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What is the Best Desk Setup for Productivity?

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Your work environment plays a massive role in your productivity. Try to get stuff done when you’re hunched over your coffee table, or slouched on the couch with your family screaming in the background. It just doesn’t work. But what is the best desk setup for your productivity?

If you could only afford one item for your office — that one item needs to be your desk. Your desk will make a difference in productivity. That’s not saying the occasional make-shift desk, like your kitchen table or coffee shop couch, doesn’t have its place. It’s just that you need a proper place to work day-in and out.

What’s more, besides having a desk, you also need to set it up properly so that it’s inspiring and motivating.

If that’s something that interests you, then check out this handy guide on what the best desk set up for productivity. Here, I’ll cover what the best standing desks are, how to set your desk up, and the only things that should be placed on top.

The 10 Best Standing Desks

Before you set up your desk for maximum productivity, you first actually need, well, a desk. But, what type of desk?

Well, nothing against your current desk, but my money is on one that allows you to sit and stand. A desk that you can use both sitting and standing is not as large and bulky as other office furnishings. That means more office space and less clutter on top. More importantly, being able to stand-up throughout the day is beneficial to your health, such as reducing obesity and heart disease.

Research also shows that standing desks can reduce back pain, improve your mood, and boost energy levels. As a result, you’ll be more productive and efficient.

With that in mind, if you’re considering investing in a new desk, here are ten of the best sit-stand options on the market.

1. UPLIFT V2 Standing Desk

Forbes, Lifehacker, and Wirecutter have all named this desk as the best standing desk. And, there’s a good reason why. It can be fully customized to meet your specific needs.

For starters, there’s a wide range of desktop size options from 42″ x 30″ to 80″ x 30.” You can also choose from a variety of materials and styles like bamboo, laminate, whiteboard, eco curve. You even have many shapes, such as L-Shaped, Curved Corner, and 120 Degree, to pick from.

As with many other standing desks, there’s a control module that allows you to select your preferred height. In other words, when it’s time to adjust from a sitting position to a standing one who just hit a button and adapt to the taller height.

There are also a lot of nifty add-ons for this sturdy desk, such as a power strip, cup holder, and under-desk hammock. Best of all? Pricing starts at just $539.

2. Jarvis Whiteboard Standing Desk

There’s not too much difference between a Jarvis desk and UPLIFT. They have a similar appearance, come in a variety of styles and shapes, and adjust heights. Even the price point is the same as the Jarvis desk, starting at $529. However, the desktop is a little thinner than that of UPLIFTs.

But, unlike other options, Jarvis has a model where you can scribble ideas and thoughts directly onto the desktop. The whiteboard tops are Greenguard-certified, scratch-resistant, and made from recycled materials. Plus, they’re easy to clean and keep your desk free from clutter — like pens and notepads, that may be distracting to you.

3. Lander Desk

At first, you may think that the Lander Desk is your run-of-the-mill standing desktop. And, you would be correct with that assumption. After all, it looks like every other standing desk has similar specs, and comes in a variety of colors.

What separates the Lander Desk from its competitors, however, are its revolutionary features. For example, there’s the hi-resolution LCD control paddle. That means you can easily adjust the height by just tapping twice up or down. There’s also a built-in coach that reminds you to stand at intervals. And, you can even adjust the height using your smartphone via the desk’s app.

The Lander Desk is capable of lifting to 360 pounds, has an exclusive 3D-laminated surface, and features an ergonomic “comfort edge.” If you like, you can also add-on a monitor arm, keyboard tray, or storage drawers. Pricing starts at $1,049.

4. Apex Elite Series

Sure. Compared to other standing desks, there may not be as many options for customization with the Apex Elite Series. But, that doesn’t mean it should be excluded from this list. The reason? It comes with a contoured desktop making it both spacious and stylish design.

But that’s just the beginning. The desk adjusts quickly at 1. 5″ per second. Furthermore, thanks to the customizable preset, you can easily switch to your desired setting with sitting or standing height as the day goes on. Also, you can purchase add-ons like a cable management tray and a three-drawer file cabinet. The price is affordable, starting at $649.99.

5. StandDesk® Natural Wood Adjustable-Height Standing Desk

Durable steel frame? Check. A fast and quiet motor that quickly adjusts from 24.5″ up to 50.25″? Yep.

So, what makes this standing desk so unique? It’s all about the durable top with a natural wood finish. Besides brightening up your workspace, these tops are handcrafted and have been selected from natural eco-sustainable wood pieces and free of toxic compounds or chemical air pollutants. That’s great for the environment and the air quality of your office.

As with other options, there are several upgrades available such as a power strip and cable management tray. Pricing starts at just $784.85.

6. Ergotron WorkFit-T

Do you love your current non-standing desk? No problem. Just purchase a convertor like the Ergotron WorkFit-T and place it on top of your existing desk. Now when you want to stand, you just hit a button, and you have handy a standing desk without spending a fortune.

Most of the models can hold around 40 pounds and have enough space for a monitor and keyboard. If you want a smaller desk that doesn’t require as much space — there are compact converters available.

Depending on the exact desk model, you can purchase a sit-stand station from Ergoton for just $199.

7. Seville Classics Airlift Tempered Glass Electric Standing Desk

Looking for a clean, simple, and affordable electric standing desk? Look no further than this beauty from Seville Classics.

It features a tempered glass top, that’s neon-dry erase ready, with rounded edges. That means you can jot down notes mark off your calendar directly from your desktop. The dual motors rapidly and quietly lift the desk from 29 inches to 47 inches high with the press of a button. There’s also dual USB charging ports for simultaneously charging your devices. Best of all? This desk starts at just $399.

8. Varidesk Pro 60 Full Electric Standing Desk

If you want more of a high-end or large workspace, then this is the desk for you. It’s 60 by 30 inches, can rise from 25.5 to 50.5 inches, and contains a stability crossbar. As for the desktop, it’s a durable laminate with chamfered edges in a variety of finishes, such as the stunning reclaimed wood finish.

The desk also comes with a cable management tray at no additional cost and can be assembled in a matter of minutes. Pricing starts at $795.

9. Autonomous SmartDesk 2

If you’re on a budget, then the Autonomous SmartDesk 2 should definitely be on your radar. The home office model is reasonably priced at $399, while the business edition costs $479. Not too shabby considering that both have the familiar frame and ergonomic designs that other more expensive desks also have. Some of the people who have the SmartDesk also claim that it’s quieter and more durable than it’s competitors and is incredibly fast to assemble.

The biggest drawback though, is that there aren’t as many options when it comes to the size and color.

