A step by step guide to improve your productivity at work

Kapil Jain
8 min readMay 8, 2020
Do more work in less time using these techniques

In my last article, I discussed everything you need to know about a remote job at the crossover and I decided to share my experience after the overwhelming response. In this article, I am going to discuss techniques to improve productivity at work and do more things in less time. I learned these techniques during the RemoteU training at crossover but these are applicable to regular work as well.

We are going to discuss these techniques one by one and are going to take a real-time example to measure productivity. We are taking a real-time example from our daily routine at work that is planning a day. Most of us plan our daily activities just before starting our day so this article explains how you should plan your day and how you can save your time by automating this task.

1. Time Blocking

The first task to boost our ability to do better is that we must spend less time on shallow activities, learn to concentrate on the current task, and resist distractions. We should focus our attention, energy, and intensity on a few very important things and spend less energy on shallow activities. We need to find ambitious outcomes of tasks and dedicate our deep work hours to these outcomes.

I used to believe that multitasking is a skill that increases productivity but now I have realized that it is not a strength. It is a distraction to work and productivity. We can do meaningful work when we spend time on the same activity for long stretches of time, without interruptions like checking emails, answering a call on Skype, or other forms of multitasking. Nowadays, I prepare a consistent activity plan for a day and make sure that there are at least two long time blocks for focused tasks. I cut down my distractions from emails/phone calls and keep a single time block for the meetings/chat in the evening or in the second half.

The first step to increase our productivity is to plan our day, we shall use google calendar or any other similar app to plan out a day. I found that using the calendar allows us to have a full daily outline of the main activities and we can conveniently divide these activities throughout the day. You shall realize soon that we tend to get more efficient in performing tasks once we limit our time/activity.

Below is how my daily schedule looks in google calendar, I block almost two hours for critical tasks and divide 30 minutes to an hour for shallow tasks like email or chat. Let us take an example, imagine that you are in the middle of work (say designing serverless architecture or planning a presentation for your sales pitch) and you got a call from your best friend. You shall be tempted to attend the call but remember that it would be a distraction to your work. What would happen once you come back to work? Either you might have partially or fully forgotten your analysis on the work, or you may be required to spend a minimum of 30–45 minutes to reach the point where you had achieved before this call. So it is always better to hold your temptation to attend the call in the middle of work and do these tasks in the allocated window. I know it would be hard in the beginning but trust yourself and you can do it. I try to follow the daily plan and feel satisfied with my productivity at the end of the day.

My Daily Plan

Some people prefer to exercise or meditate or yoga or outdoor sports in the morning and some prefer it in the evening. I believe that we should use the morning time for productive work and do physical activities in the evening.

I want you to be productive so you should plan your day in a google calendar before you move further. Here are tips to get most of your time at work:

  1. Work in large blocks of time and don’t take breaks frequently. Ideally, you should not take more than 3 breaks during your 8 hour day.
  2. Cut down your interruptions like checking emails, answering a call on Skype, or chat, etc. You also can turn off notifications from these applications.
  3. Don’t context switching often e.g. frequently changing from one task type to another.

2. Time Motion Study (TMS)

I hope you have planned your day and we shall discuss the second technique to boost your performance. Time motion study is a scientific method to measure a task at a granular level which results in a set of small tasks measurable in minutes or seconds. This technique helps in analyzing smaller tasks and finding redundant or repetitive small units. After that, we can optimize these tasks to cut the time taken.

In this step, we shall take the example of your google calendar and use TMS techniques to cut the time taken for daily planning. This is just an example to give you head start with TMS but you can use the same technique to cut the time spent on other tasks as well.

Our aim is to cut the time taken to add our daily plan in a calendar. Here are steps that we need to analyze our task and find a way to cut the time taken.

Collect the Data

First of all, we need a way to break down the task into smaller units and I recommend recording a video (Macbook and Windows) while working on that task. We shall add these steps in our standard TMS template from our recording. You can use the standard TMS template and enter your small units with their duration and frequency. I have added my steps to create my daily plan in this template so that you can also visualize it. This template also has a link to the video recording and that can help you understand the concept of collecting the data.

Analyze the Data

Now we need to see the task and analyze multiple ways to optimize the task, such as, we can save time by creating a bookmark for opening a google calendar. Another way to save time is to use the repeat option from google calendar for the repetitive task. So after analysis, you need to compare the different combinations and find the ideal combination of timing for each task.

TMS for 1st Iteration

Execute, Measure and Target

Now it is the time that you execute steps that could improve the time for each task. Record and complete the template with optimized steps and measure the increased efficiency. You found that changing the way to execute these tasks results in saving time. Now you should define your weekly goal to improve the performance till you reach an optimized solution.

TMS for 2nd Iteration

3. Automate Manual Work

Our next task shall be to cut the manual process and automate the process of creating tasks in a google calendar. Automation allows us to make massive leaps in our performance by eliminating waste and introduces standardization beyond the process, making further improvements easier.

Automation ideas

We get insights from our Time Motion Study and find a way to automate a few tasks so that we can further optimize the process. We should focus on tasks that are repetitive and have low value. We can automate the process using various tools like using a google sheets apps script or any third-party script which can help us in reducing our tasks.

Analyze the idea

We need to analyze the automation idea and find out an estimated cost and estimated Savings (annualized). Timeliness is an important reason for automation and if that takes 1 year to complete with low ROI is not a good fit.

Execute, Measure and Target

For our task, I have decided to automate the process of adding tasks to the google calendar using a google spreadsheet. There is already an existing google script to sync the google calendar with google sheet so we only need to change the existing script to fit our requirements. You can use this example to add your tasks in the calendar, I found this template on the internet so the credit goes to that person.

Google Sheet for adding tasks in a daily calendar
TMS for the third Iteration

We saved our 42% time by automating the task creation on google calendar using the google sheet. So that means that we optimize our task in such a way that it reduces our time to ~50% and we can further save time by copy and pasting similar tasks.

Saves 42% of the time taken

There are many ways that you can optimize this calendar, such as I have integrated this calendar with my work queue so I don’t have to write each task myself. I just estimate each of these tasks and send them to my google calendar. I also save time by reusing these results to send my daily planning and work done for the previous day to another portal (Crossover’s Checkin Chats).
Now you know the technique to improve your productivity so get ready to do your work on time with more quality. Pick any of your tasks and try to find a way to cut down the repetitive or low-value tasks. After doing that you save your time and spend the rest of the day reading blogs or watching movies or spending time with your loved ones or anything you find interesting.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions and if you like this article then please share it with your friends and family.

Wanted to deep dive into performance? You can read further about deep work and time blocking.