Economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by the early twenty-first century, innovations in technology would have whittled our working weeks down to a mere 15 hours. While this might seem like an (albeit attractive) impossibility, just a couple of small changes can increase your productivity and bring you closer to this vision.
Contrary to popular belief, being more efficient isn’t about working through the night, but accomplishing what you set out to do with less effort and more elegance. So how can you do this?
TAKE YOUR TO-DO LISTS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
To-do lists are a staunch favourite. Richard Branson swears by them, and wherever you look there are suggestions on how to perfect the art. However, by themselves they are useless. More often than not, they lack focus and are just long lists of vague tasks that you hope to get done. To make a to-do list work, you need to take it one step further. Investing time on a Monday morning to set your overall objectives for the week is hugely valuable.
Once you have set these goals, work backwards. What smaller tasks do you need to achieve to reach your aims? How much time do you need to allow yourself to get individual jobs done in time? With these answers, you will be in a much stronger position to prioritise your tasks, and set yourself deadlines.
Scheduling in realistic blocks of time each day will allow you to complete fewer but more valuable jobs, and to a higher standard. Prioritising in this way will also reduce procrastination. Once you have a schedule, you’ll no longer be using your time to aimlessly scan your to-do list for the easiest task because these decisions will have already been made.
A recent CEBR study showed that effective use of technology can increase our productivity by 9 per cent – the equivalent of five working hours a week. But technology can also be a crippling distraction – we all know how easy it is to lose hours to Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds. In fact, our research shows that it now takes Brits an average of 28 minutes to organise every hour they spend with their friends – and the same can be said for office meetings.
But used correctly, technology can be both a time and effort saver – and there are many innovations for the office that can help us grab back those precious seconds. Tools like HootSuite can enable us to manage the 24/7 world of social media, while Doodle allows you to find out when all your colleagues are free for a meeting. This will put a stop to the frustrating game of planning ping pong, with the endless threads of chaotic emails and updated calendar invites that clog up your inbox.
GET OUT THE OFFICE
Finally, productivity should be measured by whether you achieve the goal you set – be it to have a relaxing holiday, organise a planning meeting or hit a big deadline. The famous maxim “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” can easily be applied to productivity in the office.
Indeed, economists at the University of Warwick suggest that, if you are not experiencing happiness and fulfilment outside the office, you will be 12 per cent less productive when in it. So meet up with friends, expand your network and broaden your horizons to be more efficient and get the most out of your day.
Michael Brecht is chief executive of Doodle, the meetup simplification tool.