10. FlexiSpot ClassicRiser Standing Desk Converter

Here’s another converter if you want to give your existing desk a sit-stand experience. The catch is that it doesn’t have an electronic control panel. Instead, you have to squeeze to lift the desk, which should accommodate users up to 6’1″ — other models can accommodate users up to 6’5″ tall.

The ClassicRiser also features an extra-wide keyboard tray and space-saving vertical adjustments. And you can’t beat the price at $249.99.

Getting the most out of your standing desk.

While there’s no denying that standing desks are fantastic in several ways, they look sleek and make you more productive; there are some caveats to be aware of.

For starters, standing too much can cause health problems. “Standing idly can cause problems, mostly vascular,” Dr. Andrew Elkwood, MD, founder and director of the Center for Treatment of Paralysis and Reconstructive Nerve Surgery at Jersey Shore Medical Center, told NBC News. “Standing all day puts a lot of pressure on your legs, which can cause swelling, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids.”

The solution? Alternate between sitting and standing about every hour.

At the same time, if you’ve just gotten a standing desk, then you probably can’t stand for an hour anyway. You have to build some strength up. You can achieve more exceptional core strength by standing in 10-15 minute increments.

“Using a standing desk does take some getting used to,” says Jonathan Webb, VP of Workplace Strategy at KI. “We get so used to sitting in a sedentary position all day, so we forget that we have this sit/stand desk to use. I encourage users to set alarms on their phones or on their computers to remind themselves to stand up — and sit back down. You can set the times whenever you want a change. After a while, switching will become second nature to sit and stand throughout the day.”

How else can you get the most out of your standing desk? Experts suggest that you do the following:

  • Work in yoga moves for your neck, shoulders, back, and legs.
  • Practice good posture.
  • Take frequent breaks from typing.
  • Position the keyboard and mouse at belly button height to create a bend in the arm that is 80-85 degrees.
  • Use a standing desk mat and accessories like ergonomic chairs and keyboards.
  • Wear shoes with firm insoles and arch support.

10 Amazing Desk Setup Tips for Increasing Productivity

Now that you’ve invested in a standing desk, it’s time to set it up for maximum productivity. I mean, you didn’t think that you would just assemble your desk and dive right back into work, did you? I wish it were that easy. But, if you prevent getting distracted and overwhelmed, then you can’t afford to skip this part.

1. Dream up your ideal workspace.

First things first, set aside a couple of minutes and think about your dream workspace. Sure. You may not fulfill every detail. But, this gives you an idea of how you want your desk and workspace to look and feel. The reason? It will keep you energized and inspired — that’s a big deal considering Americans spend 8.44 hours per day at their workplace.

For example, let’s say that the great outdoors gets those creative juices flowing and keeps you invigorated. Well, your ideal workspace should tap into that by having a wood-finished desk. You could also surround yourself with plants and place your desk close to a window. Extra points for using a tool like Nosli or Calmsound that plays nature sounds in the background.

2. Location is matters.

Speaking of location, you should place your desk near a window — regardless if you’re into nature or not.

“Lighting can affect everything from workplace safety to productivity to mental health,” says Deanna Ritchie writes in a previous Calendar article. “More specifically, natural light is essential for circadian rhythms and can boost happiness and Vitamin D intake.”

“If you haven’t been able to install more windows in your workplace, you can use mirrors or reflective furniture,” suggests Denna. “But, find a way to amplify the natural light you do have. Or, you can purchase full-spectrum lightbulbs that can mimic the appearance of natural light.”

An additional consideration on the location of your desk would face away from visual distractions, like a door or entrance. You may be tempted to see who is walking past or entering your office than keeping your focus on your work. Also, if you work best in silence, then you should find a quiet place instead of placing it in the center of an open -office design.

3. Set your desk up ergonomically.

“Another critical consideration is your workspace’s ergonomics–how efficiently and safely you can work at your desk and with your computer,” writes Melanie Pinola over at Zapier. “It’s about setting up your environment to keep you healthy and avoid problems such as repetitive strain injury (RSI), back pain, or even fatigue.”

You can do this by making sure that your desk is the right height. “Your desk should ideally let you type on a keyboard with your arms and hands roughly parallel to the floor. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and your legs should fit comfortably under the desk when sitting. You’ll want to be able to comfortably cross your legs under the surface,” writes Pinola.

Or, you could visit Ergotron’s Workspace Planner. When there, just enter your height, and it will determine the best desk measurements for you.

On top of the height of your desk, you can also think more ergonomically by:

  • Keeping “your monitor or laptop screen between 20 and 40 inches in front of you.” Pinola also recommends that “the top line of the screen is at or below your eye level.”
  • Placing your keyboard and mouse “close enough to your body so you can hold your elbows comfortably by your sides, preventing strain on your shoulders.” You may also want to try out a keyboard tray or stand “that positions the keyboard pointing downwards.”
  • Purchasing an ergonomic chair so that you can sit after working in long sessions. Look for a chair that provides lumbar support, can recline, and can be adjusted so that it’s the proper height.

4. Feng Shui your desk.

“The better the energy in your office and at your desk, the better the quality of your energy,” writes Rodika Tchi for The Spruce. “Good feng shui is not just about things looking good. A room may be visually appealing and well-designed, but lack elements that are essential for good feng shui.”

Most standing desks use materials like wood, glass, metal, or laminates that activate feng shui. The same is true with the colors and shapes available for most sanding desks — mainly the standard rectangular desktop and various colors that represent a specific feng shui element.

We’ve also covered the placement of your desk. If you need a reminder, though, the least beneficial arrangements would be facing the wall, back to the door, and in line with an entrance. You may also want not to face a window as well.

But, here’s an essential part — feng shui your desk’s surface.

“A constantly cluttered desk is terrible feng shui. Of course, it all depends on your definition of clutter!” adds Tchi. “If you are working intensely on a project that is due soon, then it is certainly okay to have your desk busy for a while.”

“For a while does not mean forever, though,” she explains. “Once the project is done, the desk has to be cleared. Having old, unnecessary items occupying your space is bad feng shui.”

If you can, you should clean your desk at the end of each day. But, that’s not an option, then you should block out time on Friday afternoon to do this.

Tchi also writes, “that when it comes to a good feng shui desk, less is ideal.” Or, in other words, “place only the very minimum on your desk surface.”

Finally, you should learn more “about the powerful Bagua, also called the feng shui energy map.” That may sound complicated, but it just means you’re dedicating various spaces to create good feng shui. For instance:

  • Upper Left: Wealth and Money area
  • Upper Right: Love and Marriage area
  • Mid Left: Health and Family area
  • Mid Right: Creativity area

5. Keep your values to the forefront.

“Something I’ve always found helpful and have suggested to plenty of clients throughout my years is to put a reminder of your values front and center. Whether that’s with a Post-it Note, a printout, or a computer screen background,” says life and career coach Kelly Poulson. “That way, when you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to decide what to tackle next, you can use those values to help you decide what to do.”

