If you're looking to become more productive, there’s certainly no shortage of ideas. And yet time-wasting never seems to disappear: a recent survey by Salary.com found that 69 per cent of people say they waste at least half an hour at work every day. But there are changes you can make that could really make a difference – and they don’t need to engulf any more of your day. Here is a selection of the best 10 minute productivity wonders.
PREPARING THE GROUND
Ron Friedman, founder of ignite80 and author of The Best Place to Work, believes that many start letting time slip at the beginning of the day. Checking emails, he says, is a great example of how someone can disrupt focus on personal goals by shifting to someone else’s agenda. It’s the same with sit-down meetings first thing. If you haven’t set out your own priorities, how can you effectively interact with other people’s?
He advises that the best way to start your day is with a brief planning session: an intellectual “mise en place” – “everything in its place”. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Friedman recommends sitting at your desk in the morning and asking yourself: “The day is over and I am leaving the office with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What have I achieved?” Then simply make a list.
The task should take just 10 minutes. Some may even prefer to make the list as soon as they get up, or even the night before. That’s the advice of Robert C Pozen, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School. Then, you can go to bed knowing you’re in control of the day ahead, and wake up hitting the ground running.
STRENGTH TO STRENGTH
Having made a successful plan for your day, it’s important to keep up momentum. There are a number of popular ideas on how to allot time to boost efficiency.
Workplace guru Alexandra Levit advocates using the 10 Minute Or Under rule to stave off distractions during the day. It’s a simple idea: if you can complete a task in 10 minutes or less, move it to the top of your to-do list. Contrary to the usual advice of always dealing with big items first, Levit believes procrastination means little tasks often build up into unmanageable piles, so it’s better to knock them on the head in a controlled manner.
Another easy-to-invoke method is the 50/10 Rule. Similar to the Pomodoro Technique, which demands that tasks be apportioned 25 minute slots, 50/10 is intended to help build up stamina and attention by setting the “work” time at the upper end of attention span estimates (50 minutes), followed by 10 minute breaks. Harvard Business Review writer David Silverman, for instance, recommends scheduling 50 – rather than 60 – minute meetings. Just as much can be achieved, he says, meaning you regain the 10 minutes being lost to inefficiency and habit.
One way to make the most of this extra time is to heed research by Indiana State University, which has shown that walking for 10 minute bursts, four times a day, has significantly more impact on health than doing a straight 40 minutes. The benefits last for 11 hours, outpacing the seven hours a single longer walk brings.
Organise yourself better
It’s easy to become inundated with multiple to-do lists or hi-tech systems which over-complicate the traditional tick list approach.
TeuxDeux is designed to be as easy to use as a trusty piece of paper, but more efficient. It’ll roll over tasks left unfinished from the day before and set recurring items. It has functions which mean you can cross things off. You can also create sections like “someday” – for goals that don’t need to be completed anytime soon.