The Way to Increased Productivity May Be Right There In Front of You

Here’s an interesting tip on managing your time and becoming more productive: Focus.

Douglas Merrill, Google’s former CIO, told Silicon Alley Insider yesterday that we should all stop trying to do too many things at once. It makes us inefficient. Short-term memory can handle five to nine things at once, he says. "If you do more than that at once, you’ll drop things."

The advice he shared with SAI (the bullets are theirs, the comments are mine):

  • Don’t try to learn things. Apparently, Einstein didn’t memorize his phone number because he knew it was in the phone book. Which makes me feel better about never being able to remember my own cell number.
  • Get stuff out of your head. I suppose this would be a corollary to number one. There are so many ways to record things and store them, why tax your mind with data you can keep readily available in other ways?
  • Don’t multitask. This is seriously out of fashion nowadays. But Merrill says multitasking doesn’t help your productivity – it hurts it.
  • Focus on one task. People focus on one thing for about an hour at a time, Merrill says. So after 45 minutes, take a brief break to clear your head. "To thrive, the brain needs breaks."
  • Don’t confuse being neat for being organized. I’ve always been suspicious of people with clean desks, anyway.

— Mark Feffer