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6 Awesome Quora Questions on Improving Personal Productivity

December 18, 2014

We love doing this series. And for good reason too.

Quora has emerged as one of those platforms that allow for ‘openly sharing information and experiences’ in such an easy, fun and engaging way. It reaches out to every geography, culture, and race because of which you get to touch bases with so many different worldviews and perspectives. (I guess they are really living up to their mantra — Your Best Source for Knowledge.)

An avid Quora devotee myself, I frequent this social page quite a lot. And one of my absolute favorite topics to follow is about ‘personal productivity’.

Productivity is a dynamic concept, and everyone has their own unique ways of building efficiency in what they do. No two people follow the same routine or similar planners and apps, and so it’s interesting to engage with this topic in order to seek varied inspirations for garnishing your own productivity principles.

Here are my top picks for some epic Quora questions on building personal productivity:

1. What are the best daily routines of highly productive people?

Great minds may think alike, but often they do not function alike.

As indicated in one very interesting infographic shared by one of the commenters, quite a discernible pattern can be gauged from the lives of some of the most famous people on this earth. Few things that immediately pop out is that they all get an early start to the day and spend about 25 per cent of their day indulging in some form of creative work and another 25 per cent in some recreational activity.

I thought these last two bits are particularly interesting.

I believe the trick lies in treating your work as an act of ‘creative stimulation’. If you can get such stimulation every day, not only do you feel satisfied about having done a good job, but also the work feels so much more fun. You should want to ‘choose’ that work every day in order to be productive at it. As far as recreation goes, a little distraction does not harm, is what I believe. Sometimes, you want to get away from it all (even if for brief 10 minutes) to feel energized and get your productive juices flowing.

2. What are some easy ways to train my brain and become smarter every day?

I agree with thoughts shared by commenter Amit Banerjee. He points out a simple thing — Practice the same thing at exactly the same time every day.

The object of this statement is that discipline can breed productivity in a person. And the science behind it makes sense too. Imagine getting in the habit of writing a blog every week, at the exact same hour. Eventually, your mind gets accustomed to the routine and is already prepared to take on the task at that exact hour. This way you are physically and mentally ready and stimulated to work on that activity. Productivity = Check!

3. How do Bill Gates, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey manage their email?

I really enjoyed reading this particular discussion page.

Now I deem this topic as important when talking about productivity because often the most time-consuming activity for anyone (especially the working class) is reading and replying to emails.

On a typical day, an average working guy goes through anything between 20–100 emails, depending on the position they hold in an organization. And often going through each one of them is not really the best use of their time. Neither is throwing a blind-eye to them.

What I figured from most of the answers is that people in senior roles are usually prompt with their emails, but only touch bases with emails at an appointed hour in their day. While answering all emails is often not feasible, they do devote certain dedicated hours to the activity. And that’s where the trick lies — don’t be on a red alert when it comes to emails. Allot a specific time every day for reading and responding to them and no more. If you are worried about missing out on urgent emails, request your peers to flag an email as ‘urgent’ when they write to you. Have in place certain email filters which will notify you when you get such an email. (Be sure to specify what counts as emergency.)

4. How does one manage time more effectively?

Timeless question, but this guy had the best answer. Ever!

Oliver presents a pretty simple scenario — a boy trying to rescue a girl (although it’s in a Star Trek setting in his version, but we’ll keep it simple). That’s mission ‘important’. But in his quest he comes across a bunch of obstacles (a.k.a an army of storm troopers, as he notes). This is mission ‘urgent’.

His point is simple: Unless he tackles the immediate assault of storm troopers he will not be able to rescue the girl, which is ultimately the most important task at hand.

A simple analogy can, therefore, be drawn about time management. The secret to mastering your time is to systematically focus on importance and suppress urgency. If the boy takes his eye off the ultimate goal — his girl — then all his other efforts are pointless. He can go on fighting an army of storm troopers but their numbers are inexhaustible, and while they are momentarily important, continuously engaging with them will make him lose sight of his ultimate goal. Deferred too long, and his girl may be lost to oblivion pretty soon.

The same is true for life. There are things which need your attention immediately and if you keep delaying them, they will eventually get too big to handle. But when battling these unrelenting small issues, never lose sight of the bigger goals. That’s a key factor for ensuring your time is used right and you do a good job at what you set out to do.

5. How can I increase my productivity?

Million dollar question.

This particular discussion page has endless great ideas on how to become a more productive person. A couple of suggestions pop at you outright. But there are some which are very realistic and do-able. For one, commenter Yishan Wong makes a very catchy point about not ‘over-prioritizing’. In a bid to become productive we start by putting too much on our plates in one go. The result — too many things that have been carelessly attended to or not attended to altogether. He suggests that one should start by getting those things done that are ‘appealing’ and I find this suggestion so much more do-able than just being pointed out that I need to start prioritizing.

Commenter Prateek suggests some interesting productivity hacks too. One is the ‘2-minute rule’. It’s pretty simple — if a task can be done within 2 minutes, do it right away. He also suggests an easy schedule planning trick — the 25-minute work schedule. Break your day in 25-minutes worth of productive activities, each followed by quick break of 5 minutes. Continuously nagging at a task can reek of monotony and that’s never a good thing.

6. What’s something I can do right now to increase my productivity?

The best response for this dilemmatic query has been suggested by Jim Stone. He advocates for the act of ‘writing things down’.

He suggests a simple 5-step process:

1. Write down everything that’s on your mind on one piece of paper.

2. Create three columns on a second piece of paper, and label them: “to be done,” “maybe later,” and “delete.” Sort all the items on the first piece of paper into the three columns on the second piece of paper.

3. Take each item on the “delete” list, send it off into space, and tell it never to return (with a corny little ceremony if that helps).

4. Take the items from the “maybe later” column and put them on your “maybe later” list in a planner.

5. Take the items from the “to be done” column and put them into your planning system as immediate tasks.

The key here is that it’s best to employ a system of sorts (and there are so many fantastic apps for this) that helps you plan your chores better. This is your first steps towards becoming a productive person.

Meeta Sharma is an independent writing and editing professional from digital marketing domain. Loves marketing and everything about it.

Meeta Sharma

Meeta Sharma is a content marketing specialist and regularly writes about her domain and start-up life.

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