Productivity. There are loads of articles on the web that outline various productivity tips and give advice on how to work smarter. Some work and some don’t. You see, there is one common thread that should run through every productivity tip, and that is that you can’t be more productive until you know what you spend most of your time on. Do you know? Can you identify what activity during the day consumes most of your time?
For me, I spend too much time replying to emails. I also spend considerable time on Skype. How did I measure this? Well, go and have a look at a site called RescueTime. RescueTime helps you figure out the answer by showing you how you spend your time on the computer. You must know exactly where your time is going before you can make changes to your way of doing things to become more productive and work smarter.
I started with my email. This time consuming hog is something I needed to get a handle on. What I did was create 3 Inboxs. One is for important work, one for less important work and one for everything else. If an email was sent to me directly by someone inside my organization (my email address in the ‘To’ field), I created a rule to put it in the important work inbox. If my email address is on a cc list from within my organization, it goes to the less important work folder. If I receive a mail from outside my organization, it goes to the ‘everything else’ Inbox. Important mails I action immediately. Those where I am on the cc list, I read when I schedule an email break. (Seriously, if you want my immediate attention, don’t cc me on a mail) The ‘everything else’ inbox can expect a reply (if any) within a day or so. This immediately cuts out a ton of lol-cat emails, which helps me work smarter.
While I really believe that Skype is an essential communication tool and that you do need it to be productive and work smarter, I also firmly believe that the notification sound that Skype plays when a new instant message arrives is incredibly distracting. This is especially true when you are concentrating on a specific task and need to focus. I am a programmer, so any disturbance makes it difficult for me to get back to my train of thought once distracted. So therefore I turn off the notification sound. The pop up from Skype is less distracting, and I don’t notice it while I am concentrating on a task.
What I have also done is create work sprints. So at specific times during the day, I concentrate on a specific task. I don’t pay notice to anything else no matter what. The phone is ignored (side tip: if you have caller ID on your phone and don’t recognize the incoming number, ignore the call – they can leave a message), emails don’t exist, Skype is silenced and my office door is closed. For other great productivity tools, head on over to David Seah’s productivity tool index. There are some really neat tools there that will augment any work day to help you work smarter.
12 Additional Ideas To Work Smarter & Become More Productive
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