Businesses have been studying productivity for the past century. The nature of work may have changed, but humans have not. There is a large body of research out there that demonstrate proven ways to improve productivity. Yet, it is surprising how not many people know about these basic rules.
Multi-tasking simply does not work. When you try to multi-task, the brain has to rapidly shift focus from one task to the next continuously. Your cerebral cortex can only really focus on one thing at a time.
2-Minute Rule: If a task takes less than 2 minutes to complete, do it now
David Allen’s 2-Minute Rule is an excellent way to beat procrastination and declutter your schedule. The rule states that if a task takes less than two minutes, you should do it now. This applies to all kinds of things: sending a quick reply to that email, taking out the garbage, making that phone call.
To get started, just take the first step
Want to start a workout routine? Don’t think about all the details. Just change into your gym gear and step out of the door. As with the laws of physics, any new habit becomes exponentially easier once you get started.
Take a 17-Minute Break Every 52 Minutes
Research has found that this is the optimal work/rest ratio. The human mind can only focus for a certain amount of time before productivity starts plateauing and eventually declining. Taking a break after every 52 minutes helps you refresh your mind and will allow you to continue your task at hand with more focus and efficiency.
Most of us receive upwards of 100 emails a day. Searching for emails becomes an enormous time drain. To avoid that, create numerous folders and always file your emails. Your goal should be to maintain inbox zero as often as possible. Filing your emails is another 2-Minute task that you can follow.
Work 40 hours a week for optimal, sustainable productivity
After conducting 12 years of productivity experiments, Ford concluded that 40 hours is the optimal number of work-hours per week. This is the level at which productivity can be sustained. Working more than 40 hours gives a productivity boost initially, but leads to declining productivity over time.
Large teams do not work
Researchers disagree over the exact number, but most agree that the ideal team size should be roughly between four and nine people. Any more than that usually results in decreased productivity as large teams make communication and effective delegation difficult. If you manage a large organization, always try to create smaller teams and have each specialize in a specific area.