Jason Shah is the founder and CEO of Do, a collaboration platform that helps you run productive meetings.
One facet of productivity that doesn't often get talked about is the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. You could arrive at work early, knock a bunch of items off of your to-do list, and feel good about your day. And while you may have earned it, have you ever stopped to think about how effective you really were?
At my company, Do.com, we help companies become both more effective and efficient with their meetings. The lack of follow-up and action taken after a meeting is a problem that plagues a lot of boardrooms. The sole purpose of a meeting is to discuss things collaboratively so that action items can be acted on; however, this is often not the case. We've pinpointed several reasons why your meetings aren't as productive as you think -- and how you can change them for the better.
Give Your Undivided Attention to the Task at Hand
Let's say you're in a meeting, and you're answering emails while discussions are taking place. Those who can multitask are often admired for their ability to juggle, but the reality is that you can never give your undivided attention to any one thing when you're constantly jumping between two or more items. You're really just giving a few minutes here, a few minutes there, and are never fully engaging.
So if you're in a meeting and you're answering emails, you might think you're giving your attention to both, but you're actually not giving your whole attention to either. This means you can miss important questions, decisions and discussions. You also risk slipping up in your email communication, losing your train of thought, or failing to reply to an urgent message.
A great way to combat this is to use the famous Pomodoro technique, in which you work for 25 minutes on one task, without checking your phone, email, or switching between apps. Then, you take a five-minute break where you can check those emails or respond to those texts. This cycle repeats for four rounds, after which you take a 15-minute break. This really helps fight the urge to "multitask" and has been proven to allow you to fit 40 hours of work into 16.7 hours of actual work.
Train Your Mind to Focus for Longer Periods of Time
What do some of the most successful entrepreneurs, artists and actors all have in common? They're able to stay focused for longer periods of time on a single task.
This concentration has to be cultivated; it doesn't come naturally when you're used to constantly checking your phone, surfing the web, and giving into other distractions. For reasons already mentioned, if you give 100 percent to everything you engage in, you'll make fewer mistakes and get more done. "Big projects" will feel less intimidating when you discover that you're able to complete them with a couple of hours of focused effort. As a result, your confidence will also increase. You'll soon discover that you have plenty of time left over for lower-value tasks. Using the aforementioned Pomodoro technique will allow you to focus on what's really important at any given moment since you have to prioritize tasks during each cycle. When these cycles finish, you can work on other, less pressing tasks during your breaks.
Be Selective, and Prioritize
If you don't prioritize your activity, it will have power over you. Assuming you could only pick three to five things to complete on any given day, what would you choose to work on? Manage your expectations. Don't go into your day with the idea that you are superhuman and can handle everything under the sun. Instead, pick your battles. Don't allow yourself more than three to five items on a daily basis. Then, if you have time left over, start crossing off smaller tasks that don't require a lot of time or mental effort. Every morning at our company, we lay out the most important things for us to tackle that day. As you go throughout your day, use a to-do list or journal to track what you've accomplished and what you still need to complete. Look back on this after every task and at the end of the day. It'll make you feel really good about your productivity and is a great way to visually see your progress throughout the day.
Every morning at our company, we lay out the most important things for us to tackle that day. As you go throughout your day, use a to-do list or journal to track what you've accomplished and what you still need to complete. Look back on this after every task and at the end of the day. It'll make you feel really good about your productivity and is a great way to visually monitor your progress.
Don't forget -- these tips don't work if you don't prioritize. If you find yourself jumping from one task to another, remember that there are tasks on your to-do list that can wait. You need to be able to segment your projects into meaningful categories in order to gain clarity on the importance of each. Pretty soon, you'll be accomplishing way more than before -- and it'll reflect in your business.