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Six-step guide to increasing productivity


Writing for HBR.org, Tony Schwartz reveals six ways to 'supercharge' your productivity.

As he observes, in the digital age it is increasingly difficult to focus as there are an increasing number of media competing for our time.

He says: "We find it harder to give all of our attention to anything or anyone for very long. The consequence is that we're undertaking more and more tasks every day, but they often add up to less and less real value."

So in this world of infinitely rising demand and endless potential distractions, what does it take to be productive and efficient – generating goods and services with lasting value using the least amount of unnecessary expenditure of time and energy?

Schwartz answers the question by recommending:

1) Making sufficient sleep a top priority. The author points out that although 98% of people need a minimum of seven to eight hours' sleep a night to feel properly rested, only a fraction of us actually get that amount because we mistakenly believe that sacrificing an hour or so of sleep gives us the equivalent in productivity. In truth, just small amounts of sleep deprivation can affect our the speed and quality of our work.

2) Creating one to-do list. Include everything you want to, in and outside work. Schwartz says that writing everything down leaves you free to fully focus on what's most important at any given moment.

3) Doing the most important thing first each morning. That's when you'll have the most energy and the fewest distractions.

4) Living like a sprinter, not a marathon runner. Schwartz explains: "When you work continuously, you're actually progressively depleting your energy reservoir as the day wears on.

"By making intermittent renewal and refuelling important, you're regularly replenishing your reservoir, so you're not only able to fully engage at intervals along the way, but also to maintain high energy much further into the day."


5) Monitoring your mood. When demand starts to exceed your capacity, negative emotions creep in. Analyse why you are feeling that way – whether you're hungry, tired or threatened, etc – and work out how you can resolve it.

6) Scheduling specific times for important but non-urgent activities. Schwartz comments: "With so much coming at you all the time, it's easy to focus all day on whatever feels most pressing in the moment.

"What you sacrifice is the opportunity to take on work such as writing, strategising, thinking creatively, or cultivating relationships, which may require more time and energy, but often yield greater long-term rewards."

Six Ways to Supercharge Your Productivity
Tony Schwartz