“For instance, if you value flexibility and haven’t had much lately, it might be time to reprioritize a bit, so you remember to honor what matters to you. It’s effortless to get swept up in work and spend time on less important things,” explains Poulson.

6. Put everything in P-L-A-C-E.

Need a simple and effective way to de-clutter and keep your desk organized? I recommend trying out the P-L-A-C-E approach from the book “Organizing for Dummies,” which goes as:

  • Purge. Get rid of what’s unnecessary, like pens that are out of ink.
  • Like with like. Create centers for similar items.
  • Access. Make sure that everything you need can be easily accessed — even if it’s in a drawer underneath your desk.
  • Contain. Don’t just let stuff overrun your desktop. Use drawers and containers when needed.
  • Evaluate. Does this system work for you? If not, make adjustments until it does.

7. Make sure that your desk is habit-friendly.

“Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior,” writes James Clear. “We tend to believe our habits are a product of our motivation, talent, and effort.” And, while these qualities do matter, “your personal characteristics tend to get overpowered by your environment” over time.

So, how can you design an environment that promotes success? James suggests trying out the three following strategies:

  • Automate good decisions. “Whenever possible, design an environment that makes good decisions for you,” writes James. One example would be “using software to block social media sites can help overcome procrastination by putting your willpower on autopilot.”
  • Get in the flow. As James explains, this is “where good habits ‘get in the flow’ of your healthy behaviors.” If you wanted to get more exercise, then you could keep a gym bag next to your desk or invest in equipment like stretch bands, free weights, yoga mats, or a balance ball chair.
  • Subtract negative influences. Here’s an example. Instead of surrounding yourself with junk food, have healthy and brain-boosting snacks within eye level.

8. Set up a workflow for your desk.

“In his book How to Set Up Your Desk, Matt Perman offers a simple system: Move through projects on your desk from left to right. Keep the right side of your desk free and store the majority of your supplies and incoming papers on the left,” writes Pinola. “As you start to deal with paperwork or other items that need your attention, move them to the right and then finally off your desk at the end of the day (or back to the left to resume working on in the morning).”

Even cooler? You can also use this concept when working on your computer. “If you work with multiple windows or monitors, keep your ‘inbox’–email app, Twitter app, Slack app, tabs of articles you need to reference, etc. on the left,” explains Pinola. “Keep the apps and tabs you’re directly working on in the right half of your monitor. Move things left to right to organize your projects visually. It’s like Kanban boards, but with paper on your desk or tabs in your browser.”

Just remember to use this setup at both work and home “to minimize friction switching from one environment to the other.”

9. Schedule breaks.

Yeah. You have a million things to get done. But, that’s just not possible from frequently stepping away from your desk — even if it’s your ideal setup. Mainly, this is for your health and well-being, like preventing eye strain and reducing stress. However, getting up from your desk can also make you more productive by:

  • Improving your focus.
  • Helping you solve problems.
  • Encourages creativity.
  • Prevents burn out.

Having a desk that allows you to adjust from standing to sitting can help. But, don’t be afraid to get up and move around the office or take a walk outside. Ideally, you should take a 17-minute break after working for around 52-minutes.

10. Be playful.

“The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression,” says researcher Brian Sutton-Smith. So, why not have a little fun with your workspace by incorporating a little fun or the things that you love into it?

For example, you could swap out an office chair for an exercise ball or have Legos nearby to fiddle when thinking. You could also surround yourself with knickknacks from home or items that put you in a better mood, like inspiring quotes or drawings that your children made. Just remember not to overdo it and limit these personal items to no more than five.

The Only 10 Things That You Should Have on Your Desk — If You Want to Be Productive

As already mentioned, you need to keep your desktop clean and clutter-free. It’s not just wise, hygienically; it also prevents your mind from getting distracted. Think about it. If there is a pile of papers on the top of your desk — your mind will wonder what’s in that stack.

But don’t take my word on this. A study published in The Harvard Business Review found that a messy desk can negatively affect productivity and performance at work. That means if you have unnecessary or sensitive documents on your desk, they should be trashed or filed. Moreover, you should avoid eating at your desk — it’s just gross and discourages you from taking a much-needed breather.

Additionally, you should have a drawer in proximity to your desk. Having this will let you store your phone, grooming items, or office supplies. Besides being a distraction, these are things that don’t need to be displayed.

1. Calendar, planner, or notebook.

Like most of you, I rely on an online calendar. For me — it’s Calendar.com. It works exceptionally well. I also keep a notebook on the top of my desk so that I can quickly jot down thoughts, ideas, or notes, and even a to-do-list. One of the essential productivity hacks is to stay on top of your schedule and calendar your days.

2. Ergonomic keyboard.

Ergonomic keyboards are a must — if you want to reduce strain. That’s because they’re designed to keep your hands, wrists, and arms a comfortable and natural position. Check out affordable options like the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard to the pricier KINESIS Freestyle Edge.

And, while you’re at it, don’t forget to purchase a computer mouse. Logitech’s MX Vertical and Anker 2.4G Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Optical Mouse are both solid choices.

3. Desktop or laptop stand.

If you’ve got a keyboard and mouse on your desktop, then you’ve probably got a computer or laptop accompanying them. To prevent damaging your neck, shoulders, and back, you should look into an ergonomic stand. Some of the best options are the AmazonBasics Ventilated Adjustable Laptop Computer Holder Desk Stand, AVLT-Power Laptop Riser Stand, or ENHAO Monitor Stand Riser.

4. Desktop organizer.

The easiest way to avoid desktop clutter? Get yourself an organizer so that you can keep your desktop nice and clean. It also helps you give everything a “home” so that you can quickly locate a pen, marker, or document when you need it.

Best of all? There are a wide variety of organizers out there that can fit your needs and taste. So, just make a quick search inquiry and find one that you like.

5. Clock or timer.

Some people don’t like having a clock on their desks. And, that makes sense. Instead of working, you may be tempted to keep checking what time it is.

On the flip side, having a clock lets you keep track of your time in a good so that you can take frequent breaks. Even better, invest in a kitchen timer or a gadget like the TimeCube that helps you implement strategies like the Pomodoro Technique.

6. Headphones.

Whether you need a Spotify playlist to get you in the zone or just need to block-out background, it wouldn’t hurt to keep a pair of headphones on your desktop. If you’re looking for some suggestions, Rolling Stone has a list of options that cost under $100. You may also want to get a headphone stand.

7. Desk lamp.

Want to avoid eye strain? Then you need to have a desk lamp — it also helps you avoid mistakes since you can see exactly what you’re reading or typing. Ideally, you should purchase a LED desk lamp that matches your aesthetic and fits on your desk.

