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What Super Productive People Do Differently


Here is an excerpt from an article written by Amantha Imber for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.
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In 2018, I came across a meme that was going viral on the Internet. It read, “You have the same number of hours in the day as Beyoncé.” I doubt that anyone became more productive or achieved greater heights as a result of these words, but it made me wonder: Do high achievers approach their days and their work differently than most people? How do they become so efficient and productive?

To explore this question, I set out to interview a number of rock star authors, musicians, entertainers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders for my podcast, How I Work. I spoke to them about their routines, rituals, practices, and work hacks to understand how they get so much more done (even during the pandemic) than your average person.

Four tips especially stood out.

1) Batch your meetings.

Batch checking emails has become a common productivity tip. The idea is that you only look at your inbox two to three times a day or pause notifications for a period of time so that you can focus on work without distractions.

Batching meetings, calls, or virtual events can be equally effective. Research from Ohio State University has shown that when we have a meeting coming up in the next hour or two, we get 22% less work done compared to when we have no upcoming meetings at all.

Think about it. What do you find yourself doing before a Zoom call with your professor, a virtual team update, or a one-on-one meeting with your boss? You’re most likely thinking about what you’re going to say, deliberating questions, or rehearsing some kind of a presentation. It’s hard to get into flow when you know you have a major interruption around the corner.

Wharton Professor Adam Grant told me he’s found a way around this. “On a teaching day, I hold all my office hours in the same general time frame,” he said. “I schedule a five-minute buffer between each just to catch up on email and to have a safety net in case a meeting runs long. Other days, I have no meetings at all and can really focus and be productive.”

Consider creating rules around your own schedule. If you are most alert in the mornings, try to schedule your most demanding tasks and meetings early on, and leave the afternoons open for some quiet work hours.

2) Avoid using the mouse.

A study by Brainscape found that most people lose an average of two seconds per minute of work by using their mouse instead of keyboard shortcuts. That’s eight days a year! The benefits of learning keyboard shortcuts can be enormous for your productivity. Fortunately, most software shares the same shortcuts, meaning the more you learn, the faster you will become across the board. Here are a few to get you started.

“I almost never ever touch the mouse,” Rahul Vohra, founder of Superhuman (an email software that claims to provide the fastest email experience in the world) told me. “And that’s a rule that I abide by, not just for how we built Superhuman, but in almost every piece of software I use,” Vohra said.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Dr Amantha Imber is the founder of behavioral science consultancy Inventium and the host of How I Work, a podcast about the habits and rituals of the world’s most successful people.


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