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Thu 4 Dec 2014 02:17 PM

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How to increase productivity

With the desire to develope skills, knowledge, and competence, productivity is sometimes taken for granted. Here are some pointers to take your productivity to the next level

How to increase productivity

Setting up a regimen to ensure you’re as productive as possible is necessary because time is a finite resource.

In his book The Power of Full Engagement, Tony Schwartz, founder and CEO of The Energy Project, says that energy is an infinite resource and comes from four main wellsprings in human beings – the body, emotions, mind, and spirit.

He adds that in each, energy can be regularly renewed by establishing specific rituals — behaviours that are intentionally practiced and precisely scheduled, with the goal of making them unconscious and automatic as quickly as possible.

Here are details of various rituals the latest research or the well-known habits of the most successful people suggest you should practise:


Practice a calming ritual before going to bed – turn off the TV, your laptop and cell phone at least an hour before going to sleep, set out your clothes, and prepare your lunch for tomorrow.

Define how many hours of sleep you need to be at your A-game tomorrow – most people usually need seven to eight hours of sleep. Thus, go to bed early.


“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” Benjamin Franklin once said. Try to wake up around 6am, as most of today’s top executives do, and avoid pressing snooze since it will only re-start your sleeping cycle. Furthermore, try to get up earlier than anyone else – starting a day with silence will make it less chaotic.

Try to take five to fifteen minutes’ exercise, have a short breakfast, and briefly go through your messages and e-mails (up to five minutes) before going to work.

While you commute to work, think about how you can add value to the day, and when to schedule any of the unexpected tasks you’ve learnt about from your latest e-mails or messages, if any.


The Pareto principle, also known as the 80–20 rule, states that 20 percent of our actions result in 80 percent of the results.

Here are a few tips on how to find the 20 percent that is creating the 80 percent of your desired outcomes:

> Optimise your work schedule

We all have a certain time of the day in which we are more productive. Find your prime time for productivity and optimise your work schedule accordingly.

> Decide on the work you’ll do first thing in the morning

Start the day by doing something important. Getting an important task done early will motivate you throughout the day.

> Prioritise tasks

Ideally, you have already done this and now you can just quickly go through your ‘to do’ list. However, you can now check and maybe tweak the listed tasks by their importance to make sure that you finish all of your most important tasks for the day.

> Chunk larger tasks

Most of the important tasks are often the complex ones. To avoid being overwhelmed in the morning, break larger tasks into multiple smaller ones.

> Put a timer on each task

The Pomodoro Technique, a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in 1980s, suggests breaking down work in 25 minutes long intervals.

> Don’t multitask

Our brains are less equipped for multitasking tasks that do require brainpower. A 2010 study by neuroscientists at the French medical research agency Inserm showed that a two-task limit is what the human brain can handle.

> Delegate tasks

Feel confident to delegate tasks to your colleagues but make sure to let them know what the deadline for the project is and give them all of the needed information for its successful completion.

> Designate times to handle e-mails

Studies have shown that an average professional spends about 23 percent of the day emailing.

If you are spending an average of over two hours per day replying to e-mails, it could mean you have too much free time on your hands.

Instead of constantly checking your e-mails, check them a few scheduled times per day and turn e-mail notifications off the rest of the time.

> Avoid unnecessary meetings

Knowing what meetings to refuse is as important as fully utilising the power of networking. To avoid stretching yourself too thin, focus on the following:

• Designate certain days of the week for meetings and focus on more core tasks the rest of the time.

• Attend only meetings regarding the phase of the project you are involved in. If you are interested in what happened during the meeting, request to receive notes with the most important details.

> Take breaks

Productivity is not measured by the number of hours you sit at a desk but by how much you get done. Therefore, if working eight to 10 hours per day, take around three to four breaks. Go out on the balcony or in front of your office building to get some fresh air.

> Silent distractions

Certain habits can waste your precious time without you even realising it. To stop distractions killing your productivity, do this:

• Keep your cell phone on silent

• Block time for checking your social media accounts if you are using it for business. If not, check it during your lunch break or after work

• Eliminate mindless Internet surfing

• Limit and control your cigarette breaks


In between coming back from work and switching off all your electronic devices an hour before sleep, there is enough time to unwind.

Some people choose to read, while others prefer to go for a walk or meditate.

Whatever you choose, make sure to spend five minutes every evening to write down or read through the list of your goals for that week, month or the whole year. You will be more productive if you keep your ‘goals to achieve’ instead of a ‘to do’ list.

Some goals should take as long as one week, a month or a year to accomplish but they should have a deadline, be specific and cover both your personal and professional life.

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