Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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Optimize Your Efficiency: Are You Achieving Your Full Potential at Work?

Optimize Your Efficiency: Are You Achieving Your Full Potential at Work?

Many people are less effective than they would like to be at work, and part of the problem is procrastination. Staying focused at work is crucial for productivity and success.

Here are seven strategies to help maintain focus, beat procrastinating, and get out of work earlier:

1. Prioritize Tasks and Set Specific Goals.
Start each day by identifying and prioritizing your tasks. Focus on the most important tasks first to ensure they get your best energy and attention.

Define clear, achievable goals for your day or for specific work sessions. Knowing exactly what you need to accomplish can help keep you focused and motivated.

I use this productivity sheet every day to stay focused and prioritize the day.

2. Use Task Batching.
Group similar tasks together and tackle them in a single session. For example, when I am writing thank you notes, I write several at a time. My brain is in that mode, and I can stay focused longer. Task batching minimizes the mental load of switching between several types of tasks and can improve focus. This is why many experts also advise doing emails just a few times a day. Jumping in between various kinds of tasks is less effective.

3. Manage Your Energy, Not Just Your Time
Understand when during the day you are most alert and energetic. Harvard says we only have about 4 hours per day of big brain activity, so try to maximize your productivity during those 4 hours. Schedule your most difficult tasks during your peak energy times and get as much done during those times as possible.

I know I am not as productive in the later afternoons, so I schedule meetings in the afternoon. Knowing that I get to talk with other people energizes me. I also schedule activities in the late afternoon that require less brain power, like organizing my desk and getting things prepared for the next day.

4. Nutrition and Hydration.
Pay attention to your diet and hydration levels. Most people are at least a little dehydrated all the time, leading them to feel hungry and tired. Eating right and staying hydrated can significantly impact energy levels and concentration.

5. Customize Your Workspace Lighting
Adequate lighting is essential for focus and to reduce eye strain. Natural light is ideal, but if that is not possible, ensure your workspace is well-lit with comfortable, non-glare lighting.

6. Stop Re-doing Work
Get clear directions on projects early on so you do not waste time re-doing work. One of the exercises I ask senior leaders to do is to write out a task as though they are giving it to someone in another country who does not speak their language. It shows these leaders that often their instructions to their people are often vague, confusing, and misleading. This causes frustration and wastes time. More clarity helps everyone.

7. Establish Boundaries with Colleagues
Clear communication about when you are available to talk and when you are focusing on work can help minimize interruptions. This could involve setting specific open-door hours or using visual cues, like a sign on the door or wearing headphones to signal when you do not want to be disturbed.

Implementing these strategies can help in maintaining an elevated level of focus at work, leading to improved productivity and overall job satisfaction.



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