3 tips to boost productivity

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For many people, peak productivity levels are the result of constant work and deadline-induced adrenaline, but are promptly followed by exhaustion and depletion. This cycle is not conducive to long-term success. How can you make productivity habitual and consistent?

Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist, professional speaker and adjunct professor of business administration at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, outlined three tips to cultivate sustainable productivity habits in the Harvard Business Review.

1. Recognize productivity means optimizing every facet of your life, not just work. "A well-designed personal life supports your efforts at work, and being strategic about when and how you work is what lets you have a rich personal life," Ms. Clark wrote. "So figure out ways for them to complement each other."

She suggests adhering to the "four-way win," a concept by Stewart Friedman, PhD, a practice professor of management at Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, in which you consider how one activity can have a positive effect in multiple areas — personal life, professional life, community relations and health. For instance, instead of eating a sandwich alone at your desk, Ms. Clark recommends eating a healthy lunch with a co-worker you enjoy, simultaneously benefiting your health and social life.

2. Distribute your energy output carefully. Energy management is a critical element of productivity. In this practice, taking breaks, renewing energy and getting enough sleep have a strong influence on productivity. In addition, Ms. Clark suggests keeping a list of tasks that must be accomplished but don't require as much mental energy.

"As the day progresses, my ability to be creative diminishes but I can still extend my productive workday by at least an hour or two if I confine my brain-dead time to low-stakes but necessary tasks like reading books for research or catching up on email discussion groups," she wrote. If you know you have the must energy and clearest thinking in the morning, for example, focus your attention on your most important tasks then, while saving the "low-stakes" items for the afternoon.  

3. Create "micro-goals" to maximize short bursts of time. While most of us could knock out some serious work if we were afforded a three or four hour uninterrupted stretch, for most people, that is not the case. With calendars chock-full of meetings, phone calls and presentations, many professionals are forced to complete their work in half hour or hour long windows. However, you can tailor your goals to fit these small periods of time. Ms. Clark says she examines the next day's calendar every night, identifies the gaps in her schedule and creates a list of what she can accomplish during them.

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