Stop Doing – double your productivity

by Mike Shipulski

Stop Doing – double your productivityFor the foreseeable future, there will be more work than time. Yet year-on-year we’re asked to get more done and year-on-year we pull it off. Most are already at our maximum hour threshold, so more hours is not the answer. The answer is productivity.

Like it or not, there are physical limits to the number of hours worked. At a reasonable upper our bodies need sleep and our families deserve our time. And at the upper upper end, a 25 hour day is not possible. Point is, at some point we draw a line in the sand and head home for the day. Point is, we have finite capacity.

As a thought experiment, pretend you’re at (or slightly beyond) your reasonable upper limit and not going to work more hours. If your work stays the same, your output will be constant and productivity will be zero. But since productivity will increase, your work must change. No magic here, but how to change your work?

Changing your work is about choice – the choice to change your work. You know your work best and you’re the best one to choose. And your choice comes down to what you’ll stop doing.

The easiest thing to stop doing is work you’ve just completed. It’s done, so stop. Finish one, start one is the simplest way to go through life, but it’s not realistic (and productivity does not increase.) Still, it makes for a good mantra: Stop starting and start finishing.

The next things to stop are activities that have no value. Stop surfing and stop playing Angry Birds. Enough said. (If you need professional help to curb your surfing habit, take a look at Leechblock. It helped me.)

The next things to stop are meetings. Here are some guidelines:

  • If the meeting is not worth a meeting agenda, don’t go.
  • If it’s a status meeting, don’t go – read the minutes.
  • If you’re giving status at a status meeting, don’t go – write a short report.
  • If there’s a decision to be made, and it affects you, go.

The next thing to stop is email. The best way I know to kick the habit is a self-mandated time limit. Here are some specific suggestions:

  • Don’t automatically connect your email to the server – make yourself connect to it.
  • Create an email filter for the top ten most important people (You know who they are.) to route them to your Main inbox. Everyone else is routed to a Read Later inbox.
  • Check email for fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the afternoon. Start with the Main inbox (important people) and move to the Read Later inbox if you have time. If you don’t have time for the Read Laters, that’s okay – read them later.
  • Create an email rule that automatically deletes unread emails in two days and read ones in one.
  • Let bad things happen and adjust your email filters and rules accordingly.

Once you’ve chosen to stop the non-productive work, you’ll have more than doubled your productive hours which will double your productivity. That’s huge.

The tough choices come when you must choose between two (or more) sanctioned projects. There are also tricks for that, but that’s different post.


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Mike ShipulskiDr. Mike Shipulski brings together the best of Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, Axiomatic Design, TRIZ, and lean to develop innovative products and technologies. His blog can be found at Shipulski On Design.