There is so much to be written about productivity and how to maximize it, that there is little use in trying to capture it all in one work, no matter the distance between the covers. Few readers would have the patience to read it, and no writers would have the lifespan to write it. Instead it is best to take productivity pointers in bite sized chunks. If you come across one hundred different ways to improve you productivity, and want to try them out, chances are you try a handful. If instead you were to encounter two of them every week for a year, I’d wager your success with implementation would rise significantly. In that spirit, I will mostly keep these productivity points short.
In a recent blog post, Sam Altman, of Y Combinator fame, wrote a laundry list of productivity practices he has come to implement over time. They range from his sleeping and eating habits to the ideal length of a meeting (which is often zero minutes). A couple of his points stand out as particularly striking and worth an attempt at trying out.
Examine What You Are Working On:
One of the most basic and absolutely most influential aspects of productivity is the importance of what you are working on and your interest level. If you love something enough, you do it in your free time. You find a way to squeeze it into your day. Imagine having just half of that interest in your work projects?
But I get it. In the corporate world, you don’t always get to choose. Don’t pretend you don’t have influence here, though. Most employees do. What boss does not like a direct report coming to them with a project they’d like to contribute to? If you don’t like what you are working on, and you truly can’t influence it where you work, then maybe it is where you work that you need to change.
Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
There are a number of ways to practice this. Start the day with your most challenging project. You should be at your most energized and will not want to tackle this item later when you are drained. You will also feel accomplished when it’s done, which can spur further productivity. Bonus tip: Don’t schedule meetings at this time. Your productivity is wasted in meetings.
Another way of saying this is to “Eat the frog”, which comes from quote people love to attribute to Mark Twain (I’m unsure if it’s accurate and you can’t believe the internet when it comes to Mark Twain quotes). He is reported to have said that if you start the day eating a live frog, you at least know the worst of your day is behind you. Tackle your worst project first. Everything else will feel smooth from there on out and it will relieve the stress you are placing on yourself by leaving that item hanging over your head all day long.
The third skill to learn here is to become good at saying, “No.” Learn what is important to get done and what is not. You don’t have to fix every problem or put out every fire. You will get yourself into trouble if you try. Saying no to something is simply allowing yourself to say yes to something more important when it arises, if it’s not already staring you in the face.
Use a Full Spectrum LED
For the most actionable item on the list, try this. Full spectrum LED lights have a host of benefits, including helping with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) for those of us in the colder, darker climates. Altman says he uses his for 10-15 minutes every morning while he works through emails, and it is the one of the best things he has implemented. Not what I expected to find in this article, but mine will be getting delivered by Amazon by the end of the week…