February 11, 2019

How busy managers, executives can maximize productivity

"Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done" by Josh Davis (HarperOne, $14.99).

Davis recognizes that packing more into an already packed day by not taking breaks and working longer hours creates the human version of the economic "law of diminishing returns." The more one packs in, the more one feels overwhelmed and stressed; both feelings quash productivity and lead to burnout. While his goal of creating at least two awesome hours of productivity each day involves five integrated steps, the first two really make you think about what you're doing and how you do it.

1. "Recognize your decision points." and 2. "Manage your mental energy." All too often we run on autopilot because of pre-programmed workdays (e.g. to-do lists, meetings, phone calls, email, etc.). The "same-old-same-old" becomes a drone-like, "no thought" routine where you move from one task to the next task on the list.

Davis' advice — Identify decision points and control what you can. When you complete something, think about "what matters" before diving into "what's next." Deciding what matters depends upon what you've just completed. If the task was mentally exhausting, choosing another such task may not be the productive choice — even though it's what's next on the to-do list.

Analogy: If you ran eight 100-meter dashes back2back2back … , you'd be exhausted — and the time for each dash would be worse. If you ran one each hour, your body would have time to recover and times would be consistent.

Takeaway: The brain, like a muscle, needs time to recover. Alternating the types of tasks provides recovery time and boosts overall productivity.

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