Francesco D’Alessio is the Community Manager at Keep Productive, where he’s counseled thousands on productivity apps, simple productivity tips, and overall best approaches to being more productive. (Say that three times fast.) With recent survey data out of the UK suggesting that we’re productive for less than three hours during the work day (yikes), we could all use some advice here.
Q&A: Top Productivity Tips and Tricks from a Pro
We sat down with D’Alessio and picked his brain on his best productivity tips and ways to get more done. Let’s see what he has to say.
1. What do people get wrong about productivity?
Their most important tasks. A lot of people confuse smaller, irrelevant to-dos on their list with being productive when it’s the big projects that are the game-changers. Productivity should be associated with accomplishing your most important tasks of the day.
Clearing your inbox isn’t a miracle for your productivity. It’s an everyday item, but a lot of people make it into this huge thing. Completing a big project or action is something to be more objective toward.
2. Everyone self-identifies as “busy,” but we know that busy doesn’t necessarily mean productive. What are 2-3 simple things we can do to be more productive?
One idea would be researching apps, tools, and ideas, and thinking about how you like to work and what might work within your workflow. Keep Productive has hundreds of app ideas, and you can Google/research too. Panda Planner is a great option. If you choose something that doesn’t work with your style, you’ll never fully adapt it.
Once you have a system or platform, you need clear and definable targets. Let’s use a personal example. Instead of “lose weight,” try “lose 10 pounds in the next 2 months.” Now you have a number and a timeframe. It works the same with work. Instead of, “do better on projects,” try “complete X project in next two weeks; get manager feedback on it.” Clear, definable, and time and date locked in.
A third one? De-stress about the small things. Email will always be there. So will calls. So will administrative duties. Those will never go away. You have to do them. Find pockets of the day that are best for doing them without interfering with real, tangible goal-driven work.
3. We’ve seen research about how awful prioritization is in some organizations. How important is prioritization to productivity, and what can be done there?
Prioritization is extremely valuable to your long-term productivity. Defining what your most important tasks are on a day-to-day basis will provide you with a window of progression by allowing you to leap forward toward your longer-term projects.
Granted you’ll have days you’ll need to clear smaller, less important tasks from your list, but the more days you progress by completing large, big to-dos, the greater your chances of clearing your task lists.
One approach is “The Eisenhower Matrix.” [See the above chart.] It’s all about aligning importance and urgency, which results in four possible outcomes:
- Do Now
- Don’t Do
“Do Now” should stand on its own. Some stuff is legitimately urgent and top-of-mind. Go get it, grasshopper.
“Schedule” is everything to most people. Hey, can we hop on a call? Schedule a meeting? This needs to happen but use it sparingly—for discussions that need to be advanced.
“Delegate” is often misused by managers, but effective delegation has been shown to increase the salary of the one doing the delegating.
“Don’t Do” is the complex one. We all want to believe the work “must get done,” but some stuff just doesn’t need to be done, now or really ever, even if someone is yelling at you about it. Eisenhower won a World War. I think he’d know what stuff can be ignored.
4. We love us some memes, quotes, and tools. Any you live by that relate to productivity?
One approach to productivity is Getting Things Done (GTD). Within GTD, there is a way of breaking down tasks into energy levels and various other attributes. This technique has helped to save valuable thinking energy and time. Well worth a read and exploring, if you’re new to productivity tips and techniques.
Your turn: What productivity tips work best for you? Share your top way to stay efficient in the comments.
If you like this article, you’ll also like: How to Be More Productive Using 7 Simple Tools