When Upwork asked people to share their productivity killers last fall, two hurdles topped the list: Distractions and non-core tasks.

  • 44 percent of respondents said distractions are the main thing standing in their way. From co-workers pinging with random questions to the buzz of being in an open office, not to mention “quick” glances at the latest social media updates, there’s no shortage of other things clamouring for attention.
  • 21 percent said they could get more done if they could avoid non-core tasks, especially email and meetings. Seventy percent of those surveyed say they spend 10-20 percent of their time—practically a full work day—in meetings every week.

How to boost productivity

All these interactions might be interesting, relevant, and even important. But too often, they do little to bring you closer to your goals. It’s time to do something about it!

The question is: How do you avoid these time sucks?

Some people get up early to try to get ahead of the crowd while others—like nearly half of the people who responded to Upwork’s survey—say they get more done when they work from home. But what can you do when you don’t have the luxury of creating your ideal working conditions?

“Productivity is not about time management. Productivity comes from managing priorities.”

In “Busting the Time Management Myth,” Brenda Do highlights the results of Upwork’s survey and shares top strategies from entrepreneurs and experts that you can apply to your day-to-day juggle—including the solutions highlighted below. Read the full article >>

Learn how to use the Priority Matrix

Many survey respondents said they struggle to prioritize. Todd Herman, founder of 90 Day Year, says our instincts are to start with the urgent and important things—the fires that pop up and need immediate attention.

Instead, he recommends focusing on work that has the biggest impact using a tool called a Priority Matrix.

The Priority Matrix is a model that can help you constantly and consistently filter what you need to do—whether right away or longer term—from the activities you should delegate or avoid altogether.

Urgent issues are inevitable, but they aren’t always the activities that will get you closer to the results you’re looking for. It you use the Priority Matrix to take a proactive approach to planning your schedule, you’ll know the things that support your goals are looked after—even when other things keep you busy.

The Priority Matrix (Todd Herman, 90 Day Year)

As Herman explains, we should start our days with things that fall in quadrant one—Important but Not Urgent—such as as planning, business development, or personal growth activities. That way, when emergencies come up, we’ve already taken steps to move long-term goals forward.

The Priority Matrix can also help you identify the Not Important/Urgent and Not Important/Not Urgent tasks that land in quadrants three and four. Tasks in quadrant three, such as compiling certain types of research, can be done by someone else—delegate these tasks to someone else. And delete tasks in quadrant four. They don’t need your attention, and if you stop doing them, you’ll be able to spend more time on the work that actually gets results.

“The goal isn’t to get more done – it is to fill your day with activities that generate the greatest individual return and to do so with less stress and more leisure.”
— Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork
Why Productivity Experts Say You Should Stop Managing Your Time,” Recruiter.com

Find the right tech tools

Some apps can be part of the productivity problem, but others can help your team improve communication, unlock creativity, and boost results. Take time to find the right business apps for your team; it’s important to find ones that enhance your workflow and “stick” over time.

Kneko Burney, founder & CEO of digital marketing agency Change3 Enterprises, is laser focused on clear objectives and makes sure her entire team is on the same page. Change3 then uses a number of different cloud-based tools to enhance the way they work, so they’re not only productive but also remain on the same page.

As a digital marketer, Burney appreciates the power of having the right tools and keeping the pulse on what’s happening in the market. She keeps her team on the cutting edge by having team members regularly research new tools and cloud solutions to enhance productivity or fill gaps.

“Understanding complex technologies and concepts in a ridiculously fast paced start-up is necessary. Our technology stack is above 100 different products; tutorials make understanding these tools possible.”
— Todd Conway, Co-founder of Pillow

Todd Conway, co-founder of Pillow, a site for short-term rental management, leverages technology wherever he can, so he can focus his time and energy on the things that matter most.

  • At work, his team uses a communication app to streamline work.
  • At home, Conway uses on-demand services to save time for meals, transportation, and even accessing news and entertainment.
  • For personal development and growth, Conway takes advantage of videos and online tutorials to get a crash course from other pros.

Stop multitasking

You may have heard the suggestion to “stop multitasking” before. As Do explains, the truth is that our brains aren’t designed for multitasking: “Each time we switch tasks, it takes time for our brain to catch up enough to focus on the new task.”

For less complex tasks, research has shown this catch-up time (called context switching) can take seconds. These pauses can add up as you’re switching tasks throughout the day. For more complex tasks, the pauses take longer—which can rob as much as 40 percent of your productive time.

From smart prioritizing to ideas you can use to manage your workload today, Do gives an in-depth explanation of tools and strategies that can help you take control of your day. Read “Busting the Time Management Myth” >>