If you have the extra cash, I’m all about the Dyson Lighcycle series. Not only do they look cool and sleek, but they also stimulate natural daylight and can be linked to your phone.

8. Water bottle.

Is this the sexiest entry on this list? Of course not. But, drinking plenty of water isn’t just beneficial to your health. It can also boost your productivity. One study found that drinking water increases productivity by 14 percent since it reduces anxiety, improves your mood, and keeps you energized.

9. Plants.

Always remember the plants. Plants can make you more productive, improve your mood, and even remove pollutants from the air. They’re also affordable and come in sizes that are small enough to fit onto your desk. If you’re someone who will let a plant dry up and die — even fake plants will lift your spirits and help with the aesthetics in your office.  Examples of great desk plants include the ZZ plant, snake plant, Dracaenas, Aglos, Peace lilies, and Philodendrons.

10. Things that make you happy.

You don’t want to go overboard with any one thing. But, there’s nothing wrong with surrounding yourself with things that make you happy. Pictures of loved ones, inspiring quotes, art, and knickknacks can all have a place on your desktop. Just keep these items neat, tidy, and organized.

How Do You Measure Your Efficiency?

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There’s a misconception that productivity and efficiency are the same things. But that’s kind of a problem when it comes to improving your performance. But how do you measure your efficiency?

Ben Mulholland explains this nicely over at Process Street. Productivity “measures output over time, whereas efficiency measures input versus output. Together they can tell you how quickly something is completed, the resources it takes to get there, and (through analysis) whether the whole thing is worth your investment.”

Or, as Jessica Greene from Zapier, explains, “Productivity measures how much you do or produce within a given timeframe. Efficiency, on the other hand, is about being productive with less effort.”

“So if you answered 50 more customer support tickets this week because you worked through them as fast as possible, you were more productive,” writes Jessica. “But if you answered 50 more tickets because you used a text expansion app to respond to commonly asked questions, you were more productive and more efficient.”

In other words, “to be more productive in a way that won’t burn you out in the long run, you have to figure out how to be more efficient.”

Hopefully, this clears the difference between productivity and efficiency.  But, more importantly, I hope that you understand why it’s essential to measure your efficiency. And, here’s how you can do just that.

Performance metrics.

If you have employees, you probably use performance metrics to see how, well, they’re performing. Typically, they fall into one of the following four categories.

Work quality metrics

“Work quality metrics say something about the quality of the employee’s performance,” explains Erik van Vulpen over at HR Analytics. “The best-known metric is a subjective appraisal by the direct manager.”

Examples include:

  • Management by objectives. The management objectives are goals that an employee works towards and receives points if he reaches them.
  • Subjective appraisal by the manager. Usually, a nine-box grid holds the stats for assessing performance and potential done by the manager.
  • Product defects. Product defects are usually involved in an industry that manufactures products. You could determine performance by the number of defects the employee was responsible for.
  • The number of errors. Similar to the above, the “number of errors” can be applied to programming.
  • Net promoter score. “NPS is a number (usually between 1 and 10) which represents the willingness of a client to recommend a company’s service to other potential clients,” explains Erik van Vulpen.
  • 360-degree feedback. 360-feedback is when peers, subordinates, customers, and managers are asked to asses the individual’s performance.
  • 180-degree feedback. 180-degree feedback is a simpler alternative to the above where only direct colleagues and managers are involved.
  • Forced ranking. Forced ranking is when a manager ranks their team from best to worst.

Work quantity metrics

“As quantity is often easier to measure than quality, there are multiple ways to measure this employee performance metric,” notes Erik van Vulpen.

  • The number of sales. Applicable if this is you or your employee’s responsibility. You may also want to look at the number of (potential) client contacts one has, the number of phone calls one makes—the number of company visits and the number of active leads.
  • The number of units produced. Besides traditional manufacturing, this metric can be used in areas like content creation. For example, you could use the number of keys someone can hit per minute on their keyboard.
  • Handling time, first-call resolution, contact quality, etc. Mainly, each of these metrics is relevant if involved in customer service. But, as you can see, most measurable usages in one area can be figured for application in another area of production.

Work efficiency metrics

Work efficiency is finding the balance between quantity and quality. To achieve the resulting number, “metric considers the resources (e.g., time and money: quantity) needed to produce a specific output (that’s quality).

Organizational performance metrics

Finally, Erik says that “Organizations can also use employee performance metrics to assess their own competitiveness,” such as:

  • Revenue per employee. Calculate the income per FTE (Full-time equivalent).
  • Profit per FTE. Similar to above, but focuses on profit instead.
  • Human Capital ROI. Here you would asses the value of human capital, such as knowledge and personal attributes.
  • Absenteeism Rate. Absenteeism is usually a self-explanatory metric. If you want to dig deeper — I’d suggest finding out the “why’s.” The why may have to do with the work or people at work. Check your environmental factors.
  • Overtime per Employee. “Employees who are willing to put in the extra effort are generally more motivated and produce more (in terms of work quantity),” writes Erik van Vulpen.

Can you use these metrics also to help you identify your efficiency? Sure. But, there are more natural ways to find your metrics.

Achieving goals.

Weren’t goals a part of management by objectives? Yes. But, as Choncé Maddox writes in another Calendar article, “Goals, in general, can be challenging as they often prompt you to change your life in a major or minor way.”

What’s more, it’s not always easy to tell if you’re even close to reaching your goal, let alone achieving them. And, to muddle things up, even more, goals are constantly changing depending on what your priorities are at the moment.

One way to get out of this predicament is to use a strategy like the SMART goal formula.

“SMART goal is an acronym to describe goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound,” explains Choncé. “For example, setting a vague goal such as ‘I want to lose weight this year’ probably won’t give you the best results.”

What if you said that you wanted to “lose 40 pounds in 10 months by getting on a low-carb diet and exercising four days per week?” According to Choncé, “That’s a much better goal that follows the SMART formula. You’re specific by saying how much weight you want to lose, giving yourself a deadline, so you know when to expect results, and specifying how you’ll reach your goal and measure your results over time.”

Work quality.

Yes. Work quality was another performance metric you can use to measure your team’s efficiency. But, I think when it comes to yourself, we can simplify this.

Are you meeting deadlines? Did you also meet the requirements of the task or project?. For example, were you able to crank out an 1200 work article or cover all of the meeting agenda points in the time allotted? If so, then I’d say that you’re pretty darn efficient

Punctuality.

What does this have to do with efficiency? In my opinion, quite a bit. It shows that you’re able to manage your time correctly. For instance, if you’re running late to a meeting, maybe it’s because you underestimated how long the previous task took to complete. Or, perhaps you’re so disorganized that it totally slipped your mind until the last minute.

