Guide to Getting Things Done: Maximizing Productivity in a Tech-Filled World
By Roger Murray | May 3rd, 2016
Trying to accomplish tasks each day can prove nearly impossible with the constant pings, notifications, and alerts coming from your devices. All seemingly urgent, expertly crafted messages designed to pull you away from what you are doing. Here are some great tips and tricks to maintaining focus during those busy days…
Setting the Record Straight
Technology can serve as an easy distraction and just as easily improve your overall productivity. We can use it to collaborate with those working remotely effectively manage your time, and even introduce cost savings opportunities. In fact, a study by O2 Business & CEBR found productivity in the workplace has increased by 84 percent during the past 40 years due to advancements in digital technology.
This means that you need to learn how to use technology and applications the right way, training yourself to separate welcome distractions from your important tasks at hand.
Think about the number of notifications you receive from your mobile device each day. For most, it is a few times per hour from social media likes to headlines your news app feels are pertinent to you. A study from Florida State University suggests that even ignoring those notices are distraction enough to break your concentration.
Go through your settings and disable the notifications for those apps that are not vital. Perhaps the latest entertainment news isn’t the most crucial to see in real time. Filtering through the mass of apps you have downloaded and limiting their alerts can be highly effective. The app is still there for you to peruse on your time, not theirs.
Perhaps you want a few more temporary options to really prevent disruptions. You can silence notifications using the Do Not Disturb feature. You can also try putting your phone face-down on Silent or Airplane Mode.
Continuously Checking Email
Imagine if when we ran out of an item in the home, we immediately drove to the supermarket to replace it. It’s highly inefficient and entirely unnecessary. Now think about our email habits, where an average person sends/receives over 121 messages a day. Consider how many were critical and required your immediate attention. Reality is that most could wait until you were finished with your project and responded to once complete.
Multi-tasking is enjoyable, it breaks up the monotony of a more time consuming project. We welcome the distraction of what a new message could be. However, there is considerable research that has determined the concept of true multi-tasking to be nothing more than myth and distraction from the goals at hand. It degrades our clarity and mental energy with surprisingly serious consequences. This task-shifting diminishes our ability to generate high quality work and overall productivity.
Think about scheduling a few hours each day, dedicated purely to the most important tasks. Mark the time like any other meeting in your calendar. If your organization is utilizing a shared calendar program, they will schedule around your blocks, it will also help in offering your availability to others as well.
This means shutting down any email or chat programs during your times. If you receive a complaint on a slow response, you have a valid excuse – you were booked all morning and just seeing their message now. In the end, your higher-level work and deliverables will thank you.
Take a Break
It is also important to understand that distractions are inevitable. We all need to respond to emails or take a moment to watch a few mindless YouTube videos. Understand that we all need a break in concentration eventually. Schedule some time to break away, check your messages, and walk around. While seemingly counterintuitive, research actually points to an increase in overall cognitive function and productivity.
Banished Before Bed
The easiest way to increase your productivity is by getting a good night’s rest. The National Sleep Foundation is cited with research showing how electronic devices give off light that affects the body’s internal sleeping pattern and creates mental stimulants. If you struggle to fall asleep, consider reducing the use of electronics in the evening.