The work environment in the modern world has become more complex. All technological innovations lead to higher result expectations and tight schedules. The assignments became complex, requiring coordination, conference calls and intense communication. The strategies for being productive become more and more important.
In January 2016 there has been an online summit where 26 bestselling science and productivity writers shared their insights on performance. As a result, here are nine top tips for achieving peak performance at work.
- Own Your Time. The most satisfying work is about projects that we ourselves initiate. Most of the people know that intuitively, but still in the majority of time we spend time responding to other people’s requests. Many of the interviewed authors believe that top performers have a leading attitude. A good advice is to block and delimit part of the communication in the morning until you’ve achieved at least one important task.
- Recognize Busyness as a Lack of Focus. Being needed, challenged, busy might bring the illusion we are productive. Unfortunately, often all that rush that happens around us just robs our time and distracts our focus. The focus should be making a progress on the work that matters most. Instead of taking busyness as a marker for significance, the top performers interpret it as wasted energy.
- The Myth of the Ideal Worker. Too many people believe that an “ideal worker” is the one who works constantly, even at the expense of their personal life. There is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It is sane to recognize that a human cannot work for extended periods of time and maintain high level of performance. Top performers admit their physical limitations. They get plenty of exercise and sleep. They cycle between 90-minute bursts of focused work and short recovery breaks.
- Leave important tasks incomplete. There is a race to finish tasks quickly, so we can move on to the next one. Resisting that urge can make us more productive according the psychologist Adam Grant. An example of such an approach: “Now I will deliberately leave sentences just hanging in the middle and get up and go do something else. What I find when I come back is that I don’t have to do a lot of work to finish the sentence, and now I also have a bunch of new ideas for where the writing should go next.” The great writer Hemingway followed the same strategy. The result is related to human’s tendency to think over unfinished tasks known as the Zeigarnick Effect. Not completing important tasks in one go will encourage you to continue thinking about it in a different setting, so that you could uncover creative solutions.
- Step Back. Productivity requires more than perseverance. Insight and problem-solving is more important than just blindly and constantly trying to push the task. Research studies clearly show that we are more likely to find solutions when we are temporarily out of the daily schedule. Sometimes, the best solutions come up when we are into the shower, going for a walk or a vacation. Top performers view the time off not as a waste, but as an investment to their future productivity.
- Help Others Strategically. Productive people are those who enjoy helping others. Giving help is certainly good for success, but helping everyone with everything leads to failure. Avoid saying yes to every helping opportunity. It is better to specialize in one or two things, where you can excel and become really good.
- Have a Plan for Saying No. The more commitments we have, the more likely is that we experience so called “priority dilution”. When we have too many obligations, we cannot do the work that matters most. One of the vital tips is to have a strategy for saying no. This would help you not to stop and think for a response each time you need to turn someone’s request down. It could be an email template or a script you practiced and could use in person. If a superior colleague requests you to take more than reasonable, it is best to think out of the yes/no paradigm. Have a conversation where you outline the projects you are working on. Indicate which terms are your priorities and discuss it. Thus, you can reveal your time constraints without saying the word “no”.
- Make important behaviour measurable. Top tips: track your behaviour when achieving a goal. For example – If you want to eat more healthy, keep a food journal. If you want to stick to a budget, track the spending. Marshall Goldsmith, who is a known CEO coach has his own method on doing this. Every evening he reviews 40-item spreadsheet. The list consist of every important behaviour he wants to achieve. It includes items including quite a lot of aspects, both from his professional and personal life.
- Do Things Today to Make More Time Tomorrow. Top performers look for ways to automate or delegate activities which are not good use of their time. It is worthy to evaluate your to do list and think of ways to automate some tasks, or delegate them to others. The latter may require creating “how to” guides, so that other team members can quickly get on track with repetitive tasks you want to delegate.
These tips highlight an important trend:
- In the 1990’s productivity mainly required good management.
- Ten years later, the expanded expectations on productivity require you to manage your energy, not just your time.
- Today we are at a point that managing your time and energy is not enough. All the information around us has far surpassed our capacity to comprehend. Plenty of time and energy might be wasted and lead to poor productivity without mastering the attention management.