Inefficiency is so incredibly common in every environment, that sometimes one wonders how anything gets done at all. Bureaucracies, time wasting, multitasking and all the other distractions so characteristic of the postmodern world are some of the reasons why most people greatly mismanage their time and waste incredible amounts of precious hours in useless tasks. Here are some easy tactics that you can apply to your own worklife to be much more productive while needing half the time.
Let me tell you a little secret. Practically no one actually works 8 hours per day, let alone more than that. And except for a very few occasions, nobody needs to. Most people do a couple of tasks a day, spend a couple of hours working, and try to pretend like they are working the rest of the time. This is no one's fault, but a consequence of a corporate environment that looks down upon anyone that doesn't sit patiently at their desk for the complete duration of every work day. Remote work has provided us with an amazing opportunity to increase our productivity and have more free time to dedicate to other important projects and areas of our life: family, sport, or any creative project that you may have. Not only that, but you'll also perform better in your day job.
Remote work has provided us with an amazing opportunity to increase our productiveness and have more free time to dedicate to other important projects and areas of our life: family, sport, or any creative project that you may have.
I recently came across an old adage that perfectly illustrates why most people at most 9 to 5 jobs are extremely inefficient: Parkinson's law states that work expands to fill the amount of time alloted to it. In simple terms, this means that whatever amount of time you have designated to complete a task, you'll most likely spend that exact amount completing it (or more). This happens not because we are sensational estimating machines, but rather because we suck at it, and tend to overestimate the amount of time that a task will take. For example, if you have 5 things that you need to do in a particular workday, you'll probably spend 8 hours doing them, even if you could've done it in two. In that sense, the wise thing to do is to loosely estimate how long a task will take, write it down, and try to complete it in that amount of time. You'll find out that you don't work nearly as many hours as you thought (except maybe for a couple of particularly heavy days), and that you can shorten your actual workday by half or even more. To be clear: this does NOT mean that you'll get less done or slack off and fail to meet deadlines. That's not the point. The point is that you can be much more efficient if you are aware of Parkinson's law and start completing tasks more quickly, instead of inflating them to fill out your 8 hour workday. This was really tricky before, when the bossman was constantly looking over your shoulder to see what you were doing, but with remote work agreements, you can implement this method without much trouble. Remember, this is a method to do MORE than before, not less, while having the added benefit that you'll have a couple of free extra hours to do whatever you want to do.
This one is a very well known law of economics, that states that in almost any field and endeavor, 80% of the outputs come from 20% of the inputs. 80% of all wealth is owned by 20% of the people (or even less). 80% of all sales within a company come from 20% of the products. 80% of your income is determined by 20% of your actions. You can apply it almost everywhere, and it's a brilliant law to keep in mind to help you prioritize and assign value to the different things that you have to do day to day. In practical terms, it means this: most of the things you normally do have little to no effect in the outcomes, and some very few things have a massive effect. Focus on those main things and do them to the best of your ability, and you'll be generating massive results with not too much effort. This law helps us identify those key inputs and work on them, while ignoring those time-consumign tasks that do not really matter in the long run.
How to apply this knowledge
The whole point of this article was to give you strategies to be more productive, not merely share some laws about the nature of work, so here's how you can apply these laws to increase your productivity exponentially:
1) Make a schedule: At the beginning of each day, list down all the things that you need to get done that day. Write down estimates for how long it will take you to complete them (aim to be precise but don't give yourself too much time for each task, remember Parkinson's law). Write it down as a checklist, and make sure to finish all the tasks by the end of the day.
2) Focus on one particular task at a time: One thing that distracts you massively is multitasking. It is much more effective to focus on one specific thing and doing it quickly. Don't get distracted by your phone, email, or other pressing tasks.
3) Prioritize: Be very aware of which tasks are essential and which are not. Do the important ones first (obviously).
4) Leisure time: The whole point of being more productive is to have more free time while also performing well at work. Mix in some leisure time with the work related stuff that you have to do daily, to help minimize stress and have a balanced life.
5) Do things right: Have some common sense. Don't simply ignore your boss because you finished your tasks for the day. These tips work, but you have to have some criteria to know when to work and when not to work. I know it's dumb that sometimes you have to sit at your desk merely pretending to work, but such is life, and getting fired isn't going to do you any good. And also, be good at your job. Your boss will be more lenient with you if you do your work right and on time.
Remember these two laws and these five tips and you'll soon find out that you'll get more done, and you'll do it better than before, with the added benefit of having more time to work on your side project or creative endeavor, more time to be with your loved ones or more time to read, work out, and do things that are beneficial for you on a larger scale.