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Three great ways to get more productive

Posted by Arjun Moorthy

Oct 8, 2012 5:10:00 PM

With my sales training underway, I've had to balance the homework there with my regular activities which made me re-examine how I was allocating my time.  Below are three changes I recently made to get more productive; hope they are of help to you as well.

 
 
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Quiet Time

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on your body's best time to do various activities including work.  I've long known that I'm a morning person but haven't really used that fact for anything.  Then I recently read elsewhere that your email inbox is really everyone else's to-do list.  That stopped me in my tracks.  I realized I spent my mornings, my most productive time, replying to emails and helping everyone else with their work!  (Especially since, honestly, I'm pretty much useless in the afternoons).

 

So, starting last week I've booked 10am-noon everyday as quiet time.  That means, turn off everything - phones, email app etc. and focus on my list or maybe even just think for a while on some tough problems.  In my first week of this I've already made much progress on a few crucial items (a few more weeks and surely I'll have some award winning breakthrough :P )  And, perhaps not surprisingly, I've seen no backlash from not responding to emails in that time period.

Decompression Time

As part of my sales training I've been reading Baseline Selling, by Dave Kurlan.  Great book with several tips including one that emphasizes the importance of preparation for meetings.  I've heard this several times in the past but honestly, except for "big" meetings, I've generally managed my meetings adhoc.  I realize now what a waste this was - both of my colleagues' time as well as mine.  Many meetings were random discussions that went nowhere and several meetings should never have happened in the first place.  

So, I now schedule a 30 minute "decompression" time every evening at 5:30pm to think through the day's events and plan for meetings the next day.  
 
Already in my first week I've seen myself be far more engaged in meetings and drive towards valuable conclusions or facts, as opposed to just talking endlessly.  I also sleep better knowing I'm prepared for the next day... no small matter given that my infant son barely lets me sleep anyway.

Evernote

Several people have discovered the benefit of Evernote, the popular free note taking tool.  (And by several I mean 34 million, including many  colleagues at HubSpot far smarter than me).  I resisted using the tool at first as I happy with Notepad and aghast that a similar app could take 30 times the computer memory.  Well I got over that quickly once I saw the benefits of auto-saving, search across notes, text formatting options, optical character recognition off photos of text... think taking pics of your notebook or whiteboards and instantly searchable!  

Evernote's mission is to help people with their memory and, for me, that implicitly means reducing stress.  I read recently that a big cause of stress is thinking about what you have to do so you don't forget it, or worrying that you forgot something important to do.  By keeping notes of my to-dos, and all other random stuff that comes through my head, I feel lighter somehow and worry less.  

Even better, by tracking my to-dos I feel like I'm actually making progress otherwise I sometimes would come home after a long day and not know what I'd actually got done.  

I know there's a risk of going overboard with to-do lists and one must be good at not simply adding to the list without thinking if the task is worth doing.  Let's see if I can maintain a healthy balance.

Bonus tip

One other thing I've started to do is queue up reading material before any long trip - either printing docs or opening multiple tabs in my browser beforehand with the relevant articles.  I've learned the hard way not to rely on wi-fi on the Acela, or even on flights, and even my laptop battery may not be long enough for the amount of time I'm en route. 

So readers, any other productivity tips you can share?

Career Advice I Wish I Knew Earlier 

Hello.  I started this blog to distribute some of the best career advice I have been given over the many jobs I've had.  I've been fortunate to work for and with some great bosses like Francis DeSouzaNancy Kamei and Rick Roberge, and some unique companies, like The Boston Consulting Group, that invest heavily in making each employee a success even after leaving the firm.

The advice and training I received here stands in sharp contrast to my experiences with some not-so-great bosses and companies I've also worked for.  I'm continualy amazed at how valuable good advice has been in my career so I hope to pass on the good advice, and insights from mistakes I've made, via this blog. 

Thanks in advance for your comments, particularly when you can improve upon the ideas posted.

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