Behavioral traits.

Efficient people avoid bad habits. I’m talking about failing to plan ahead, not having a routine, multitasking, procrastinating, or being easily distracted. They also try to everything on their own when there should be tasks they’re delegating so that more of their time and energy on what’s important.

Feedback from others.

Now we’re circling back to feedback. And, there’s a good reason for that. We have a tendency to be biassed towards our own self-assessments and performance. You may think that you’re killing at work until someone brings it to your attention that you actually haven’t been delivering your best work as of late.

Hearing feedback from others can also be challenging. But, instead of avoiding peer or management feedback, solicit it from people you trust. Try asking a peer, business partner, or family member.

To become more efficient, expect more of yourself.

Hopefully, you know how to measure your efficiency. But, there’s one last step you should take. Raise your expectations.

Let’s say that met you have a met or requirement, instead of being complacent. Push yourself to go above and beyond. It’s great that you can write a 1200 word article in under three hours. But, can you produce the same number of words in under two? How about upping the word count?

You don’t know what your true limits are — because you can always up-your-count on almost anything. Try it. Pushing your limits, keeps you engaged, and forces you to embrace better habits so that you can become more effective and efficient.

7 Habits of Highly Efficient Professionals

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Success can be measured in hundreds of different ways. When asked about achievements, some professionals might look to their salary, their list of publications, or their charity’s social progress. Despite how an individual determines whether or not they are successful in their professional lives, or how that success might compare to someone else’s is a personal calculation. Here are seven habits of highly efficient professionals.

Successful people will agree — at least part of their success is due to their high level of efficiency.

Watching for and building on habits that bring success, most professionals continue to learn and grow in their craft throughout their whole lives. Here are a few of the habits that people put into practice for success. Many of these ideas are mentioned in great detail in books, business school, podcasts, content, and events.

1. Dedicate Yourself.

A key to creative, professional, and personal productivity is vision and being able to envision exactly what you’re working toward. Without vision or purpose, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time paddling about aimlessly in the proverbial river of life. As Jason Fried wrote in his bestseller REWORK, “When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.”

The real secret to being effective in life is simple. You need to know precisely what you want and pursue that goal as you see it in your mind.

2. Eliminate Distractions.

Being a workaholic isn’t necessarily a good thing; it all depends on how you’re getting your work done. If you can do something in a minute that might take the next guy five minutes to complete, then it doesn’t matter if you work a four-hour day, just as long as you’re accomplishing your goals. Many find that making a morning routine helps.

Try to find efficiency in your daily routine. Creating efficiency is the same thing as eliminating distractions. Don’t get caught up in e-mail, Facebook, or all the other time-wasters on the internet. Instead, focus on the end task and nothing else.

3. Talk the Talk.

Communication is everything. To be an effective participant in a meeting or team, you’ll need to communicate effectively. Otherwise, your ideas and input might not be considered for what they’re worth, and then what?

Another part of “talking the talk” is being easy to reach. E-mails, phone calls, or text messages should be dealt with as they arise. If you’re working on something at a critical stage, you can eliminate all unnecessary communication.

4. Take Another Look.

If a problem seems unsolvable, taking a few steps back can make a world of difference. Genuinely successful people can create new perspectives for themselves. They learn to see issues, people, or situations from several angles and allow for a more coordinated response.

It’s rare today that a problem is black-and-white. Competent professionals can recognize the many facets and solutions to every question or issue.

5. Be Flexible.

A branch that can’t bend with the wind will break. Flexibility and the ability to adapt to uncertain scenarios makes you a valuable employee. The ability to see the entire problem and make spur-of-the-moment decisions can make a real difference in reaching one’s goals.

Be ready to embrace change as it comes. If you allow yourself to be open to opportunity, then an opportunity will make a habit of presenting itself.

6. Cool Down.

Living a life of high productivity or high stress can leave people a little high-strung or tightly wound. No one can work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and walk away unscathed. Check yourself if you want the chance to be a highly efficient professional.

You should be able to detach from your work. Calendar time and fill that time with an activity that will allow you to recharge and rehab your body and mind. Take time to exercise. You’ll find that if you allow yourself time to recharge, you’ll do better work whenever you are working. The brightest flames tend to burn the hottest and the quickest, but there’s no sense in burning yourself out.

7. Organize.

Organizing yourself doesn’t necessarily mean having a clear, empty desk and ten pencils sharpened and neatly arranged. Being organized is a state of mind, and it will manifest itself differently for everyone. Some people find productivity only in a clean, open space, while others need every surface of their work area to be covered in quotes and images before they can find inspiration.

The bottom line is that a successful individual knows how, when, and where their best work is done. A successful life is hard to measure. Remember that as the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, a man or a woman is only a sum of their actions, not a sum of their plans, hopes, or wishes.

If you want to be efficient and successful, you’ll make a plan. Calendar that plan, and follow the steps you’ve laid out for yourself. Most people out there would be millionaires already if wanting that goal was all you had to do. Wanting is the natural part — doing what’s required is a little more difficult.

4 Reasons Leaders Waste Valuable Meeting Time

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4 Reasons Leaders Waste Valuable Meeting Time

The meeting that could’ve been an email: We’ve all been there. As much as we want every meeting we attend to be productive, almost every one of us has left a meeting wondering: “Was that really necessary?” 

According to a study by Harvard Business Review, 71% of senior managers in a range of industries say meetings are unproductive and inefficient. Executives spend 23 hours per week in meetings, on average, up from 10 hours in the 1960s.

Almost nobody actually enjoys meetings. So why do leaders waste so much time in them?

1. They get sidetracked.

Given how long they spend in meetings, many leaders struggle to create an agenda for each of them. Some are thinking ahead to the next one, while others try to tackle every meeting on the fly. 

Meetings should always have a defined purpose. Make that reason clear when calling the meeting, and prepare an agenda immediately after scheduling it. Give other participants a chance to comment on and contribute to it.

Setting a specific agenda ensures that you show up prepared, and it also gives your team members an idea of what to expect. Whether you prepare to use a written list or a series of slides, developing an agenda allows you to guide the discussion. 

2. They are disorganized.

Business leaders have hectic schedules as is, and meetings only add to the craziness. Staying organized is key for productive meetings.

Use scheduling software to manage your meetings. Calendar allows you to pick times and dates for your events, share your availability with others, and avoid scheduling conflicts. What’s more, Calendar’s dashboard shows where and with whom you spend your time, helping you make sure that your schedule aligns with your priorities.

Without a shareable scheduling system, it’s tough to know who’s coming to a meeting or whether someone might need to duck out part way through. Those details let leaders structure meetings in ways that make the most of everyone’s time. 

