The Harvard Guide to Supercharged Productivity


Today, loving your work doesn’t prevent you from being stretched too thin, or over-stressed, at work.

From fear of layoffs, to a bad economy and the many pressures of a hyper-connected modern environment, it’s difficult to find peace in even the most satisfying of positions.

So, as demands rise and our capacity is tested daily, what can we do to be as productive as possible?

The Harvard Business School has suggested that there are certain actions we can take to make ourselves as productive as possible. Here are some specific actions their students are taught to help them absorb the stress of the world around them, and still perform their best. Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from these worldwide leaders.

#1: Get the sleep you need

It’s a mistake to confuse busyness and frantic activity with constructive and productive activity. Many employers (and their employees) are struggling to realize that working 80 hours per week to get more done is often counterproductive.

All of the factors that lead to a productive workplace – our emotional intelligence, creativity, and our cognitive capacity – are negatively impacted by sleep deprivation. To keep these important components in check, make sure you get seven to eight hours of sleep per night – you need it.

#2: Be emotionally aware

As we become more overworked our moods become increasingly negative. As this happens, we become sequentially less reflective, less thoughtful, and more reactive. When you notice the rise of negative emotions at work, ask yourself why you are feeling the way you do and what you can do to address the cause of your negativity.

#3: Have one to-do list

If you are anything like me, you have a many different ideas, projects, and timelines floating around in your head at any given time. When you fall into this state of monkey mind, simply keeping track of each of these issues can be exhausting and distracting. David Allen, the famous time management expert and founder of GTS (Getting Things Done) proposed an amazingly simple way to deal with this problem: create one to-do list. Making things too intricate and complicated can only add to the stress give you a way to burry yourself in the procrastination of too much planning. Begin simplifying what needs to be done and put it in one place – then work on attacking it, one piece at a time.

#4: Start with the most important task

One powerful way to maximize productivity is to start each day with the single most important or pressing task you need to accomplish.  To do this, first focus in on that task, and then work on it for no more than 90 minutes at a time. Limiting the time you spend on a task to 90 minute intervals ensures you will operate with the level of focus necessary to ensure you create genuine value.

Once you cross the 90 minute time limit, take a break to recharge – go for a walk, grab some water, chat with some coworkers, or grab a quick nap. This approach will ensure you can produce quality work throughout the entire work day.

#5: Don’t forget the less important items

Your to-do list will include some items that are less imperative than others. Although they aren’t the most important thing on your list, you need to make sure you regularly take time to deal with these tasks. Focusing only on extremely pressing materials can be incredibly draining, and taking time for some of “refuelling” tasks like writing strategy, thinking creatively or developing business relationships are essential to your success at work.


These five ideas, when combined, will help you maximize your performance and supercharge your productivity. Try them, you will be pleasantly surprised.


Harvard Business Review – Sleep Deficit and Performance 

Harvard Business Review – For Real Productivity, Less is Truly More

Harvard Business Review – Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time



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