Productive employees contribute 61% of the work done by their department, are less stressed than their colleagues, and can lift a nearby coworker's effectiveness by 16%.
But how do the super-productive become—well, so productive? If they work at Google, they may be getting help from Laura Martin, the tech giant's in-house productivity trainer.
Martin coaches Google executives and employees on how to be as productive as possible. She spoke with Quartz to share some of her go-to time management tricks.
1: Redefine your idea of a productive day
Don't measure your productivity based on how many items you cross off your to-do list, says Martin. Instead, consider your day productive when you do what you intended to do. If you spend your entire day watching TV, Martin says that's a productive day—if that's what you intended to do.
2: Open "loops"
When you have a break between meetings or find yourself standing in line, you might browse through your inbox or social media apps. But when you fill in all the gaps in your day, you lose opportunities to let your mind wander, says Martin.
When we take a mental break, it’s easier to make new connections or solutions. You can have more of these "aha" moments if you make some space for them, argues Martin.
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"I call this 'opening a loop,' which means you’re giving your brain the space to make new connections," says Martin in an interview for Google's blog, The Keyword. "When you answer emails or go to a meeting, you’re closing a loop. It’s important to find a balance, so if you say yes to every meeting, when do you have time to open loops?"
3: Flex different muscles at work and at home
If you spend your workday delivering presentations or coaching employees, you may not want to socialize after work—and that's okay, says Martin. Instead, try a different activity to conserve your energy and refuel for the next day, she recommends.
Martin practices this idea by following a strict productivity regime at work and being more spontaneous in her personal life. "To me, that’s work-life balance: not flexing the same muscles at home and at work."
4: Identify your 'power hours'—and protect them
Everyone has a set of hours where they're naturally more productive, says Martin. She points to Daniel Pink's findings in When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, in which he explains how our ability to focus or think creatively fluctuates throughout the day.
Martin says her power hours begin at 7:00 am, so she devotes 30 minutes around that time each morning to take on high-priority tasks without any interruptions. Google executives who have started to protect their most productive hours from meetings or low-priority tasks say the habit is "a game-changer," adds Martin.
5: Check your app settings
Reviewing your app settings only takes a few minutes but can drastically improve your productivity, says Martin. Open the settings of an app you use often, like Gmail or Facebook, and look for ways to minimize interruptions or find information faster, she recommends (MacLellan, Quartz, 11/21).
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