Part 33 – Five Ways To Improve Your Productivity

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A Minimally Viable Startup needs to produce and deliver products rapidly and efficiently if it is to grow and survive. Improving individual productivity isn’t as much about making more time, but about using the time you have better.  Here are five things everyone can do to improve their personal productivity.

Some of these ideas may seem counter-intuitive or controversial.

1 – Do Less Planning

Planning is obviously required, but developing a perfect plan for the perfect product takes time.  You can never plan for every contingency, and something will arise to disrupt your perfect plan.  A plan is a route to a product, it’s not the product itself. Have a well-defined plan to produce a product, but don’t spend more time than necessary in the planning phase.  A minimally viable product doesn’t require a perfect plan.

Along the same lines, don’t waste time trying to get complete buy-in from everyone involved. In this early stages of a product it’s more about proving you can deliver value quickly than deliver something everyone wants. Produced value will help get additional buy-in.

2 – Do Less Emailing and Printing Or Copying

Only create emails and print documents when essential. First, these activities are non-productive. Writing an email when you can make a phone call or walk over to someone and have a chat introduces filters and distance between you and what you want to accomplish via the email.  When you’re composing an email, you’re talking to yourself and not to the person involved. One-sided conversations are not productive. A good reason for an email is to provide confirmation.

Printing or copying documents is an obvious waste of time and non-productive. You either stand around next to the printer/copier or you’re waiting for someone to do it for you. Sometimes copies are required, such as for a meeting or a class. Ask yourself, are you copying something that is better transmitted verbally or via a whiteboard?

3 – Prioritize Tasks By Difficulty

Are your tasks prioritized by duration or value?  Prioritize by value and then sort the top 20% of those items by difficulty.  Execute the most difficult items first. Throw away the bottom 80% of the items.  Once you’ve handled the top 20%, repeat the process with a new list. Yes you may have some of the same items you threw out, but creating a new list is faster than reevaluating all the old items to see whether they still apply.Focus on what you need, not on what you may or may not need.

4 – Help Someone Finish A Task

If possible, leverage your time by helping another person finish one of their tasks. This has several advantages. First, it helps another person’s productivity, which helps your company as a whole. It also helps build community within the organization. Finally, the person you help will be more likely to help you when you need it most.

5 – Learn To Do Something New

This is an important one.  Get training mentoring, or take a class.  Doing so will allow you to be more efficient, open up new options, reduce your need to ask for help, and allow you to help or mentor others.  Productivity is related to your ability to find  and implement solutions. The more knowledge you have the more options you have. Remember the old axiom: When someone hands you a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Put more tools in your toolbox.

There are many other ways to increase your productivity. Remember, work smarter; working harder will just make you more tired, not more productive.

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