Home > Time Management > Pozin’s Seven Things Highly Productive People Do

Pozin’s Seven Things Highly Productive People Do

Ilya Pozin recently posted “7Things Highly Productive People Do“. I don’t think there is any rocket science here; I’ve seen similar lists in Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership and in that [insert lazy guy’s book].

1. Work backwards from goals to milestones.

You cannot write “Rebuild the company website” at the top of your ToDo list and expect it to happen. You’ve got to break it down into smaller and smaller steps. How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time. Rebuild your website (or whatever) the same way. Break the goal into 5-10 smaller milestones with a deadline date. Then break the milestones into 5-10 smaller tasks. Depending on the goal, you should now have a much more manageable list of items to add to your ToDo list.

2. Stop multi-tasking

In 2005, the British conducted a survey and concluded that switching tasks frequently lowers your IQ by 10 points. Actually, 10 is the average. It was -15 points for men and -5 for women. Women’s brains are wired differently than men’s (duh!). They are far better at multi-tasking.

3. Eliminate distractions

Close your office door and post a sign: “Single-Tasking: Please do not disturb!” People will get the message and a little chuckle. And you’ll get the 60 minutes you need to focus. See below.

4. Schedule your email

This is not a new concept. I was taught this principle at a productivity seminar at Educause 2009. Make email the second or third thing on your daily task list. Generally, people are more productive first thing in the morning. But what is the first thing you did this morning when you arrived at the office (or even before breakfast)? You got “caught up” on your email. If you read your email first, you are allowing other people to manage your time. Email was designed to be non-invasive, but we’ve turned it into our own personal bull whip. I was taught to read and respond to email 2.5 times a day: at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. Then do a quick scan at about 4:30 to ensure there are no truly urgent matters that need attention today.

5. Use the phone

Email is also not a good medium for long conversations. If you’re getting ready to respond for the third time in a thread, STOP. Pick up the phone and finish the conversation verbally. According to Six Sigma, waiting is one of the biggest harms to productivity. If you’re only responding to email twice a day, the person on the other end has waited at least 24 hours to get to the end of the conversation. Pick up the phone and finish it.

6. Work on your own agenda

This is the culmination of everything above. Create a prioritized task list and stick to it.

7. Work in 60-90 minute intervals

Your mind is one of the largest consumers of glucose. It needs periodic breaks to recharge. Focus on one task for an hour and then take a break. In an eight  hour day you end up actually working about 6.5 to 7 hours, but they will be far more productive and rewarding hours than if you continue to flit around like a butterfly from task to task every 5 minutes.

I tried working for 90 minutes straight on a single task. Couldn’t do it! My mind wondered pitifully. I’m working up to it. I’m currently at 60 minute intervals and it seems to be the right time frame for me. It was kind of like starting a new exercise program: You don’t drop on day 1 and pump out 100 push-ups. You have to condition the body to do that. I started with 15 minutes. I set the timer on my iPad and did one thing for 15 minutes. I was amazed at how long 15 minutes really is. I was also amazed at how much of the task I completed. When the timer went off, I walked down the hall, got a drink, read a Dilbert hanging outside a co-workers office, and then began another interval. I did 15 minute intervals for a few days and then bumped it to 30 minutes and then to 60.

Our mind and bodies have been trained by the television networks to focus for 15 minute intervals. 15 minutes of program and 3 minutes of commercial. And repeat over and over again. I’ve been doing that for 44 years. I would expect it to take a little time to overcome that conditioning!

Categories: Time Management
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  1. 29 December 2011 at 9:25 am

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