If you work in a big organization, I'm sure you will recognize the relentless tsunami of email, phone calls, customer visits, conferences, project meetings, town halls and other "mandatory" appointments that continually fill up your calendar.
They all seem really important and urgent at the time, but do you ever take a look back over the last month or year and ask yourself whether they really were that important in the big scheme of things? Did they improve your career or take your business to the next level? Did they save you from some disaster? Or did they just evaporate into thin air?
When my company turned two recently, I took the time to look back and think about what has worked and what hasn't. When compared to previous jobs in major companies, the single biggest difference I've noticed is one of dramatic productivity gains. I'm not talking about a 25% or even 50% improvement, I'm talking about one person being able to achieve more than an entire team in past roles. How?
I believe the secret lies in "switching" - the mental effort associated with changing topics in your brain. The less you switch, the more you are focused on one task, and the more productive you become.
Ever felt that frustration when you are making headway on a document only to have the phone ring or email arrive that grabs your attention, and then you find it difficult to finish the document? That's switching. It's losing your train of thought. It's distraction. It's inefficiency.
But wait I hear you cry - I can't control when these meetings happen, or when the phone rings, or when the email arrives or... You are right, and it is unrealistic to suggest that everybody can eliminate distraction completely. But even small steps can boost productivity by avoiding switching costs though, so here are seven suggestions to get you started:
For more on this topic, I'd recommend reading Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson. I hope this list helps you to become more productive. Feel free to comment and tell me about your experiences or suggest other productivity tips that have worked for you.