings keep them from completing their own work”. If you don’t absolutely have to have the meeting, don’t have it. Keep people informed and coordinate your efforts. But if you’re just rehashing stuff that’s already been covered- put it in an email. I may be being extremely harsh here, meetings do have a lot of value. Just be mindful of what you need to do, what you should be doing, and what you want to do. Make sure you understand the differences and similarities.
At Swipii, we like to do something called No Meetings Wednesday. It does what it says on the tin, in order to increase our productivity we have a day to get the head down and get really stuck into our projects. Of course, if a crisis were to occur (it won’t) then absolutely, we would have a meeting. But it works well for us, I’d recommend it.
Do less. Increase your productivity. Be mindful. You got it.
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