February 21, 2018


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Tips on how to remain insanely productive at work

Productivity tips from industry experts

An article originally published by Proofhub, an online project management and collaboration tool designed to make teams more productive at whatever they do. And, being part of an industry where everything revolves around productivity, we are always on the lookout for productivity hacks, tips, tricks and other stuff that can make people more productive than they are right now.

We got in touch with some of the brainiacs of the project management industry to get an answer to the question What keeps their productivity levels high? We asked them about their secrets; the ones they follow to keep on being productive every single day. Do they have any magic potion that they sip-in daily or productivity is just a habit?

Project managers who shared their tips

  • Susanne Madsen, Project leadership coach. Author of ‘The Project Management Coaching Workbook’ and ‘The Power of Project Leadership’.
  • Elizabeth Harrin, Author of Social Media for Project Managers & Customer-Centric Project Management, Director of @otobosgroup.
  • Linky Van Der Merwe, Project Manager, Blogger, Adviser of recommended PM resources
  • Bert Heymans, Senior Project Manager
  • Peter Taylor, Project Management Speaker and Author
  • Tor, brain behind the award winning blog http://www.timemanagementchef.com/

Productivity Tips

As successful project managers, these professionals have quite a lot on their platter to share with people who are looking to make it big by being productive at their jobs. And, this is what they had to say –

Susanne Madsen @SusanneMadsen
Project leadership coach. Author of ‘The Project Management Coaching Workbook’ and ‘The Power of Project Leadership’.
  • Focus on your most important tasks single-minded
  • The best tip is to start the day with a clear intention on what you must absolutely complete and then focus on those tasks single-minded. Identify the activities that tend to disrupt your work, and find a way around them. You can for instance avoid checking emails and answering the phone when you’re in the middle of something important.
  • Discipline yourself to work on a task until it’s complete, as once you’ve broken your flow, it can be difficult to reestablish it.
  • Many of us multi-task and believe we’re effective when we do so; but evidence suggests that 96% of the population can’t effectively focus on more than one thing at a time. In order to stop multi-tasking, set specific time aside for meetings, returning calls and for doing detailed planning and analysis work at your desk. Whenever you find yourself multitasking, stop and sit quietly for a minute.
Elizabeth Harrin @pm4girls
Author of Social Media for Project Managers & Customer-Centric Project Management, Director of @otobosgroup.

Block meetings with yourself to do actual work. Otherwise you’ll end up in other people’s meetings all day and with no time to pick up your actions. Having time booked in your diary gives you the focus you need to sit down and complete a task, such as updating your risk log or reviewing your annual objectives.

Linky Van Der Merwe @virtualpm
Project Manager, Blogger, Adviser of recommended PM resource

Being a bit of an old-school project manager, I have two productivity tools that I use on a daily basis, because they work.

  • I use a hard-cover A-4 book to write down my planning for the week. This helps me to keep a certain work rhythm and not to miss anything important. Urgent and Important tasks are transferred to my calendar, like an appointment with myself. I can relax once it’s written down, because I know my week is not finished unless my weekly tasks are complete.
  • The other tool I cannot live without, is Microsoft’s OneNote. It’s part of the Office suite of applications, free on every PC/laptop when using MS Office. It’s like an electronic filing cabinet where I keep all my notes from various meetings, whether progress meetings, ad hoc meetings, discussion or workshops. It saves and syncs automatically with your windows live account; and is easy to share via email.
Bert Heymans @bertheymans
Senior Project Manager

These are the things that I found make a particular difference in my productivity:

  • Habits are everything.
  • Do the hardest thing first. (read the “Eat That Frog” book by Brian Tracy)
  • Work out! You can find numerous sources online where Richard Branson mentions this is his most significant productivity booster, and if it’s good for Richard Branson it’s good for me.
  • Recognize that procrastination is a symptom, not a cause.
  • Think positive, because thoughts become words and words become actions.
  • Recognize that we overestimate what we can do in one year, but underestimate what we can do in 5 years.
  • Talk to yourself in the present tense if you want to start doing something, say it out loud if you can (example: “I am cleaning out the garage”) Apparently this tricks your brain.
Peter Taylor @thelazypm
Project Management Speaker and Author

Always ask yourself three questions before taking action:

  • Do I want to do it?
    Don’t do something just because everyone else is or because it’s the ‘usual thing to do’. Just running with the pack is never going to allow you to take control of your own time and will only lead you into over-commitments.
  • Is the result worth my effort?
    Only do the things with the most impact. It is all about applying the good old 80/20 rule. What are the most critical things that you need to get involved in? What is the 20% that will deliver the 80% of value?
  • Do I have to do this myself?
    Ask yourself if you really are the best person to do whatever it is that needs to be done or is there someone else who is better qualified than you to do this thing? At every opportunity you must think your actions through to the end and aim to optimize the return on your personal investment.
Tor @TorRefsland
Brain behind the award winning blog http://www.timemanagementchef.com/
  1. Plan your day the night before
    The experts say that every minute spent in planning saves you 10 minutes in execution. In order to become super productive you should know EXACTLY which tasks you should be working on at any given time. How can this be achieved? To plan in advance. I would strongly recommend you to plan one week ahead. This will save you a ton of time. In addition, instead of just responding to other people’s requests, you will have control over your schedule and week.
  2. Use a master to do list
    You should only have ONE to do list, and it should be your master to do list. Why do I call it a master to do list? Because it will contain ALL the activities that you need to do. If the activities aren’t included in your master to do list, they won’t get done.
  3. Apply the ABCDE method and the 80/20 rule
    A tasks — are tasks that you must do today, if not they will give you serious consequences
    B tasks — are tasks that you should do today, if not they will give you mild consequences
    C tasks — are tasks that you could do today, if not they will give no consequences
    D tasks — are tasks you delegate to other people
    E tasks — are tasks you eliminate, you never do them

Use the 80/20 rule to identify your most important tasks, which will be your A tasks. Pareto’s law says that 20% of your tasks will result in 80% of the total production value. This means that if you have 10 tasks on your to do list today, and you ONLY complete the 2 most important tasks, they will give you 80% of the total result.

Studies have shown that most people are the most productive the first 2 hours after they get up from bed. That is why THAT time should be spent on your most important tasks. This may of course vary from individual to individual. Some people are the most productive during the evening, while others are night owls. The key is to find out WHEN you are the most productive, and then block that time out for your most important tasks.

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Originally published at blog.proofhub.com on February 8, 2016.

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