Random productivity stuff

I am always looking to find one more way of tuning up my productivity . Off late a lot of people have started asking me of my work habits , and I thought maybe if I jot down mine – maybe it will prompt a few more of you to chime in and we all gain a new trick or two

1. Sleep more

Counter intuitive as it may sound , I am more productive when I sleep well . So if I have to make a trade off between spending an hour prettying up a presentation or sleeping , I choose sleep every single time . I picked up this habit during business school and it works well for me till today

2. Don’t sign up for news letters etc on work email

If I need one issue of some magazine type thing , I use a hotmail id that I don’t monitor . If I am part of an email group that someone else is monitoring , I use an automatic rule to move to a folder in case I need to search later .

3. Delegate aggressively – both responsibility and authority

This needs trust and I have a simple policy on trust . I trust everyone in my team by default . Everyone has exactly one chance to break that trust . The second time it happens – I just stop trusting and won’t delegate to that person . Thankfully I very rarely have had a colleague break my trust . If you can’t trust your team , why should you lead that team any way ?

4. Move people to bcc the soonest you can when an email needs threading

If my colleague introduces me to someone on email and I need to set up time with that person – I move my colleague to bcc on my first reply, with a thanks . He just needs to know I am on it – he doesn’t need to know when I am doing the meeting and whether I need to go back and forth 10 times to set a time . It saves a lot of trouble for all the people who are drowning in email

5. Aggressively stay on top of email and twitter

Once you have the discipline of minimizing email , then be aggressive on making sure you read everything . I do it in stages – flagging as I go anything that needs more attention . Then I get to them throughout the day . No mail stays unread when I go to bed . The one exception is vacation – where I usually schedule a day or two at the end to catchup on mail before I return to work . I can type fast on my phone – so I don’t need a larger device for email .

Same deal with twitter – I respond in real time if I can when I get a notification that needs my attention . It takes a lot less effort than doing so in batches .

6. Keep all conversations as short as they can be

On internal emails , I rarely write more than couple of sentences and sacrifice the salutations etc . And if an email thread starts to bulge – I pick up the phone and call and get it sorted out quickly . Email warfare is the biggest productivity killer – and it is full of misunderstandings . Phone solves that easily .

7. Unless it is a customer related activity , don’t get into a string of back to back meetings

My internal calls are all on Fridays . And on other days , I take time off calendar to let serendipity do its wonder . I will talk to anyone who will talk to me at that time – and more often than not, good things come of it . There is no excuse for not having time – we always make time for things that are important for us .

8. Value agility over elegance

This is an easy trade off for me – if I can do something to solve a problem then and there , like making an email intro for a friend , I just type as I talk . It won’t be polished – but it gets the job done and helps me do more . The exception is with customer facing stuff where I am more careful , especially with prospects who need to be converted to customers . Slip ups can be costly in those cases .

9. Planning is everything , the plan is not everything

The process of planning is useful – we get to think through stuff carefully. But the plan we come up with shouldn’t be set in stone – because circumstances change . So when people say there is no budget for this change or that change – I don’t take it at face value . There is always something else that can be sacrificed . Budgets and plans are for business convenience – they shouldn’t be the tail wagging the dog . There is a limitation that this only works for things under your influence – it’s hard to convince others to view plans the way you do 🙂

10. Spend time with family

I have a crazy work schedule on week days . So on weekends , I try hard to not get pulled into work related stuff . I am not completely successful in turning off from work a 100% , but I am much better than say two years ago . There is no one else to blame – if I don’t set a boundary , work will set a boundary .

I am sure there are more things – but this is a good summary . So what are your tips ?


Published by Vijay Vijayasankar

Son/Husband/Dad/Dog Lover/Engineer. Follow me on twitter @vijayasankarv. These blogs are all my personal views - and not in way related to my employer or past employers

12 thoughts on “Random productivity stuff

  1. Late addition but I would like to say, plan things the previous night, and be ready to mend it through, as sometimes things do not go as planned. Be open for change. Additionally avoid upfront reactions, try to absorb the news, give it a thought for a few minutes, and then respond. I have seen a wave of difference in the answer I get when I practice this. As mentioned, take time for yourself everyday, be it be yoga, gym, meditation – whatever makes you relaxing. Evaluate your day and make a note of what you can change for to be a better person/leader next day and after.


  2. I will definitely add 2 more: 1) excercise daily- walk, run, go to the gym, whatever- physical activity boost your productivity 2) spend time with yourself- call it meditation or whatever you want, but the constant rush that your calendar plays on you isn’t making you more productive…”the brain is like a wild buffalo”, by Lord Buddha…meditation helps you focus and ultimately relax.


  3. Vijay, this is a great list of productivity tips. Here are some additional “hacks”

    1 a) One could argue that if you scan your next days calendar and make a to do list for the next day a night prior, it helps set the right pace for the day. (in fact that exercise sometimes extends my Sunday nights to the wee hours of Monday if I start doing this for the full week ahead on Sunday night . This can violate your principle #1 Sleep more ;-))

    1 b) Secondly, prioritize those meetings/tasks on the list into 3 buckets 1) Must be completed by self same day 2) Could be delegated to immediate team or extended team 3) Can be deferred to later in the week

    1 c) Finally, rescan the list before you end the work day and assess , marking completion or creating follow on tasks as appropriate.

    2a) On internal work meetings, I refuse to accept any meeting that has no agenda irrespective of the title of the person setting the meeting.

    2b)Also, when I set up meetings , prefer 30 min slots but sometimes for internal slots, I set up just 15 min “stand up ” type meetings /quick conf calls.

    3) Another “productivity hack” that has worked with me (as well as my kids since they were in second grade ) – decide on your wardrobe choices for the next day and keep them ready before you go to bed.



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