Monday, 14 January 2013

Improving productivity

I'm quite a fan of the Brain Pickings blog, and last week they featured this animated video about the science of productivity, from AsapSCIENCE.


The main points raised by the video are;
  • Willpower can be depleted, so simply convincing yourself to 'try harder' won't work;

  • Starting a project is the biggest barrier to actually being productive;

  • Successful people don't work more, they work better, putting in periods of intense work of around 90 minutes followed by breaks of 15-20 minutes to see more work done;

  • Habit and discipline are key to establishing a productive routine;

  • Deadlines focus the mind;

  • A list of progress should be made so you can evaluate what you've actually done, helping you avoid mindless tasks;

  • Avoid multi-tasking as you end up doing less; and

  • Split big tasks into smaller tasks to make them more manageable.
Given I have to divide my time between PhD work, study for a teacher training qualification, preparatory work I need for teaching, writing, and having a life, I thought I might share my top three tips for being productive.

1) Make lists
I make two types of lists. The first is the things I need to do - I split this list into two columns, listing what needs to be done against when I'm going to do it, and I list things according to when they need to be done (naturally the things due for Tuesday will be higher up the list than those due on Thursday). I can cross things off as I've done them which gives me a natural sense of achievement as I end up with more crossed out tasks than uncrossed out tasks.

2) Set deadlines
If something doesn't actually have a deadline, I find that I'll procrastinate and find all sorts of reasons not to work on it...so I set myself a deadline to ensure that I will. I also do more work the less time I have in which to do it because I'm very much aware of the clock ticking. Even self-imposed deadlines get me working faster.

3) Take breaks
I have the attention span of a particularly hyperactive spaniel so I find my attention wanders very easily, no matter how engrossing the task at hand may be. The only way for me to get through it is to promise myself a break. Rather than making myself sit and focus on something for several hours, I work for an hour or so, take a break, then come back to whatever I was doing. Even when I'm writing something like a blog post, there are usually mini breaks, during which I check Twitter or read other blogs. It breaks up my work and gives me something to come back to.

What about you? What do you do to remain productive?

2 comments:

afullnessinbrevity said...

I follow a similar methodology to yours, Icy. Comes from being a teacher, too, and a little OCD :)
I need to build in more deadlines to my planning.
Adam B @revhappiness

moonpieisland said...

Sage words!

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