Newsletter #526 – Getting More Done

 Inc. is “a magazine for growing companies” but its writers go far beyond business. The April, 3013 issue, for example has several articles on getting more done, citing “new research on how to achieve peak productivity.” Building on this empirical evidence, practical recommendations include the following:Get it done

  • Pay attention to workspace. Window views can be distracting: output goes up if desks face inward.
  • Filter out distractions. Workers who wear headphones often are more productive, not necessarily rude.
  • Keep focused on your values and mission. These can “replenish your self-control” and focus.
  • Avoid multitasking. Numerous studies show that multitaskers make more mistakes and are less efficient. Multitasking even can have lasting harmful effects on brain function.
  • Don’t be controlled by email. “Employees are less stressed” and less distracted when email is turned off for much of the day.
  • Get more rest. “Lack of sleep suppresses activity in parts of the brain that control attention and filter distractions.” The value of a short nap every day is well documented.
  • Exercise consistently. This is good for your brain functioning as well as your body.
  • Spend time in nature. This clears the mind and “dramatically improves higher level cognition.”
  • Encourage debate among team members and honestly face disagreements.
  • Recognize that some people are most productive working alone. Too many star players or leaders on one team promotes conflict and declining productivity.

These and other practical, research-based suggestions can be helpful, except when productivity becomes too important. At times the drive for getting things done distracts from other areas in life that may be even more important. These include caring, helping others, building relationships, devotion to families, being still at times and knowing God better (Psalm 46:10). There is value in getting more done unless this slips into compulsive, potentially self-destructive lifestyles. What do you think? Please leave a comment.

  1. Hi Gary,
    Some really hepful points, particularly ‘don’t be controlled by email’. I read a time and motion study some while ago, it observed the problem of having an on screen ‘virtual’ desktop. Email pings in, it’s opened up, and the current work goes to the bottom of the pile, the problem is that when we return to it our attention has changed and we need extra time to refocus/re-energise. Perhaps this also links with the multi-taking comment. Although, as someone with a clear P preference in Myers Briggs terms, I love multi tasking and responding as things as they emerge. However, I do discipline myself to turn email off, It does raise efficiency for me. On reflection it also adds to my sense of wellbeing as I have more control. Anyway… I’d better get back to work now 😉

    • Thanks Brian. I think you are exactly right. Both the multitasking and the email interruptions pull us away from what we are doing and I’ve read that millions of dollars and a huge amount of time and efficiency is lost as we take so much time to get back to the pre-interruption levels of focus and productivity.

  2. I agree with you Gary, relationships are more important than productivity. That said, we need to be good stewards of our time and talents, we will be held accountable to God for that. And we are each uniquely made, so we need to evaluate and select those methods that “fit” us, for how God made us.
    But this is a thought provoking article.

  3. Perhaps Annie Dillard isn’t that ‘productive,’ I don’t know. (She’s only won one Pulitzer. The slacker.) But I love what she says about the physical place she writes. “I love to write,” she says, “in a room with no windows, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.” As a writer, I know that if I’m really tending to business, the view out my window is inconsequential. I’m not looking out the window. But … virtually always, “if I’m enjoying the view, the words are few.” (A verse I may publish.) Thank you, Gary, as always.

    • Ken, I love your spirit and humor but you know that. And you are right about the views. Sometimes when I am focused I don’t even look out the window. But at times that looking away can be good for the soul. And the Pulitzer prize issue has no relevance to me. You are a good enough writer that you might just get one someday! Remember you heard that first from me (I think!)

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