Improve productivity by focusing on what matters the most
Updated: Jan 31, 2021
Prince Gupta on how he focuses on what matters the most and the tactics he uses to stay on task.
Productivity without purpose is meaningless. I believe that productivity is about the end results, not the process. I do not obsess over it daily, rather I measure it over an extended period of time (ex. three months).
Cut out the clutter
What matters most to you ?
Prioritize 2-3 things that are important to you every day
With family, friends, and demanding jobs, we all have countless things to do every day. This makes it extremely easy to get lost in distractions and forget what's important. My mantra is to every day choose three things that are most meaningful to me and work on them. Using the old-fashioned sticky notes, I jot down three tasks and place them in front of me. A mental note, sometimes, does the trick as well. For me these things range from:
• Studying for my Executive MBA (60 mins)
• Creating my presentation for work (45 mins)
• Paying my monthly bills (30 mins)
• Watching a non-fiction movie (90 mins) • Playing a board game with my family (45 mins)
Most days, these activities are related to my long term personal goals though. I do not plan for anything else. I just let life happen and go with the flow.
Learn a new skill and/or try something new every year
Living in a growth mindset is very important to me. I have developed a habit to try something new every year (No, I don’t believe in new year resolutions). Due to this convention, I have learned to ski, golf, and even as simple as brushing my teeth with my left hand. This practice has helped me find the courage to paraglide in the Swiss alps, beating my fear of heights. This year, my goal is to earn an Executive MBA online, something I always felt was missing from my professional career. Personally, I have found this habit to be extremely rewarding.
It helps me by:
• Keeping my brain sharp • Avoiding boredom/breaking my daily routine • Keeping me grounded • Staying physically and mentally fit • Getting a different perspective on life/meeting new people/exploring new places
Tactics to stay focused
Don't let time control you, control it instead. Apply the skill of timeboxing
Instead of constantly worrying about how much time do I have left, I try to timebox my activities, especially in busy periods. For example, mornings before work are usually hectic since I have to catch a train to Manhattan by 8:07 am. At the same time exercise in the morning is a must for me as it provides a daily dose of energy to do what I want to do. I timebox my exercise! Using a timer allows me to focus and not worry about getting late. A timer has been a great assistant to me, allowing me to complete an activity with undivided attention. I often use it to do other things like reading a book for 20 minutes, playing speed chess with my son for 15 minutes, and meditating for 15 minutes.
Don't let repetitive tasks control you, control them instead. Apply the skill of automating
For many years, I would pay each bill when it became due. Whether it was a mortgage payment, electric bill, credit card bill, or insurance bill, I would pay the day it arrived, being worried about forgetting or being late. Although I was on time, this method was really inefficient as the task would often consume my mind and I would spend 10-15 minutes each time, many times a month, paying my bills. Now, I have compiled a list of all the payments I need to make in a spreadsheet. Every month, I pay the bills on the 20th of the month. This method allows me to finish all these similar tasks in one sitting and it allows me to monitor my expenditures over a period of time. Basically, you bundle up identical tasks and execute them at the same time. I have used this technique to schedule doctor's appointments for my wife and kids together, check emails, and respond in bulk at set intervals during the day and many more.
Don't let bits of information control your mental space, control the bits. Apply Lastpass.
I have more than 50 accounts on various sites, and remembering so many credentials is impossible unless you repeatedly use a few usernames and passwords which is not secure at all. Yes, some of these services are integrated with social identity providers such as Google and Facebook and make it easy for you to register and login through a Single Sign-On (SSO) service, but most applications do not. With the constant growth of mobile apps and web apps, everyone is required to constantly jog their memory for numerous passwords and usernames.
So, how do you remember all these usernames and passwords?
Well, LastPass has been doing this for me for the last 4 years. It is a secure password manager that stores all usernames and passwords in a safe vault and remembers them for you. Whenever you need to log into any website, it pre-populates your username and password for you. All you have to remember is the master password for LastPass. Using this service improves the security of your accounts, provides stress-free entry, and saves a tremendous amount of time.
So here are the major takeaways:
• Have a clear purpose, focus on what is important to you. • Take action to minimize repetitive tasks. Look for patterns and build automated systems to get rid of the drudgery.
About the author:
Prince Gupta is a Senior Director of DevOps in the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications for New York City.