Before discussing how to become more productive, let’s start with a definition.

pro·duc·tive – producing or able to produce large amounts of goods, crops, or other commodities.

What you will learn…

  1. When you are most productive
  2. How to pick the right things to focus on
  3. How to eliminate the noise

Pareto Principle (80/20 rule)

The most important thing that you can do is spend your limited time on the right things. You MUST use the Pareto Principle. You MUST focus on the 20% that will result in the 80% value.

Here is a simple visualization of the Pareto Principle.

Think about the tasks that you need to complete and the objective that you need to achieve. The tasks will likely fall into this model. Some will have a major impact on achieving the objective. Others and this will be the majority, will not.

Spend your time on those that will have the largest impact.


Now that you know what to work on, you need to make sure that you can focus. The #1 challenge to this focus is interruptions. Things like phone calls, emails, texts, Slack, IM, or people stopping by.

There are two approaches to solving these.

  1. Turn off notifications. Things like popups and sound notifications will distract you and even if you do not act on them, you will lose and have to regain focus – wasting precious time and impacting the quality of your work.
  2. Let people know you are busy. If you have an office, close the door. If you have a cubical or are out in an open space, use headphones. One way to do this is both ears covered, you are busy, one (or none) and you are available.

This will increase your productivity dramatically!


Mornings are your most creative time. But what do most people use first thing in the morning? Read and respond to email. What a waste!

Focus your mornings on the tasks that require the most creativity. Try to make this at least the first hour. You can use time later in the day for the more mundane tasks.

Batch Your Tasks

There are two important aspects of batching your tasks. One is for simple tasks such as reading and responding to email. The individual emails do not take very long, but there is a good deal of them. So switching between a task and an email, and doing this a large number of times a day, results in a significant amount of time lost. It is far better to batch your work on emails twice or three times a day. Doing this not only saves time, but it will reduce the stress that you feel every time an email comes in (ok, it will create some stress initially not checking email constantly, but once you get over that, you will see an overall reduction in your stress level).

The second aspect is batching like tasks. This too will save you time and improve the quality of your work as your mind will be engaged in the topic area – providing more synergy across the tasks than you would otherwise have if you did not batch them.

Stop Multitasking

Multitasking is a fallacy. You may think that you can do more than one thing at a time. But you really can’t. Ok, that isn’t completely true. You can walk and chew gum. But you can’t actually do two things that require your active brain at the same time.

When you try, one of two things happens.

  1. You switch back and forth, picking up where you left off. You might write code and then respond to a text, and then go back to writing code.
  2. You attempt to focus on both at the same time. What happens, in this case, is that you miss things. Trying to read email and participate in a meeting is a perfect example of this.

The problem in the first case is switching costs. According to The American Psychological Association, this switching cost “takes a toll on productivity”. In the second case, you just miss things – impacting both productivity and quality.

Delegate Ownership

You might think that the last aspect of productivity should be the delegation of tasks.

I don’t like this. What I prefer is something far more impactful. That is to create a model where you delegate ownership. You hand over full responsibility. You ensure full responsibility for all related tasks.

This is harder. It requires that whoever you are delegating to have the skills, training, and support to be successful. It requires that you manage through a set of goals that give the required flexibility, autonomy, and authority to be successful.

When you do this, it not only frees up your time but allows you to focus on a new set of tasks that will have an even larger impact.


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