3. They have too many meetings on the calendar.

Between meetings, interviews, and training sessions the number of meetings on your calendar can add up quickly. It’s important to know when meetings are appropriate and when they are not:

  • When you should have a meeting: when you need to plan for the long term, get or give feedback on major projects, host executive-level negotiations, or deliver employee performance reviews.
  • When to keep meetings short (or not have them at all): when you need to share weekly progress updates, present revenue and expense breakdowns, brainstorm for marketing assets, or explain changes to your personal schedule.

When leaders use good judgment, they can cut out meetings that are unnecessary and focus on the ones that matter.

4. They can’t keep their employees focused.

The most wasteful type of meeting is one that attendees do not find valuable. If you want your employees’ meeting time to be spent effectively, it’s important to keep them engaged throughout.

There are multiple ways to make meetings more interesting:

  • Add visuals to presentations. Photos and videos can drive home key points. Beware, though, that adding too many visuals wastes time by distracting attendees.
  • Encourage group participation. Activities encourage buy-in from non-presenting members of the meeting. Ask people to raise their hands in response to certain questions, or request suggestions around a challenge. 
  • Keep all meetings under 50 minutes. Meetings that last for an hour or more should be split into two or more sessions. Set a timer if your meetings consistently overrun their slots.
  • Identify key takeaways at the end of each meeting. Concluding meetings with action items not only makes them more meaningful, but it provides markers for future measurement. When meetings begin with a review of the prior one’s action items, participants feel a sense of purpose and accountability.

Unproductive meetings may seem like a fact of life, but they do not need to be. Schedule only the meetings you need, always develop an agenda in advance, and keep participants engaged. Neither you nor your employees have time to waste.

How to Handle a Meeting-Happy Client

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How to Handle a Meeting-Happy Client

Saying “no” is tough for everyone, including entrepreneurs. You want to do right by your clients, but you can’t spend your whole day meeting with them.

Every moment you spend in a meeting is one you can’t spend working on your business. Don’t let meeting-happy clients pull you away from your other priorities.

Start by keeping a time log so you know exactly how you’re spending your time. If one or two accounts are responsible for a disproportionate amount of your meeting time:

1. Get to the root of the issue. 

Clients know their time is limited, too. If they keep asking to meet with you, look for common themes. Show that you’re working to solve their needs, and you should see those requests fall off.

Try this: When the client reaches out, respond by asking for more details about the reason for the meeting. In many cases, a meeting simply isn’t necessary. If it’s something that you can address yourself, do it. Report back, and ask if the client still wants to meet.

2. Delegate. 

If your client constantly asks to meet — especially if it’s for a legitimate reason — one solution might be to ask a team member to take the meetings. That way, the client feels supported, and your schedule stays open.

Be sure, though, that the client respects your employee’s time. Ask them to schedule meetings at least 48 hours in advance, and ensure meetings last no longer than an hour. 

3. Be direct and quick.

What if, despite you solving the client’s issue, he or she still wants to meet? Say no, but don’t beat around the bush.

Being decisive and clear benefits everyone. Think of it like tearing off a Band-Aid: It’s better to get through the pain quickly than let it fester. In fact, a great client will appreciate your straightforward, timely response.

4. Provide additional resources.

Just because you say “no” to a meeting doesn’t mean you can’t be a good partner. If you can’t solve the client’s issue yourself, share content about it or make a referral to someone who can.

If multiple clients have come to you about this issue, consider developing a whitepaper or similar asset around it. A robust content strategy can be a great way to bring in new business. 

5. Template your responses. 

No matter how well you handle meeting-happy clients, there will always be more. Prepare yourself for the next one by setting up templates. Make each response is decisive and inoffensive.

Start with two: For those that you see no reason to meet with, “My calendar is booked for the foreseeable future” is a good response. For the rest, say something like, “I would love to discuss this with you further, but let’s wait for our next scheduled meeting.”

Practice makes perfect: The only way you’re going to get better at saying “no” to your clients is by doing it over and over again. Own your schedule, and don’t be ashamed of it. 

6 Ways to Use a Spare 15 Minutes at Work

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6 Ways to Use a Spare 15 Minutes at Work

When you’re used to moving from task to task or meeting to meeting, fifteen minutes of downtime can be a bit unsettling. You don’t want to waste half of that time thinking about what to do and wind up regretting it.

Luckily, there are so many ways to spend downtime at work. The key is to have a plan to make the most of it:

1. Declutter.

Decluttering can significantly benefit your mental state and productivity levels. Maybe there are papers piling up all over your workspace, or perhaps you struggle to find office supplies you need. Downtime is perfect for reorganizing the area that you work in. 

But decluttering doesn’t end there. Your digital workspace is just as important as your physical one, so use your downtime to get rid of unneeded files and create new folders for organizing the ones that you do need. 

2. Respond to emails.

How often do you open up your email to find an empty inbox? Don’t let them pile up; spend your spare 15 minutes deleting unnecessary ones and responding to others.

Which are worth answering immediately, and which should you put off? Apply the two-minute rule. If you need more time than that to answer any one message, shelve it until your dedicated time to answer emails. 

3. Get some reading done.

Fifteen minutes is plenty of time to read through some news articles, informative editorials, or blog posts. If none of those tickle your fancy, haul out an inspirational book

What if you aren’t sure what to read? Take those 15 minutes to prepare your reading list. Send out emails asking for suggestions. Order them according to your interests and the insights you expect to gain by reading them. 

4. Play a game.

Games are not a waste of time when they have a purpose. If you’re feeling a little burned out or are struggling to get your brain in gear, play a game of Sudoku or a word search. Keep a booklet of puzzles in your back pocket for cab rides and airport lounges. The New York Times has some mini-crosswords that won’t take as long as their larger ones. 

5. Listen to a short podcast.

Podcasts are another good way to stay informed during periods of downtime. There are dozens of business podcasts whose episodes are 30 minutes or less. Put on a pair of headphones, and take a walk. 

What if you’ve got a little more time? Throw on a TED Talk. Learn something new by selecting one outside of your field. And if you do need to cut it short, podcasts can always be paused and resumed later. 

6. Meditate.

If you get anxious during the workday, why not take 15 minutes to meditate? Even short periods of meditation can significantly boost your productivity and reduce your stress levels.

Consider using a meditation app like Headspace or Calm to guide your sessions. Otherwise, simply listen to your breath, and try not to judge your thoughts. You can meditate in an office, a conference room, or while walking. 

Downtime is not the same as — or shouldn’t be, anyway — wasted time. Fifteen minutes may seem like a small amount of time, but when you use it wisely, it can make a big difference in your day.

When Are Hour-Long Meetings Worth it?

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More than 10 million meetings are held every day in the U.S. Well spent or not, those interactions add up to billions of dollars in employee time.

