Working in a service industry requires a certain level of daily production. The more a person produces over the long term, the more the person will be paid. This is a truth with very few exceptions. With this in mind, I noticed that my daily work production has declined in recent years. My typical day is spent juggling multiple client needs and office administrative issues. Additionally, the emails keep coming and the phone keeps ringing. I am also guilty of opening up boston.com a few times a day to see what is happening outside my four walls. At the end of the day it is difficult for me to see what I have produced.
This is not how it used to be. I recall early in my career, prior to the proliferation of electronic communications, where I could reasonably concentrate on a single task for hours, days or weeks on end. Except for lunch and a cigarette break, daily interruptions were minimal. Only upon completion of a task would I move to the next task. Production at the end of the day could be easily seen and measured.
Over the last few weeks, I have tried to revert to my former days of production greatness (self-proclaimed). To accomplish this, I am employing many of the tactics used earlier in my career. My early results are quite promising. My productivity has risen, and hopefully increased pay will follow. Here is what I have done:
Priority list – At the end of each work day, I create a "to do" list for the following work day. I prioritize each item based on importance. The next day I start working on the item of highest importance. Only once I am complete with this task, do I move to the next task. I have effectively ended multi-tasking. By focusing on a single task, my productivity has increased. I highly recommend it. If I get through everything on my list early, I go home for the day and spend time with my daughter, Madeline. This is much more enjoyable than unproductive time at the office.
Email – One of the worst features of Microsoft Outlook is the one which notifies you every time a new email arrives. On my version of Outlook, a small window opens on the bottom of the screen alerting me that an email has arrived. Regardless of what I am working on, I usually will read the email. Many times, I get sidetracked and will address a new task as required by the email. This is multi-tasking at its worst. The last few weeks, I no longer leave Microsoft Outlook open on my desktop. I only open email at the beginning of the day, at lunch and at the end of the day. Less multi-tasking equals more productivity.
Blackberry / PDA – This is another interrupter of productivity. It reminds me of interruption advertising models used on television, where once you get focused on something, the station changes over to an advertisement. Your whole train of thought is interrupted. The vibrate function on my Blackberry was going off constantly and each time was interrupting my workday. Now I leave most settings to silent and only answer the phone if my wife or a client calls. Unknown numbers, friends, time wasters, etc. go straight to voicemail. Text messages only get answered at the end of the day.
Cigarette breaks – While I miss my nicotine fix, this is not an area I am reverting. Caffeine is my new stimulant.
In almost all cases, a person that produces less or an inferior product will be paid less. Keep searching for ways to improve the amount you produce and the dollars will follow. If you know any other productivity improvement ideas, please submit them on the bottom right side of this webpage.
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