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How to be Productive and Still Get Home for Dinner

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We can become slaves to our own productivity. Try as we might, everyday seems to be a never-ending battle with the gobs of work we hope to achieve. So how do we end on a productive note?

Eric Barker of The Week, wrote a dazzling piece on productivity. The title alone makes your nerves jump straight out of your fingertips: “How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30p.m.” Enticing right? Is it possible to get home by dinnertime feeling good about our daily productivity?

According to Barker, it’s possible and proven by a very reputable man named Cal Newport; a full-time professor who writes 6 peer-reviewed academic journal papers per year, is an author of four books, is married with a young child, and blogs regularly about productivity and expert. And despite this rap sheet, he finishes work at 5:30 p.m. every day and rarely works weekends. So here’s how he accomplishes it all (along with some notations and expertise by the AccelaWork team):

1. To-do lists are evil. Schedule everything.

Here’s what Barker has to say:

To-do lists by themselves are useless. They’re just the first step. You have to assign them time on your schedule . . . It allows you to do tasks when it’s efficient, not just because it’s #4.

Robby Slaughter suggests utilizing the power of our calendar to help not only our productivity, but our understanding of the progress we’re making. In a previous post on The Methodology Blog, he advises:

  • Make appointments for projects – If any project takes more than 15 minutes, shouldn’t there be time reserved in your calendar?
  • Follow your instincts when scheduling time for projects. What you put in your calendar indicates what you think is important when you put on your calendar. So if you’re going to have a task on your calendar and you think ‘maybe I shouldn’t do this now’ . . . respect your gut.”
  • Look at your calendar at the end of the day. Productivity isn’t just about what you get done, it’s also about how you feel about what you get done.

© Flickr user DafneCholet

2. Assume you’re going home at 5:30, then plan your day backwards.

Again from Eric Barker:

You need boundaries if you want work/life balance. But this also helps you work better because it forces you to be efficient.

Alyssa Shea, one of our tech gurus here at AccelaWork, encourages readers to not only utilize technology to improve productivity, but to keep our boundaries between work and personal time clearly defined:

The important thing to remember is that technology ideally exists to help us, not control us. Our phones and tablets can be a means to great efficiency and productivity. But when we utilize them obsessively and without any boundaries, they can quickly become the tail wagging the dog. Setting up boundaries and technology “blackout” times when we’re at home helps to establish that critical work/life balance.

3. Make a plan for the entire week.

It may sound overwhelming to at look days, weeks or even months in advance to plan your calendar. But, preparing your commitments ahead of time is providing you with an extreme advantage. No longer will you be the one bogged down with last minute requests and projects. The reply is simple: “I’ve checked my calendar and the earliest availability I have is …” Now you’re in control and are able to define when a project can be completed.

You hate to live and die by your calendar, but by doing so, you’ll find achieving maximum productivity is as easy as ever.

4. Do very few things, but be awesome at them.

You need to do fewer things. Everything is not essential. You say “yes” to more than you need to.

We’ve talked about the biggest, happiest lie in business. As Slaughter puts it:

Whenever someone says “no problem” what they mean is “there is a problem.” They mean “I don’t want to do that. I shouldn’t have to do that. But I will.” Or, they might mean “I know you think this is my job, but it’s not.”

For so many of us, our need to “people please” can overtake our workday. We say yes (or “no problem”) to way more than we need to. Focus on that and remember, saying no at work isn’t a crime.

5. Do less shallow work — focus on the deep stuff.

Shallow work stops you from getting fired — but deep work is what gets you promoted.

The idea that a project being done can positively affect the company and it’s overall mission, brings employees an enormous amount of satisfaction. Compare this feeling to that of an employee who is pigeonholed to the mindless, mundane tasks that have little to no effect on the overall performance of a company. Could you honestly say they’d be just as happy?

Of course, there is no way of avoiding maintenance in a job. Despite the boredom it produces, we all have upkeep that needs to be done. But, we should strive to streamline this portion of our time (and not give in to it) so our minds can gear towards the meaningful, innovative work we desire.

Got it? Okay, time to head home for dinner!

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Ashley Lee

Ashley Lee

Ashley has been working with the AccelaWork team since 2008. She is a communications expert with a background in corporate work, and a graduate of the University of Dayton with a degree in Public Relations. She lives in the greater Indianapolis area with her husband and four children. Ashley enjoys jewelry, fashion, and coffee.
Ashley Lee

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