How to Increase Focus and Productivity at Work

tyler

focus, productivity, productivity at work, ivy lee method, time management, task management, project management, leadership, workplace culture

I’m always interested in trying new ways to increase my productivity. In my last blog, I wrote about how to focus on your work, so this time it seemed appropriate to talk about productivity.

After returning from a much-needed break over the holidays, I was struggling to keep up with the growing list of things I needed to do. After a couple weeks of going about things in my usual way of simply trying to get as many things done as possible, I decided to experiment with a new (to me) method for productivity I had learned about in an episode of NPR’s podcast, Life Kit.

The productivity strategy is called the Ivy Lee method, and it consists of choosing six tasks for each day and placing them in order of their importance. Then you simply focus on your number one task and only move on to the next once it’s complete. If you don’t get through all your tasks for the day, you can add the ones you didn’t finish on to the next day’s list.

The Ivy Lee method of productivity consists of choosing six tasks for each day and placing them in order of their importance.

On my desk right now is a stack of the sticky notes I’ve used to write down each day’s tasks over the past few weeks. Although I wasn’t keeping a tally of how many tasks I was completing before trying out the Ivy Lee method, I’m definitely more productive as a result (63 tasks over the course of 13 days!). It’s also improved my ability to focus and reduced feelings of overwhelm as I have a clear idea of what I need to accomplish each day to make sure I meet my deadlines.

Here are some things I’ve learned from trying out the Ivy Lee method of productivity:

Plan ahead.

Your daily list is not a replacement for your larger list of to-dos, so be sure to look ahead and break down bigger tasks into daily chunks so you can meet your deadlines. At the end of each workday, make the next day’s list so you can come in and get started right away without using any brainpower trying to figure out what you need to do. Taking the extra time to do this has given me an increased sense of calm as I go home for the evening as I feel I have a clear sense of what I need to do at work the next day.

Be flexible.

You may have noticed that the amount of tasks I completed doesn’t add up to six per day over 13 days (it should have been 78). It’s important to have some wiggle room with your deadlines in case you miss a day of work or “fires” that need to be put out that take priority over what you need to do that day. On one of my 13 days, I only completed one thing on my list as we had an issue with our database that had to be addressed immediately. I try to accommodate for crises by setting a personal deadline a day or two before the larger project actually needs to get done.

Don’t include what you already need to do every day.

The six tasks you choose for the day typically shouldn’t include the simple necessities of working in an office. For example, I don’t include replying to emails on my task list, but I do set aside times throughout the day to respond to whatever comes into my inbox. Not only does this give me peace of mind that I’m caught up on emails, it also allows me to reprioritize my list if something urgent comes in.

Don’t get down on yourself if you don’t complete everything on your day’s list – just move the remaining tasks onto the next day.

Be kind to yourself.

Don’t get down on yourself if you don’t complete everything on your day’s list – just move the remaining tasks onto the next day. There’s only so much you can do in a day, and maintaining focus is easier on some days than others.

After trying the Ivy Lee method of productivity for a few weeks, it’s no surprise to me that it has stood the test of time – it’s now over 100 years old! It’s a great tool for taking control of your workday and getting stuff done!


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Author: Tyler Voth
ACHIEVE Publishing Coordinator, ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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