Given how expensive meetings are, it’s incumbent on businesses to use them sparingly. If something can be accomplished via email or a quick chat, it should be. But while that should be the rule, there are some important exceptions.

When Long Meetings Make Sense

When are lengthy meetings appropriate? At least four common business situations call for them:

1. Executive-level negotiations

When you’re trying to forge a partnership or sway an investor, an hour-long meeting might make sense. High-stakes decisions don’t lend themselves well to snappy phone calls or quick chats at Starbucks.

Start by developing an agenda. Estimate the amount of time you’ll need for each step; before creating the calendar invite, add it up to determine a meeting length.

If you suspect you’ll need more than an hour, consider breaking the meeting up into two or more sessions. Executives and investors are busy people, and they simply may not have a calendar slot large enough to accomodate a multi-hour meeting. 

2. Performance reviews

Whether you’re digging into marketing data, financial projections, or employee conduct, performance-analysis meetings take time. Because these reviews do not happen every day (or even every week), spending more time on them isn’t such a bad idea. 

The greater measure of time between reviews, the lengthier a meeting can — and is expected to — be. A quarterly review may take an hour and a half; an annual, whole-company performance analysis might be worth spending an entire day off site for a retreat. 

3. Long-term planning

Certain long-term topics are worth taking a full hour to discuss. Take hiring: Filling an open role costs more than $4,000, on average. In terms of lost productivity and the company’s reputation, making a mishire costs even more.

Another is product development. New products costs millions of dollars and years to develop, and just 1 in 20 of them succeed in the market. At that level of investment, an extended discussion is warranted: What’s the product’s audience? What need does it fulfill? How does it do so better than similar products on the market?

4. Feedback on major projects

Project feedback is a mixed bag: A blog post doesn’t require a meeting to review, much less an hour-long one; a high-fidelity prototype that cost $30,000 to produce, however, probably does. 

How can you determine where that line is? Ask yourself two questions: How important is the project to the business, and what’s the risk to the company if it does not go well? If in doubt, ask a colleague whether they think it’s worth getting the whole team together to discuss.

Conducted properly, these types of meetings deliver more value to the business than they cost in employee time. But many other common reasons for meetings do not meet that bar.

When to Keep Meetings Short (or Cancel Them Altogether)

Fortunately, knowing which meetings can be cancelled or kept short is relatively simple. Don’t even dream of scheduling a full hour to discuss:

  • Weekly progress updates, especially with individuals or small teams: If the update can be summed up in an email, it should be. If you need to know how an individual is progressing on a project, send them a Slack or set up a quick call. 
  • Revenue and expense breakdowns for the wider team: Understandably, you want your workers to know how the company is faring. But figures can be shared via email; if employees have questions, they’ll stop by to ask.
  • Brainstorms for marketing assets, such as blogs or email campaigns: Competent team members can come up with topic ideas on their own. If a large number of topics are needed at once, ask everyone to bring a few ideas to the table, using the meeting time to pare them down to the strongest ones. 
  • Personal schedule updates, such as vacations or appointments: Use an online calendar to communicate out-of-office events. Send an email to explain where everything stands before leaving the office. Again, expect colleagues to bring any questions they may have to you directly. 

There’s nothing wrong with getting multiple perspectives on an issue. The fact is, though, few business situations require hour-long, team-wide deliberations.

Treat team members’ time with respect, and they’ll treat your company’s time the same way. That’s one topic everyone can agree on, no meeting required. 

To Be More Productive, Let Tech Lighten Your Load

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You’ve heard it before: “It’s sad how much we rely on technology these days” and “All people do is stare at their phones!”

As someone who works for a tech company, I happen to believe that when used appropriately, technology can actually boost your productivity. Think of it like outsourcing: Yes, asking another team to take on work only you could do is a bad idea — but many projects are a matter of repetition.

If you’re tired of all those smaller tasks getting in the way of your mission-critical projects, take these five tips for using tech to enhance your productivity:

1. Embrace automation.

Why bother spend your waking hours on monotonous work when software can tackle it for you? Automation technology can help you with all sorts of tasks, including:

 

  • Posting on social media: Whether your full-time job revolves around social media or you do it as a side gig, content management programs can save you huge amounts of time. Tools like HootSuite allow you to write posts ahead of time and schedule them for any day and time you’d like.
  • Backing up files: Backing up files is extremely important so that you don’t lose everything when disaster strikes. Fortunately, it doesn’t require your undivided attention. Saving files to an external hard drive used to take hours. Nowadays, cloud-based backup can happen in the background while you work.
  • Responding to emails: If you find yourself repeatedly answering the same questions over and over again, it may be time for some email automation. Certain scripts can suggest responses for common questions. And of course, automated out-of-office responders let people know when you’re away. 
  • Paying bills: Every business has bills to pay. Why write checks by hand every month when you can set up automatic payments? You’ll never miss a payment, which means you’ll also pay fewer fees and have happier vendors. 
  • Signing emails: Developing a professional email signature might sound like a low-priority task, but think about it: How many emails do you send in a day? Do you use the same signature again and again? Stop writing it out every time, and let your email client handle it for you. 
  • Sending reminders: Tools like Slack and Trello let you set reminders for yourself by the hour, day, or week. Stop adding Sticky Notes to your monitor or setting your watch, and start letting software remember for you.

 

2. Use a digital scheduling system.

Time management is one of those things no entrepreneur succeeds for long without. Learn to control your calendar. A cloud-based scheduling system will keep you organized, make you more collaborative, and cut down the time it takes to schedule meetings.

The right online calendar will integrate with your other tools, feature a clean interface, and take relatively little time to set up. Get one not just for you, but for your whole team. Simply being able to look at each others’ priorities at any time will make your company more productive.

3. Default to video conferencing.

Why bother traveling just to take a meeting? Unless it’s an investor interview or an employee firing — the sort of thing that you want to do in person — do it via video and don’t waste your time traveling.

Offices that are thousands of miles apart can use video conferencing software to hold meetings and collaborate between teams. Beyond saving time, videoconferencing also eliminates the stress and cost of flying people in from remote locations.

4. Get an instant messaging platform.

Can you and your employees still be productive when working from home? When you’re away from the office, you can’t just pop over to your co-worker’s cubicle every time you need to ask her a question. Even with email, it may take her hours to respond to your message.

Instant messaging platforms like Slack are used by companies of all sizes. Direct channels let you get fast answers to those random questions, while public ones let the wider team weigh in. Opt for the paid version, which allows you to search back through Slacks since you adopted the tool.

5. Analyze only what counts.

Today’s business intelligence tools let you get a deeper understanding of overall company performance. Most project management software comes with reporting tools to analyze how much time your team is spending on each type of task.

