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How can you optimize your efficiency when time is short?

After devoting 2014 to experimental research on productivity, Chris Bailey came to the following conclusion: time is no longer our most precious resource. The two scarcest resources, and the keys to personal effectiveness, are your ability to concentrate and your energy levels, both of which are seriously undermined by your typical work environment today.

According to the Taylorist model of the 20th century, blue-collar productivity was a function of the time spent working in the assembly plant. Given today’s more complex problems, the time spent performing a task is no longer a guarantee of performance. Worse still, working too much is even a source of inefficiency in the knowledge economy. The greater challenge facing us now is knowing how to keep your attention and energy focused on the tasks that create real value.

Test your own effectiveness

Becoming more productive takes discipline and self-awareness. If you want to ensure your efforts stand the test of time, you need to build up your intrinsic motivation. You can achieve the latter by asking yourself a series of questions: Why do you want to be more productive? What gains, professional or personal, do you expect to make? What do you plan to do with the time you save? What practical improvements could you make to your life? You should also bear in mind that “not all tasks are equal” when it comes to productivity, as illustrated by the Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule): 80% of the effects come from 20% of the actions. Chris Bailey suggests that you should start by making a list of all your jobs so you can extract the 20% with the highest added value – and then concentrate all your eff orts on them. In similar fashion, not every moment of your day is equal. We all have our own biological clocks, which make us more or less effective depending the hour of the day. Some of us are “morning” people, whereas others are “evening” types and, for most of us, our performance is lower in the early afternoon. To identify your personal “prime time”, when you are at the peak of your physical and intellectual capacities, Bailey recommends rating your energy level on a scale of 1 to 10 every hour for one week. You should also rate the work you complete together with time lost to procrastination (software is available to help you: see rescuetime.com and toggl.com). Once you have pinpointed your key activities and when you are at your most effi cient, decide at the start of every day what your three top tasks will be at strategic times.

Don’t work more – work better!

Excerpt from Business Digest N°281, October 2017

D’après The Productivity Project de Chris Bailey (Piatkus, 2016).


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Mehdi Ramdani
Published by Mehdi Ramdani