How to Improve Your Productivity

It's Monday morning. Your desk is cluttered, your to-do list is two pages long and you have 25 new voice-mail messages. Maximizing your efficiency with proven productivity skills can help you clear the decks and get on with your work.

Experts say that do-it-now' work habits are the key to becoming more productive and efficient. It's better to deal with something the first time you touch it. This can help you clear out your backlog, improve your concentration, process your work in a timely fashion and overcome procrastination, which eats up more time in the workplace than practically anything else.

Here are some suggestions to help you further improve your productivity.

Use a calendar to plan by the week

Planning on a weekly basis increases your chances of scheduling and doing your work successfully. Daily planning is too short a time frame and planning by the month is too long.

Commit to a daily action plan

Each morning, devote 10 minutes to creating a daily action plan, then track your progress through the workday. To simplify your daily planning, work backward from the larger picture created by your weekly plan. Derive your daily to-do lists from a list of tasks designed to move you closer to a larger goal.

Stop shuffling through piles of paper

When you pick up a piece of paper, deal with it by acting on it, passing it on to someone, filing it or pitching it.

Determine assignment priorities

Breaking down projects into specific tasks and entering those tasks on your to-do list over a week's time can keep you from being overwhelmed by a large project.

Follow up and follow through

Follow up with staff members on their ongoing projects; follow through by keeping your boss informed of your progress and problems with major projects.

Analyze your time

Create a time log to keep track of what you do and how long it takes. Then use your analysis to delegate tasks and eliminate interruptions that waste your time.

Batch routine tasks

Return phone calls and respond to memos and e-mail messages once or twice a day. Doing these tasks in batches or blocks of time can help you complete them in 25 percent less time.

Put routine tasks on your calendar

Doing so allows you to do them, then move on. Schedule time each week for planning your workload and keeping your desk and work area organized.

Think in terms of work cycles

Each task has a beginning, middle and end. The beginning involves preparing and setting up for the task. The middle is the act of doing it. The end involves completing it, then returning files, supplies, reference materials and anything else you used to where they belong. Cleaning up as you go will help you maintain order and prepare for the next item on your agenda.

Streamline routine tasks

Spend as much time coming up with ways to do your tasks more efficiently as you do performing them. Low-value, time-consuming tasks can clog your ability to produce if you waste time completing them.