5 Efficient Ways To Boost Productivity

by Lynn Truong on 14 December 2007 8 comments
Photo: iStockphoto

Sometimes being able to get things done isn’t just about time management or motivation. Sometimes it’s not because of laziness, being unfocused or disorganized. Sometimes, the reason for the lack of productivity is simply a lack of efficiency. Without it, you can work all day and get nothing done.

When I quit my 9-6 office job, I felt like I had all the time in the world to do everything. Not only did I have an extra 9 hours at home, but I didn’t have a 3 hour commute! I imagined all the time I would have to do everything. But I quickly realized that everything always took longer than I had expected. I made lists, decided on priorities, sat at my desk all day trying to work. But I still had trouble being productive. I would feel like I had really worked all day, but had nothing to show for it.

I discovered that there were a few changes I could make that significantly boosted my productivity. These are five effective ways to become more efficient.

Run errands early. One of the greatest advantages of working from home is the ability to run errands during non peak times--namely, before noon. Not only is there less people, less waiting in lines, and less traffic on the streets, you can get home and still have the rest of the day to work. And of course it’s always better to group errands together. Instead of going to the post office one day, and then the market the next, do them both on the same day. It’s better to spend a whole day running errands, than to take time out every day to run one or two. You don’t break the flow of your work or cover the same ground multiple times.

Kick email addiction. I am an email-holic. This wouldn’t be so bad if I acted after reading the emails--respond, file, or delete them. I don’t do any of that. I compulsively check and read emails, but I procrastinate responding. Sometimes when I check and don’t have any new email, I’ll even reread emails. Once every few weeks I find the need to set aside hours to sort through my inbox filled with hundreds of emails. I end up reading every email multiple times because I’m not ready to respond when I read them, and that’s simply a waste of time.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Revamp the workplace. When the office in our house was first arranged, my roommate had first dibs for the space. She was going to law school and expected to spend a lot of time in there. She needed two desks and filing space. I stuck my desk in the corner out of her way which was fine at first, since I wasn’t home during the day anyway. Eventually though, she graduated and got a job. I quit and stayed home. I discovered that the location of the desk made it impossible for me to work during certain hours of the day. The large window I was sitting right next to would cause that area to be too hot or too cold, depending on the time of day. I just couldn’t sit there for long before I grew completely uncomfortable. Finally one day I measured the room, went to Ikea, and rearranged the entire office, even fitting an extra desk for myself. Now I have the space and comfort I need to allow me to literally sit at my desk all day.

Priorities aren't everything. Sometimes you have long term high priority projects that might take some time to complete, as well as lower priority items that take no time to complete. It might seem obvious to tackle the high priority projects but sometimes it’s better to complete the quick, lower priority items. That will check off a few items on your to-do list and take a few nagging things off your mind. Take a 20 minute break from your high priority item to check and answer emails. Set aside some time to wash the car or repair the disposal. You don’t need to hole yourself up completing a “high priority” project and neglect all those little things. It’s nice to take a break and do something less important. Knock a few things off your list that takes very little time, and you won’t end up with a mountain of little things to do later.

Start sleeping well. I’ve mentioned before how important a regular sleep schedule is. I believe sleep is a remedy for many ailments. Not as much sleep as you can have, mind you. I mean as much sleep as you need. The older we get, the less tolerance our bodies have for our disrespect. If you don’t get on a regular sleep cycle, your body just won’t respond at its optimal level. If you want to be more alert, have more energy, be more focused, and have better moods, try sleeping better. Get a good bed, wind down with some wine and a good book at the end of the day, and wake up when your body’s alarm goes off. Efficiency starts from within.

 

 

 

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Guest's picture
Badgerette

Of course I was reading it, when I should have been focused on work.

Will Chen's picture

"Now I have the space and comfort I need to allow me to literally sit at my desk all day."

But she does take lots of breaks to play with her dog.  =)

Great article Lynn!

Greg Go's picture
Greg Go

I had to declare email bankrupcy to get a handle on my inbox. Since then I've been careful not to let emails linger in the inbox. So far so good. Fingers crossed!

Guest's picture
Barbara

I can't agree with the things you've mentioned here more heartily.

When I left the corporate world and started working from home myself, I found issues with everything you've written about, and thankfully, worked some of them out in the same manner.

One of the biggest problems I'm still fighting though is surfing the internet when I need to be working. I don't have a TV in the house, which really helps with not getting distracted there, but that in turn makes me use the internet. I feel like if I was in an office surrounded by people all day I might not use the internet as much (for fear of getting reprimanded) but at home, there's no one to yell at me but myself.

Great post. I already knew I wasn't the only one struggling with issues of working at home, but it always helps to hear somebody else talk about it. Thanks!

Guest's picture

This post kind of inspired me to work on my sleeping habits. I usually sleep late because of some unnecessary things like surfing the Internet or watching DVD's. I am planning to maximize my sleeping hours because I've been struggling with productivity problems such as lack of focus, lack of attentiveness and weak reflexes. I'll be visiting your site regularly from now on.

Guest's picture

A befitting post Lynn!
Being a consultant for last 7 years, I can say one thing that any and every small business is fraught with that evil called stress

In my blog posts titled "Small
Business Challenges- Here is the Magic Key
" & "Weekend Breaks and Office", I have emphasized the shades of the situation on my blog.

 

As a good practice, employees can approach their bosses for an option of telecommuting from home. These days there are so many softwares available in open source using which the office monitoring and work progress can be registered from remote location.

Not all of us could be as lucky as Ms Truong to not only quit office gracefully and yet carve out a success story. Let's try to pepper our worklife with telecommuting. It works!

Guest's picture
Guest

good tools are also part of the mix. and web 2.0 tools are win win for us freelancers. I use web based HyperOffice - it lets me maintain to do lists, store and organize information online, access this information even on my mobile, share this info with others, schedule my tasks, work on my info directly from my deskop and other things

Guest's picture

I definitely need to get away from checking my email and Facebook quite so often! Facebook is a void that completely sucks me in and makes me forget what it was that I had intended to do there in the first place...