How to Increase Your Productivity Using Boundaries

Blaise Pascal, the 17th century French philosopher, mathematician, scientist, inventor, and theologian once opined; “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

This is a powerful statement coming from a man who lived in the 1600’s! This was before any sort of modern technology that we take for granted today. Now we are at a time where it is becoming more and more difficult to disconnect from the constant barrage of emails, text messages, Facebook messages, LinkedIn updates, Instagram feeds, cell phone calls, etc., etc.! Our world is accelerating forward at a pace like never before.

As business leaders in today’s world, it is critical for us to lead by example. This means establishing boundaries so that we can be as productive as possible. When we lead by example, the people around us will take notice and begin to structure their work practices in a similar productive fashion.

What Do Productivity Boundaries Look Like?

So, what do these boundaries look like?

Here are some examples that I have been able to leverage over the years that have made me dramatically more productive:

  1. Put blocks in your calendar for time to think, strategize, plan and reflect. Start with 30 minutes a day and be strict with the time. Don’t let anyone book over your calendar block and don’t let anything interrupt this time. I set aside the first 30 minutes of my day each day from 6:30 AM to 7:00 AM for this time. No phone, cell, email, instant message, social media, etc.
  2. Be purposeful about setting aside time for deep work. This is different from your 30 minutes of reflection. Deep work is time that you set aside to specifically focus on a piece of work that needs to be completed.
  3. Measure the effectiveness of all your activities and eliminate the ones that do not give you a return on your time investment. If these things still need to be done, find someone else that is capable of doing them and delegate them.
  4. Set aside time each Friday afternoon to review your week and plan your upcoming week. What actions do you need to take and what calendar blocks or meetings do you need to schedule.
  5. Establish a yearly, monthly, weekly and daily work planning system that clearly ties into your corporate vision and goals.
  6. Don’t send emails or text messages to your staff after normal work hours or on the weekend. This sends a clear message to your staff that work/life balance is important.
  7. Try Ingvar Kamprad’s (founder of the furniture brand IKEA) 10 minute practice. He stated; “You can do so much in 10 minutes’ time. Ten minutes, once gone, are gone for good.” He recommends that you divide your day into 10-minute units and sacrifice as few of them as possible in meaningless activity. This means that you need to clearly focus on activities that deliver the greatest return on your time investment.
  8. Similar to Kamprad’s 10 minute practice, try using the Pomodoro technique. Here you break your work into uninterrupted, 25 minute increments separated by 5 minute breaks. Most people can handle 90 minutes straight of this schedule before they need to switch tasks or activities.
  9. Build whitespace into your day. Juliet Funt describes whitespace as “breaks between focused work sessions.” These breaks allow your body to recuperate and your mind to make unconscious and conscious connections that it may note make by focusing too long.

Take Action

Set aside some time this week  evaluate your work calendar and work practices.

  • Do you have boundaries in place that allow you enough productive work time?
  • Are you able to get away for regular uninterrupted deep work sessions?
  • What changes do you need to make personally and within your business to optimize your performance and the performance of your staff?

Finally, take a look at these posts for more information:

 

Single deposits of time here and there have very little value.  This is why multitasking is so unproductive.” Todd Duncan

 


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