How to become more productive?

Nowadays, words like productivity, efficiency and effectiveness are what we hear the most and they mean almost the same thing. If we refer to dictionaries, the definition of these words will give us less alternatives since the three above mentioned words come from the Latin language and it seems they mean the same thing.

In fact, based on my personal practice and the study of these concepts, I prefer to use one simple sentence for defining and remembering their meaning: “To be efficient (productive), means doing things in the right way, while being effective means to do the right things”. If you can’t still differentiate these terms, I will simplify my argument with an example:

You have invited friends over for dinner and you have spent the entire day preparing the food for your friends. Everything is perfect and based on the recipes you have read, everything is delicious. You feel proud of what you cooked and start to feel anxious when you see that your friends are not eating the food. Curious and sad, you start to ask what’s wrong with the food, and for the first time you learn that all your friends are vegetarian. You ask one simple question to yourself: How comes that I didn’t ask my friends about their food preferences? I did everything right, but I didn’t do the right thing!

There are endless examples like the one I mentioned, but in this article, we will focus on the concepts of efficiency and productivity in business, corporations or organizations.

What has helped me very much to be productive is the importance and the urgency of tasks, which is often called as the “Eisenhower’s Box”. (Dwight Eisenhower was the 34th president of the United States of America and is known as one of the most productive leaders ever, not only on short term periods but for decades). The concept of productivity applied by Eisenhower is also a core concept for the ABCDE productivity method recommended by Brian Tracy. The method suggests you to list your tasks based on the following formula:

  • Important but not urgent tasks – long term tasks that must be planned and included in our agenda.

The first step is to plan and include them in our agenda. What kind of tasks are these? Our health care, time spent with the family, telephone calls for friends, long term development strategies, ect.

  • Important and urgent tasks – tasks that we should act about immediately

Act now, do not leave it for later.

  • Not important and not urgent tasks – tasks that should be eliminated from our agenda

The easiest way to be efficient is to avoid the tasks such as watching TV, reading news, ect.

  • Urgent but not important tasks – telephone calls, emails, news, TV. (Communication processes that are important for clients are not included in this category).

 You can delegate to other people some of these tasks, and this will give you time to work on the important tasks. Another alternative is subcontracting your tasks. The most common activity we experience every day is our engagement with emails and telephone calls as we start the day or our work. The worst thing is starting the day by watching TV or reading the news, not knowing that such activity lowers our productivity and efficiency levels at work.

Peter Drucker underlines that “Time management is in itself life management.” We will be more efficient when we start categorizing our tasks and by setting up priorities. This will create space for the most important tasks in our life: taking care about our family, our health, the relations with our close relatives or friends, ect.

Why the majority of people do the urgent tasks first? Which is the difference between the urgent tasks and the important ones?

A right answer can be found in one of Eisenhower’s quotes: “The most important things are rarely urgent, and the urgent things are rarely important.” It appears that our problem in managing time comes from avoiding and neglecting the simple solutions, by complicating our work and our lives continuously.

I will share with you some suggestions on how to be more productive:

  • Plan your week/day work in advance
  • Make a list of tasks that you will complete tomorrow. If you plan the next day today, you will save 2 to 3 hours of tomorrow. This will help in avoiding the feeling of guilt for not completing our tasks.
  • Set up your priorities
  • Start working on the most important tasks
  • Focus on one task and then on the others. Avoid multitasking.

As you know better, the choice is entirely up to you! If you want to be efficient and effective, then try to practice a habit every day. Becoming a master in something has a simple formula: practice. Nothing magic. If you want to move forward and to become successful, start today. Today is the day that defines our future.

Photo by Visual Hunt

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