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The 10 Commandments of Productivity


As I settled in to write this post, I did three things. First, I did a quick Google search on productivity. Next, I asked my Facebook friends for their favorite tips on improving productivity. Finally, I opened a blank document and typed the title of the post. That process took four minutes. Now, 45 minutes later, nothing else has been completed. What went wrong? Simple, really. I broke every productivity rule I know. 

We reached out to PayScale users for insight on tried and true productivity tips. While it's probably not a good idea to outsource your job to someone more industrious (as one user recommended), if you want to be better at your job, get more accomplished in your work day, and make actual progress on your growing to-do list, consider adopting a few of these rules. 

10. Thou Shalt Not Open All the Tabs. If you are like me, your browser often looks like this: 

Each tab represents a different distraction. Clicking on Gmail could lead to clicking on Facebook will lead to reading an article about Beyonce. By closing all tabs that are unrelated to the task at hand, you eliminate these distractions. 

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9. Thou Shalt Not Multi-task. You might think multitasking makes you a productive worker, but you are probably mistaken. Multitasking can disrupt your thought process, meaning that an hour of multitasking (check email, start a task, check email, start to respond to email, remember to include attachment, search for attachment, find document that needs editing, start to edit document, check email, and so on) will leave your fingerprints on a variety of projects, with few being any closer to completion. Try to see how many tasks you can complete, one at a time, in an hour. 

8. Thou Shalt Establish a Routine. One PayScale user told us her favorite way to ensure a productive day was to do the same things at the same time. "Before I leave work in the evening, I create my to-do list for the following day. That way, when I arrive in the morning, I already know which tasks I will tackle first. I always make sure to accomplish at least one big thing before opening my email, before the distractions start pouring in." I do this, too. Here's an example of what my computer looks like in the morning when I get to work: 

To-do list
7. Thou Shalt Partake of Low-Hanging Fruit. When you create your to-do list, categorize each item. You'll probably have a few big-ticket items and a bunch of smaller, trivial but need-to-accomplish tasks. If you find yourself stalled, tackling the low-hanging fruit will make you feel accomplished, and could energize you for the larger tasks on your list. 

6. Thou Shalt Make Use of Productivity Tools. While willy-nilly browsing online can kill your productive mojo, making use of the best online tools can turn you into a to-do list conquering rockstar. From teuxdeux, which helps you organize your to-do list, to Evernote, which helps you organize everything, there are countless inexpensive (or free) tools online to help you focus. Use them, wisely. One of our user favorites: Pocket, which collects any tempting links you find online. Pocket them and then enjoy them on a break or as a reward for accomplishing a task. 

5. Thou Shalt Not Lie. If you are sitting at your desk and a co-worker pops over to ask you if you can help with something, and you are busy, tell the truth. Instead of hopping up and losing your place, try saying, "I'd be happy to help you. Let me get to a stopping point on this (insert project here) and I'll come by your desk in about 15 minutes or so." Your co-worker will be happy to know you are going to help, and you won't lose your train of thought. 

4. Thou Shalt Not Avoid. It's normal to procrastinate on the items we dread doing. The problem is that we then feel guilty. All the time. No matter what. By tackling the things you enjoy least, first, you are clearing your day for things that are more fun or interesting. It's the work-world equivalent of ripping off the Band-Aid. In the long run, it hurts much less. 

3. Thou Shalt Make Good Time. Change the way you approach your to-do list. As one user suggested, "Assign projects the amount of time they should take and don't go over that limit. I have certain projects I make myself finish in the time it takes to get a pedicure, whereas other assignments take one morning, one day, etc." 

2. Thou Shalt Take Breaks. When you are tackling a long to-do list, it's easy to get caught up in working nonstop. But your mind needs a rest. I take a break every 50 minutes. This serves two purposes. First, my brain gets a breather from being overheated by brilliance. Second, it's easier to avoid distractions if I know I can check my email, hop on Facebook, or read an article I've Pocketed on my next break. I set up a recurring reminder so I don't forget to celebrate good work with good distractions. 

Productivity alert

1. Thou Shalt Love Thy Job. This is the most important commandment. When you love the work you do, it's much easier to maintain your momentum. Of course, even those of us who can't wait to go to work have our days where we find ourselves staring at the computer screen, trying to remember how to spell 'and'. But, once I found a job I seriously enjoyed, I realized that productivity was much easier to find. (The power was in ME all along!)

Don't like your job? Consider figuring out what you want to do and looking for a new gig. We can help, of course. Sign up for our #MakeItHappen email course and just see what happens when you dare to try something new. 

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you! Join the discussion in the comments and let us know your best trick for being productive. You can also join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #MakeItHappen. Let us know if any of the 10 Commandments of Productivity helped you!

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(Photo Credit: NoSoma/flickr)

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