Coffee versus television
The other day I dropped into a friend’s place and he made me a fantastic cup of coffee – smooth and strong, and positively laden with caffeine. After two cups I was buzzing. I went home and wrote my blog, or rather my blog wrote itself then I made some calls for business and cooked up a fantastic four-course gourmet dinner. After dinner it dawned on me that I’d stumbled across the secret to increasing my productivity – caffeine and lots of it! Oh and, if you want to be super productive, you should also throw away your TV! Unfortunately there is more to being productive than drinking copious amounts of coffee and selling the TV set.
Coffee can provide a short-term lift, but the problem with caffeine is that the body eventually becomes immune to its effects and to get a buzz you have to drink more and more. Too much coffee is bad for your health. Drinking between two to seven cups of coffee a day can result in nervousness, nausea, headaches, insomnia and quicken your heart beat. As for TV, there are a great many foolish shows on the box, but I still think it’s important to sometimes look at what’s rating on television – just to stay in touch with people’s psyche. And yes, there are still some quality shows on the air. TV is not a bad way to unwind in the evening, provided it’s kept in check. A study on TV viewing by the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in America found that adults should limit TV viewing to a maximum of two hours a day. Sitting down for extended periods is detrimental to your health.
Less is more
So, if cutting out TV and drinking more coffee is not the answer to increasing productivity then what is? Over the years I have come to believe that to boost productivity, less is more – or rather you need to focus your efforts on doing a few tasks well instead of a lot of tasks badly. Cut your to-do list in half. Rather than trying to accomplish 20 tasks every day, just get the seven most important jobs done properly. You need to be sure of what you want in life. What is it you are trying to achieve? Find the courage to concentrate on what is truly important to you. Too often we attempt to cover too many bases. We have our chief goal, but also a number of fall-back options. If you are to succeed in any area, you need to narrow your focus – be single-minded. Instead of writing a to-do list try writing a do-not-do list!
Assess what is important to you
If you want to increase your productivity, you can’t afford to procrastinate or delay getting on with the job. Again I think this comes down to knowing what you want. If you have a dream and a plan to achieve that dream then you should be rearing to go. Every day you are one step closer to reaching your goal – get out there and work hard. If you find that you are constantly finding excuses to put off work then perhaps you need to reassess what is important to you. Are you on the right path? Or have you lost interest in your work? Is it time for a change of direction?
To become more productive a lot of people just work harder and longer hours, but studies again and again reveal that even top scientists and national leaders only have about two to four hours of peak level energy in a day. During this time – and yes it is usually in the morning – artists and innovators achieve their best creative work. So rather than working harder or longer hours, leave the banal administrative tasks, such as answering emails, to the afternoon and reserve your two to four hours of peak energy for the most important and demanding tasks. Also if you push yourself too hard, your work will suffer, then you’ll have to spend time correcting your mistakes.
Follow a routine
Many productive people believe in following a routine, after all it is too easy to be distracted by time-suckers (such as social media) but if you have a strict and dynamic routine then you’ll be less likely to be side-tracked. You should also aim to wake up early. Christopher Randler, a biology professor at the University of Education in Heidelberg, did a study of night and day people and found that early birds were more practical problem solvers than night owls. Overall they did better in their careers. However, according to Rangler, night owls are often more creative than morning people, but being out of sync with business hours slows down their productivity.
If you establish a routine that includes rising early, make sure you also include exercise. The most productive people exercise regularly. And factor in drinking a couple of litres of water daily and eating fruit. Few adults are well hydrated enough and, according to the CSIRO, only one in five Australians eats enough fruit and vegetables.
To be productive you also need to avoid being everything to everyone. Again, be sure of what you want to achieve and don’t be distracted. Be discerning in the projects you take on for others. Remember, it is okay to say no. And where possible outsource tasks you are not good at. Nobody can be good at everything. Identify your strengths and play to them.
Meetings are also big time wasters. Former NSW Premier Bob Carr rarely gave press conferences instead he was a fan of door-stops, meaning he’d talk to journalists outdoors and on his feet, not trapped behind a desk in an office. He wouldn’t allow these briefings to drag on forever. He’d answer the key questions then walk away. There is a lot to be said for being on your feet while talking to colleagues and again, sitting for extended periods is bad for your health!
Create a relaxing atmosphere
Finally make sure that you have a relaxing work space – this does not mean installing a bed – but remove anything that stresses you and add a few of your own possessions to make the space personal and happy. That should foster creativity and increase your productivity.