Although you can analyze everything, though, realize that not all data is important. Is knowing the open rate of internal emails really worth your time? What about your intern’s weekly time breakdown? Analyses are only worthwhile if they actually save more than they cost. 

There are many ways technology can boost your productivity to help you get more done. Realize that you’re fortunate to live in an age of smartphones and software. Why not use them to your advantage? 

4 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Sales Schedule

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4 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Sales Schedule

Sales is a juggling act of meetings, demonstrations, paperwork, cold calls, and emails. The more balls you can keep in the air, the more revenue you’ll pull in — and the larger your commission checks will be.

Like it or not, though, you can’t work leads around the clock. Instead, improve your efficiency with the following tips:

1. Single-task wisely.

Although multitasking creates more problems than it solves, that doesn’t mean you can’t make more of your time.

Start by applying the 80/20 rule: Identify the 20% of your activities that account for 80% of your desired results. For example, you might focus on landing five larger clients that are worth 50 smaller ones because it’s easier to get five people to say “yes” than 50.

Arrive at the office knowing which are your “20%” projects for the day. If you commute by train, subway, or some other means that doesn’t require you to keep your attention on the road, use that time to comb through your task list. 

2. Batch your work.

Instead of doing tasks in the order that they pop up, organize them by type and tackle them in batches. Batching increases your efficiency by minimizing how frequently your brain needs to change gears.

Writing creative sales emails and updating your sales CRM take very different thought processes, for instance. Jumping back and forth between them forces you to be creative one moment and analytical the next. It’s much easier on your mind to shift gears only once. 

3. Own your calendar.

Stay in control of your calendar, or it will control you. Rather than let leads and co-workers choose any slot in your schedule, block off office hours when you are free to talk.

Go ahead and schedule your entire day. Include not just work priorities, but also personal ones like lunches with friends and doctor’s appointments. That way, neither you nor your boss needs to ask what you’re supposed to be doing.

Remember, too, that today’s calendars can do more than just organize meetings. Choose an online calendar that doubles as a project management tool. Sharing key deadlines and priorities with your team allows everyone to work more efficiently. 

4. Improve the way you email.

Email isn’t new, but there are new email tools to boost your efficiency. Boomerang, a Google Chrome plugin, lets you schedule emails in advance so you can make sure your emails get to their recipients at the most effective times. Rather than push out sales emails on Friday at 4 p.m., you could schedule them to be delivered Monday morning instead. 

Get in the habit of creating scripted email templates, especially for cold pitching and answering frequently asked questions. As long as you remember to customize the greeting and other details, they shouldn’t sound like canned responses. Double-check autofill fields so you don’t accidentally send Client X something that refers to Client Y.

No matter how busy your sales schedule is, you can always squeeze another task into it. Use technology and workflow optimization to get more done, and your sales quota won’t stand a chance.

How to Break Down Big Tasks to Boost Your Productivity

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notebook-breaking-down-big-tasks

When you try to tackle a task that is too big for a single work session or strategy, it can feel like running right into a brick wall. Productivity can plummet, morale can suffer, and a general state of stress and anxiety can ensue.

The next time you come up against a task that feels too big to handle, follow these steps to break it down and meet the challenge one step at a time:

1. Brainstorm then order action steps.

When you’re not sure how to approach a big task, get out a pen and notepad. Start by brainstorming all of the things you’ll need to do in order to accomplish it. The right starting point will become clear once you see them all on paper.

Say you want to develop and launch a new product. It’s a big task, but you probably know the smaller steps:

  • Research product-market fit.
  • Wireframe the design
  • Develop a minimum viable product
  • Beta-test the product.
  • Analyze the beta test results.
  • Research the best time to launch the product.
  • Make alterations and re-test the product (and repeat if necessary).
  • Develop a marketing campaign.
  • Make alterations (if necessary).
  • Develop a marketing campaign.
  • Officially release the product.
  • Follow up with customers for feedback.

Even to someone without a background in product development, that order probably makes intuitive sense. But it can be tough to see that until you’ve actually listed everything out.

2. Don’t overthink things.

For most people, writing down the individual steps involved in a project makes approaching them easier. For others, though, it can trigger a case of analysis paralysis.

If you find yourself in that boat, don’t think about the project as a whole. Focus just on that first step: What do you need to do in order to get the ball rolling? Thinking beyond the step immediately ahead of you only puts more stress and pressure on your shoulders.

Mentally simplifying projects, especially at their outset, makes you more motivated. Keep a map of the broader project tucked away so you can reference it without giving it brain space all of the time.

3. Group similar tasks together.

As you work through the individual steps in a project, it’s wise to group similar ones together. Performing multiple actions that are closely related is known as batching, and it can be a great way to knock out large parts of a project quickly. 

Say you’re building a website and need to create an individual page for a dozen different products. Create all of the pages at once. Then, go back and write all of the product descriptions in a row. After that, go back and add the back-end metadata to every page. You get the idea.

Batching similar tasks lets you get into a flow state. Not only will that mental state make you more productive, but it will help you enjoy the work.

4. Tackle tough tasks during your prime time. 

It’s important to be aware of when you do your best work. Ernest Hemingway, for instance, was famous for writing as soon after first light as possible. Many others find that their prime working hours are in the late morning or the wee hours of the night. 

Identify your own “prime time,” and schedule the hardest parts of your project for those periods. Once you have a list of subtasks, you should be able to identify which things will be easy to do and what items may require a bit more work — physically, mentally, or both.

5. Schedule your time.

In the words of William Penn, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” If you don’t make an effort to schedule your time, you’re going to get bogged down as you go along. 

Schedule not just each phase or subtask of your project, but your entire day. Designating time to do things like respond to client emails and exercise ensures you don’t let other important priorities fall by the wayside as you make progress on your initiative. 

Proper scheduling will also give you the opportunity to take breaks regularly. Breaks are a critical part of maintaining long-term productivity.

Avoid working on the same task for more than two hours at a time without giving your brain a rest. Schedule a ten-minute break every two hours, or at least switch to a lighter task at that time.

6. Celebrate milestones, even the small ones

When you finish a step in a massive project, it’s tempting to move on immediately. Don’t: The way you handle those small wins dictates your future progress.

The human brain is reward-oriented. If you train it to expect good things when you finish a task, you’ll be all the more motivated to tackle future ones more efficiently.

Be sure, though, to reward yourself in healthy ways. Try:

  • Taking a walk
  • Making yourself a healthy meal
  • Booking an experience for yourself
  • Brewing a cup of tea or coffee
  • Calling a friend

Every massive accomplishment started with a single step. Plan well, schedule things smartly, give yourself plenty of breaks, and recognize the good work you do. Keep at it, and you’ll be there sooner than you know it. 

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