It’s a type of holy grail: trying to get more work done in less time than you’re spending now. Entrepreneurs, web workers, freelancers, writers, designers, coders… Doesn’t matter what type of work, you’re probably wondering how to increase your work productivity.
Well there are ways to increase work productivity. These are some tips that have worked for me over the years.
1. Plan. Judicious planning can make the difference in your productivity. While some people can fire off several units of work from scratch, most of us need some time to consider a few ideas, absorb some relevant details/ research, and have time to brew our results – whether it’s an article, logo, web design, code or whatever.
2. Use mind maps to organize. Lists are fine as a starting point, but mind maps are a far more productive tool to organize information.
3. Have lots of ideas. The more ideas you have, the greater the chance that one of them is worth pursuing. Professional photographers, for example, tend to find this out intrinsically. They might take an entire roll of film (well before digital cameras) with the expectation that 1-3 frames might produce a usable picture. Inventors also try many ideas before getting to something that works.
4. Filter your ideas. Use discretion and judgement to filter ideas for feasibility. That is, if you manage to create a large flow of ideas on a regular basis, learn how to pick out the winners. You can be like Thomas Edison and come up with 9,999 ways not to invent a light bulb, but you’d save so much more time if you filter for worthwhile ideas.
5. Sketch/ diagram. Producing visuals for your ideas not only help convey them to others but stimulates a different frame of thinking. It’s also easier to visualize your end results and work towards that. Diagramming always helped to produce code faster.
6. Think peripherally. The answers to your questions might come to you from unexpected sources. Sure, that sounds a bit cryptic, but I’ve always attributed my usually high productivity to immersing my mind in different topics and content formats. This gives me creative flow, and combining unusual ideas (“intersecting”) sometimes produces solutions I wouldn’t otherwise think of. (For more about “idea intersection,” I highly recommend reading The Medici Effect – free PDF copy at main website.)
7. Build on your past successes. Why waste your past efforts? Is there anything you’ve done previously that will help you complete faster what you are doing now? For example, the reason why I could often produce a thousand lines of working, partially-documented computer code in 2-3 days was because of reusing code fragments I’d developed in the past. Each fragment had its own functionality. You’ll have to extend this paradigm to whatever work you do, but here’s another example. When I freelance write, I often work in niches with overlapping topics. This is usually intentional, sometimes fortunate. What it means is that I can leverage a few hours of research for one article by reusing some of it for a later article. By spending a bit of time planning possible future articles, I save a lot of time and get a lot of work done.
8. Batch tasks. Work in such a way now that you can reuse or leverage current efforts later. One way to do this is to batch a group of related tasks. Instead of fragmenting your time doing small tasks one at a time and spread out, consider if you can allot a block of time (time chunking) to do them all at once. This allows you to focus on related efforts. With some tasks, it might require a bit of planning, but the time saved makes it worthwhile.
For example, if you’re a writer and tend to research and write for each article as the need arises, you are not batching tasks nor leveraging your efforts. Assuming that you’ll have a block of articles in a short period of time (say a month at most) which have something in common (topic or niche), you might be able to plan them all at once and even research for them simultaneously. So if you plan and outline your batch of articles now, you leave time for ideas to brew, to allow the articles to grow. I tend to use a mind map to organize and develop my article ideas, simply because mind mapping software allows you to easily switch between “big picture” and “detailed view.”
This batching can be applied to admin tasks or regular work. I no longer check my email every 15 minutes. I’ll spend 5 minutes every hour or two hours to check a few email accounts, one forum, and Twitter or Plurk.
9. Allot less time for your work. If you work at home, it’s quite likely that you’ll mix business and pleasure time if you don’t make a conscious effort not to. That means you’ll just take that much longer to get your work done. However, this principle can apply no matter where you work. Setting artificial deadlines might motivate you to be more efficient with your work.