5 productivity tips for the modern world

Amir Salihefendic, founder or Todoist and Wedoist
I started Todoist over five years ago and I do have a great passion for productivity and how to improve it. In this blog post I will share some of my tips on how to achieve higher productivity, especially in the modern world.

1) Work smarter, not longer

The modern society seems to be fascinated by working long hours and we seem to celebrate those who work a lot. What we are ignoring is a lot of research that shows that working a lot of hours does not improve your overall productivity, in most cases it will reduce it and make you less creative.

Ford Corporation, the American car company, did a huge research over 12 years that compared the optimal hours pr. work week. What they found was that productivity got slightly better for those who worked 60 hour per week, but after only 4 weeks those workers who worked 60 hours per week showed significant decreases in productivity! In addition they also found that working more than 40 hours per week leads to loss of creativity and bad decision making. (1)

2) Reduce distractions and interruptions

Multitasking and distractions are a productivity killer. It will slow you down and increase chances of mistakes. Research shows that multitasking will reduce your productivity by about 40%! (2)

If you want to get productive try to get as much alone time as possible where you can’t be interrupted by noise, phone calls, Facebook, Twitter, your co-workers etc. and where you can just focus on one thing at a time.

3) A better way to manage email

A study shows that most working people spend about 50% of their time processing emails! (3) Email is a huge time sink, but luckily there are tools and tips that can help you reduce this and spend time on more creative and productive things.

Being better at processing email in the modern world will give you an edge. I get about 100 emails per day and I process my email this way:

  • I only check and process email three times a day (morning, noon, and afternoon). This helps me focus on work at hand instead of getting distracted by random emails landing in my inbox.
  • I answer an email if it takes less than one minute.
  • I archive if an email isn’t important.
  • I delegate an email that I want to answer later as a task to Todoist (via our Chrome plugin that works great with Gmail) and specify a due date to not forget it. If the email is important, I’ll delegate it for today. If it isn’t that important, I usually delegate it to be due in few days.
  • In the afternoon, when my energy levels are low, I answer longer emails.

If you are serious about your productivity I would also recommend using our plugins which make it possible to delegate emails to Todoist (and help you have a clean and tidy inbox):

There are a ton of other tips on how to process emails better. I recommend reading InboxZero.com, that is my biggest inspiration for processing my inbox better.

4) Creativity is important

In the modern world creativity is important for most jobs. We have moved beyond skills that merely require following directions. Most of us have to think creatively and it’s a very important part of our jobs!

One of my favorite tips on productivity is by John Cleese (one of Great Britain’s greatest comedians). His tip is the following:

“To be creative, you have to create a kind of oasis in your life. Boundaries of space and boundaries of time.”

What he means is:

  • Create a space for yourself where you can’t be interrupted. For example, go to a coffee shop or a library.
  • Limit the amount of time you are in your space, he recommends a few hours.
  • While you are in your space try to create and don’t consume. This means your creative space isn’t indented for you to check your emails or process your Twitter feed!

Please check out his full lecture on improving creativity (it’s worth the 13 minutes!)

5) Great books about productivity

Lastly I would like to recommend some books that have inspired me and my productivity over the years:

This is all for now! I hope you found some of these tips useful!

References

  1. The History of a 40-Hour Work Week
  2. Rubinstein, Joshua S.; Meyer, David E.; Evans, Jeffrey E. (2001). Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27(4), 763-797.
  3. Study: Employees Are Unproductive Half the Day
Todoist Team