Top 10 Productivity Hacks – #4

By Leo Babauta

Quick intro: This is one in a series of Top Productivity Hacks – little tips and tricks that are designed to make you more productive. At the end of the series I’ll post them all together in an overview.

Productivity Hack #4: Avoid unnecessary work.

The key word here, of course, is “unnecessary”. How do you know if work is necessary or not? You must first know what your goals are — work that forwards you towards your goals (which should probably be in line with your organization’s goals) is necessary, essential. Trim everything that is not essential, or you will be wasting your time.

If we just do any work that comes our way, we can be cranking out the tasks, but not be productive at all. You’re only productive if you are doing work that moves you towards a goal.

Someone calls you and says they need something right away. Well, they might need it right away, but that might not be your problem. Is serving this person immediately part of your job description? It might be if this person is an important client, but if they are just a co-worker who is trying to make you do their work, then that’s unnecessary work for you. Cranking out that task is a waste of your time.

It’s good to do an inventory of your to-do lists every week or so … look at each task, and ask if it’s truly necessary, and what goal it is moving you towards. If it’s not necessary, see if it can be eliminated or passed on to the right person.

And this next step is just as important: as new tasks come in, say no to unnecessary tasks. Evaluate each request. If it’s not necessary, tell the person that you simply do not have time to do it. Tell them that you have high-priority projects that are due soon, and you regret not being able to help them. Refer them to someone else who might help. Be polite, but regretful. If it’s your boss, you might need to have a talk with your boss about priorities and goals. Be sure that you are both clear on what your work objectives are, and ask that extraneous tasks be assigned to someone else. Tell your boss that the extra tasks are getting in the way of your productivity.

If you do not take these steps and speak up, and say no, then you will be overloaded with work that you simply do not need to do. Cut out the non-essential tasks, and focus on those that really matter.

Top 10 Productivity Hacks