Being more productive is often seen as a modern obsession, aimed at getting people to download the latest app to help them get things done faster. But it's far from a modern invention.
Productivity gains have always been vital to the economy, as they help us accomplish more with less. This is an introduction to the main techniques, aimed at helping you choose the right approach for your specific requirements.
Enhancing productivity has been a key concern for businesses since the industrial revolution, when the amount of human labor needed to prosper was reduced by machinery. Our current digital age has its own unique set of complications that impact output. Sometimes, the best way to escape from a productive rut is to switch up our tools. Whether it’s a smarter to-do list, a deep focus technique, or a more efficient way to schedule meetings, seeking both analog and hi-tech solutions can help manage time and produce better work.
Tackling that email inbox: ‘Inbox Zero’
Getting your email under control is one of the best things you can do for your productivity. In 2007, productivity hacker Merlin Mann developed the concept of ‘Inbox Zero’, whereby following the principles of ‘delete, delegate, respond, defer or do’ you can process all emails in 20 minutes.
In the decade since Mann’s Google Tech Talk, the number of emails we receive has increased massively, and we now need more guidance on how to prioritize. When new emails arrive, move them to one of the four appropriate folders: ‘Inbox’, ‘To-do’, ‘Follow-up’ or ‘One day’.
The only emails that stay in your ‘Inbox’ are those that are urgent and can be handled quickly. Drag non-urgent emails and emails that will require more than a three-minute response into your ‘To-do’ folder. Move any emails with tasks that you've delegated or you're awaiting a response for to the ‘Follow-up’ folder. ‘One day’ emails don’t require a response – they’re things you’d like to read/review at some point in the future. For more advice on taming the email monster, read here.