Many of us struggle with how to be more productive with our schedules. How can we make sure that we get our work done efficiently so we have more time to goof off? "Wait goof off? That's not the way to get more productive!", I can hear you say. By goofing off I mean play time. I and many others believe PLAY is the essence to innovation. When we play, and play hard we are being very productive and effective in rapid prototyping of ideas and training our natural inspiration to come forth. It is an essential trait that is often being knocked out of us by the dogma of what good work habits are.

Recently I received an e-mal from Jamie Lindell who has written a very nice blog post about productivity. There are some very interesting observations from studies in this post. How everything from multiple monitors, diet, exercise and sleep affect our productivity. Have a read here: Psychology of Productivity.

However for me the most important rule in productivity is simply the 20-80 rule. Simply stated, it seems that 20% of the work results in 80% of the outcome. To make a perfect 100% means "wasting" 80% more work to achieve only 20% more affect.

The top business managers and achievers use this rule everyday and are able to "filter out" the non-essential work. But trying to figure out what is essential is the hard part. What is most important? What will bring the greatest effect? How do I choose?

I do the following as a guide. If I could do only 1 thing today, what would that 1 thing be? Usually it is the one thing I am dreading the most which will achieve the greatest result. Sometimes, it's just a phone call I really need to make and am dreading.Other times it may be writing a script or editing a film, or just getting a design finished for a developer.

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By concentrating on doing only that 1 thing, I make sure it is the most important thing that has to be done, with the greatest possible outcome. After accomplishing it, my mind sends lots of dopamine to the brain for a reward, saying "Way to go! You did it! Let's do it again!" This is the way the brain gives a natural motivational boost. The crazy thing is the bigger the challenge, i.e. the more I was dreading it, the bigger that dopamine kick I get. It's addictive. You want more! This gives me that boost in motivation to get the second most important thing done. So I keep going. But by the 3rd major task that is completed, there is less and less dopamine released.

It's like being a drug addict. When you get a big dose, you keep striving for that same high. Lower doses seem to work less, so in the end to get the same feeling you start to look for harder and harder challenges. It can spiral right out of control, and next thing you know you are kite boarding behind a jet with Richard Branson on your shoulders. To make sure this doesn't happen to me, I keep it at the 3 dose per day. But then in my day I have completed the 1-3 most important tasks to achieve success. The rest of the day I have to explore, play, goof-off and learn new ideas, skills, etc. to help me for the top 3 tasks that I have to do tomorrow.

What is your most important task for today?

Here is also a list of some great TED Talks on the subject of productivity and working smarter. TED Playlist Work Smarter