It’s 7:30 AM, as my eyes start slowly opening, I ask myself the same question : How can I do more today with the minimum effort possible ?
Producing outstanding results with the minimum workload has been literally my obsession for the last 2 months.
Because of my job (I work as an IT Consultant in a multinational firm), I constantly work with different clients in various industries, and as the context changes, the amount of “self-awareness” I have regarding productivity changes.
Sometimes I work with clients where it’s completely “chilly”: Reduced amount of work, poor expectations level, no complex problems to solve.
This type of context, Is the hardest for me, because there is no challenge. And no challenge means no growth…and no growth means no fun.
So, this article is meant for people who got huge amount of work, short deadlines and a client with high expectations.
My typical day in the office goes from 9:30 – 12:30 to 13:30 – 18:30. Basically I have 4 hours in the morning and 5 hours in the evening which push it to 9 hours a day which leads to a total of 45 hours work week. (Yes, I’ve read the 4-hour week, and yes, I’m pissed now).
When I look at it, I realize that’s it’s a solid 45 hours of available work time, so the question is : What the fuck I am doing with it ?
The biggest frustration is that I constantly feel that I am not “doing enough”, that I’m “Running out of time”, that “I am late”, or that “I’m constantly busy”.
These thoughts are toxic, because it means that my day is running me instead of me running my day.
That’s why last year, I started a crazy challenge consisting of waking up every day at 5AM, going to gym every day and reading one book a week. That was a response to the stimulus of “You need to be more productive”, I will detail this experience in another article.
But let’s get back to it, I started by breaking down all the activities that are useless, time consuming or that can be delegated.
I only focused on what is necessary.
Here’s a list of useless things I can have in typical working day and my Time Waste Breakers :
Sometimes I have meeting that are useless. Sometimes people send me invitations for meetings to “Follow up” or to “discuss points”. Ask yourself is this meeting really necessary?
If Yes, Ask people to send you their questions/inputs before the meeting so you can be prepared.
If Yes, Can this meeting happen in 30 minutes or less?
If you answered no for any of these questions, don’t accept the meeting. If people tell you why you are not present, you ask them what for?
- Cell phone / Texting
Yes, I use social media a lot and sometimes they can kill your productivity.
So what I use “Moment”, an app that tells you how much you stay on your cellphone, you can even use to force stop using certain apps/social media. You can also use site blocker on your laptop so you are not tempted to go on social media and/or useless websites.
As I am writing this article, I blocked every single website + I’m using a chronometer on my phone so I can calculate the time I spend on this article (For now 18 minutes)
Simple, people can be annoying.
I really appreciate my coworkers, but I can’t stand being interrupted when I have my “Productivity rushs”, those moments when you’re so focused on your work that a small interruption can kill the whole momentum.
So 3 things:
- You & You: I set up meetings with myself on my calendar, so I appear in “In a meeting” mode. People often don’t send you invitation for meeting at these times. It prevents them from sending you small/quick messages on the messenger tool.
- Drop the beat: I put my headphones and I put some nice music. I usually listen to a whole album of my favourite artists. So for example I say : “Okay, let’s finish this document, I need 1h30, that’s exactly the time I need to listen to the latest Daft Punk”. This gives me that feeling that I’m doing two things at time while preventing anyone to talk to me.
- Disappear: When I really need harcore work time, I isolate myself in a dedicate meeting room for 2 to 3 hours. Works like heaven.
Remember, you only have limited amount of time, which means that every hour count.
So, I usually start my day using “OneNote”. I put all the Tasks I can think of. Usually I put them instinctively by priority order.
Once I have that, I split them by:
- Important but not urgent => Delay to later
- Important & Urgent => Do it now
- Urgent not important => Try to delegate. I try to find interns that can do these tasks. I built a solid network inside my company to always find an intern who has free time to help me on these tasks.
- What’s not urgent & not important => Delete.
Then I evaluate each task by amount of time. I
Organizing and prioritizing my takes around 10 minutes. I have a clear idea on how my day will end. This allows me to free time to write my articles, maintain my blog, engage with my readers, mentor few members of the community and focus on next steps on my life’s projects.
Now that I know that nobody will interrupt me and I know exactly what I have to do during the day, I try to make the “executing” part fun and enjoyable.
There is one technique that “gets me going” but can’t use it once I’m fully focused, it’s the POMODRO Technique.
It consists of deciding on a task to be done, then you set a timer (25minutes). You work on this task and when the timer rings, you take a 3-5 minutes break then go for another round. Then after 4 rounds, you take a longer break up to 30 minutes.
I usually use this time management technique to start, but after 2 or 3 rounds, I’m completely “IN IT”. Then it goes longer, I noticed that I’m way more efficient when I work 3 hours one shot than taking small rests between 20 minutes work session.
There is another technique called “the flowtime technique”, it basically consists of tracking your “work time” and your “pause time”. So, I start with Pomodoro to get the momentum and I continue with the flowtime after
The key is to find your “sweet spot” of focus.
Before I start working on any task, I first define an “acceptance criteria”, which basically answers a question: What’s the end goal of this task? What it will looks like? At what level I will be satisfied?
This gives me a clear idea on why I do What I do.
I always prefer to focus one task a time, only once. I’m terrible at multi-tasking, I tried it, failed every time.
At each achievement, I usually like reward myself with a warm cup of coffee, delicisous snacks, having a nice conversation with a relative, family, friend, or simply having a walk around the company’s building. I also enjoy listening to few motivational videos (5-10 minutes). My all time favourites are the ones from “Gary Vaynerchuk”, “Ralph Waldo Emerson”, “Eric Thomas”, “Tony Robbins”, “Elliot Hulse”.
There are people who helped being who I am today and I’m so grateful to have the openness and the curiosity to check and follow their work.
That’s it people, I want to add one single thing: Being productive is not about getting your work done, it’s about getting free time on what you really want to work on.
Most of us are not working in our field of interest, not working enough on our passion. We focus too much on pleasing our boss rather than pleasing ourselves. Your time is limited, and being productive should mean that you produce the maximum amount of work to your boss with the shortest amount of your time, so you can shift your focus on what REALLY MATTERS TO YOU.
PS : Took me 45 minutes this article. So 2 Pomodoro & a Cup of coffee
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