9 Productivity Tips from People Who Write About Productivity
Now that we’re well into the new year, you may find those goals and resolutions you set receding ever further into the future. You need some productivity hacks. Luckily, Ron Friedman of the Harvard Business Review is here for you.
He writes, “In the 1990s, being productive mainly required good time management. Ten years later, the advent of email led to an expanded workday and productivity requiring you to manage your energy, not just your time.
“Over the last few years, we have entered a new age in which managing your energy and time is not enough. Today, the magnitude of information rushing toward us from every direction has surpassed our capacity for consumption. No matter how much time and energy you have at your disposal, you can’t be productive without mastering the art of attention management.”
His nine productivity tips, collected from 26 bestselling science and productivity writers, are largely about how to corral your attention and bend it to the things you want to accomplish, not just what others ask of you or what makes you feel busy right now. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Own your time. Our most satisfying work comes about when we’re playing offense, working on projects that we ourselves initiate. Many of us know this intuitively yet continue allowing ourselves to spend the vast majority of our days playing defense, responding to other people’s requests.
Many of the experts I interviewed believe that top performers take steps to ensure a favorable offense-to-defense ratio. Tom Rath, author of Are You Fully Charged?, recommends blocking out time to work away from email, programming your phone to only ring for select colleagues, and resisting emails first thing in the morning until you’ve achieved at least one important task.
Intentionally leave important tasks incomplete. We often race to finish assignments quickly so that we can move on to the next item on our list. But Wharton professor and psychologist Adam Grant believes resisting this urge can actually make us more productive.
“I used to sit down to write and not want to get up until I was done with a chapter or an argument,” Grant told me. “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.” (Note: Hemingway followed the same strategy.)
What both Grant and Hemingway are leveraging is the human tendency to ruminate over unfinished tasks, otherwise known as the Zeigarnick Effect. If you start a project and leave it unfinished, you’re bound to think about it more frequently than after it’s done.