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Improve your productivity

Posted by Chad O'Connor  April 23, 2013 11:00 AM

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Busy schedules, mismanaged time, and days filled with distractions lead to stress, anxiety and reduced productivity in our personal and professional lives. It is incredibly beneficial to take the time to reflect on current practices, find ways to manage our time effectively, and develop clear direction and priorities in life. Below are some ways to accomplish that.

Create a time log
Determine how you are spending your time on a daily basis and how much time you are spending on each task. Organize everything into useful categories and be honest and candid. This can help you really focus on the most important things and stop wasting time on things unnecessarily. Determine when you have the most energy, and take care of important tasks at those times.

According to Fredia Woolf, Executive Coach and Principal of Woolf Consulting, many people are unrealistic about the time it takes to do a certain task. They assume something will only take 15 minutes to complete when it really takes 3 hours.

Plan out your week
At the beginning of each week, look at your calendar and plan accordingly. You may have events and other types of activities and commitments to tend to. If you plan in advance, your week will go much smoother rather than figuring things out along the way. And don’t forget to schedule time for yourself. Woolf suggests scheduling a half hour to an hour of time for yourself 2 to 3 times per week.

“Pick 1 place to manage all your activities,” said Leanne Rodd, Professional Organizer, Time Management Coach, and Principal of If you have a paper and electronic calendar, choose 1 as your main calendar to always enter activities in first, and then transfer the information to the other when you have time. Rodd suggests subscribing to feeds; using the iCal feature if you have a smart device; and using Cozi calendar if you have a family and need to manage several schedules in one central location.

Manage your email
If you manage your email well, you can save a lot of time and stay more focused. It can take some time initially to set up a system but will be well worth it overall.

• Rather than checking emails as they come in, set times during the day to check email and work it into your daily plan so you can focus on getting work done in between those times.

Turn off the new email notification so you are not tempted to check your email every time an email comes in.

Set up email filters that send certain types of emails immediately into a folder such as newsletters.

Unsubscribe to emails you do not want to receive.

Sort by conversation rather than chronological timeline. That can help in situations where there is an email chain by getting right to the solution if one took place.

Organize electronic documents
According to Rodd, the average person spends more than 1 hour looking for things they know they have. To avoid wasting time, develop a system for your electronic documents. Start with a hierarchy and set up folders and subfolders to move documents and emails to.

Determine areas that need improvement
To become more productive, you need a clear sense of direction in your life. Make a list of the major areas important in your life, such as family, health, career, school, personal growth, and finance. Next, rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 – 10 being ideal, and choose 1 to 3 areas to focus on where you would like to improve.

Develop SMART goals – Specific; Measureable; Attainable; Realistic; include a Time Component, and determine what you need to do to close the gap to get to a 10 in those areas. Come up with very specific motivation statements for any goals, such as I will lose 10 pounds in 4 months so that I will have more energy.

Next break down each goal, draw a picture of a ladder, and use each rung as a step on how you will achieve the goal. Those smaller steps translate into your day-to-day life and should be incorporated into your daily calendar.

Remove psychological barriers
Anyone must have their mind in peak condition for optimum performance. “Therapy can help one cope with stress and anxiety. The reality is that things happen every day in our lives, and we can’t avoid them. But learning how to appropriately deal with them helps to move a person closer to peak performance,” said Andrew Kang, Therapist at Boston Professionals Counseling.

According to Kang, therapy can also help to uncover what a person really wants and can lead to revelations about career choices made in the past as well as direction for the future. “People who are miserable doing what they are doing need to ask themselves what they really want. Until they figure that out, getting it is completely out of the question,” said Kang.

Why not create a less stressful environment for yourself? Take the time to focus and motivate yourself to develop a routine, organize your life, and improve productivity. It will lead to better results, a better quality of life, and increased happiness. “We need to reclaim our focus among our busy lives. There is no perfect solution for everyone. The key is to not feel overwhelmed, and find what works for you,” said Rodd.

Ellen Keiley is President of the MBA Women International Boston Chapter Board of Directors, serves as a Vice Chair of the United Way and City Year’s Women’s Leadership Initiatives, serves on the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Women’s Advisory Council, is a member of The Boston Club, appears weekly on RadioBDC’s Global Business Hub segment, and writes for The Women’s Book and Project Eve. She can be contacted at
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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