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Set goals, work less and other tips for a productive 2018

As 2017 draws to a close, it’s only natural to reflect on what went right and wrong during the year, and how you might grow more productive in 2018.

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To help you with that annual task, we delved into the getAbstract library and found two useful collections of tips. Some of the highlights from The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey and One Second Ahead by Rasmus Hougaard, Jacqueline Carter and Gillian Coutts:

Make goal-setting a habit.

At the beginning of each week, write three goals for that week, Bailey writes. At the start of each day, write down three tasks to do before bedtime. Don’t make your tasks and goals so big that you’ll never accomplish them or so small that you’ll easily conquer them.

Focus on your “real work.”

Give high-value, revenue-generating tasks the attention they deserve. Devote less time, attention and energy to low-return tasks such as conference calls, email, website maintenance and meetings. You still have to do these maintenance-level chores, but keep them in the proper perspective.

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Work less.

 Many people assume productivity will increase if only they work longer. In fact, putting in longer hours is counterproductive. You will lose energy and risk burnout. When you’re working longer hours, you may tend to work less urgently. When you have fewer hours available to get your work done, you’ll focus more intently and become more productive of necessity. People who work 35 to 40 hours each week are more productive than those who work longer hours. “Productivity isn’t about doing more things; it’s about doing the right things,” Bailey writes.


Some low-return – but time-consuming – maintenance tasks don’t require your direct involvement. Figure out what your time is worth and how much time a specific low-return task takes. If it makes financial sense, delegate it to someone who will do it for money. You can pay someone to do both professional and personal tasks. Recruit qualified freelancers, and pay them well. You’ll get the best workers and spend less time training and coordinating them.

Exercise your “attention muscle.”

It’s not your imagination. The constant interruptions from email, social media and text messages are shortening your attention span. But you can build your “attention muscle,” Bailey writes. Practicing attentiveness can strengthen your ability to stay focused on a task. The authors of One Second Ahead suggest taking a second to think about how to respond to distractions – while keeping in mind that most of the interruptions that bombard you during the day are irrelevant.

Tame the email monster.

The typical worker devotes more than 40% of her time to low-priority tasks. Email is a huge time suck. So, the authors of One Second Ahead advise, turn off email notifications, pop-up windows, alarms and ring tones. Set aside three specific times during the day – not early morning – to handle emails.

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