My life is chaos right now, but I’m still trying to get things done (and failing miserably). Maybe you’re like me, and just need a nudge in the right direction. That’s why this week I’m writing about 13 ways to be more productive.
In whichever part of your life you want to be more productive in, there are some things that you can add to your routine and a few that you’ll have to take out.
Admitting you have a problem
If you’re not as productive as you’d like to be, the first thing you’ll need to do is some introspection. You’ll have to ask yourself what is affecting your productivity. Is it because you don’t get enough sleep, or because your office is noisy and you can’t concentrate? Is social media an enormous distraction for you? If you can identify the problem, you can identify potential solutions.1
A good way to identify your problem areas is to note the order in which you do your daily tasks and how much time you spend on them. It is suggested that you do this for a week or two and then you can identify the problem areas in your routine.2
Here are some tips that can help you along the way once you’ve figured out what your main problem areas are.
Figure out when you’re the most productive
We all have those few hours in the day when we are more productive than others. For me, and apparently, for a lot of others, it is before noon.1 If you know when you are the most productive, it will be easier for you to schedule your most pressing and difficult work for that time of the day, and rather do your ‘busy work’ when you’re in the figurative afternoon slump.1
Get rid of all those distractions
Social media is my kryptonite. Turn off those notifications for social media and emails. There are also many apps and browser extensions that will keep a timer of your activity on those time-wasting websites and keep you focused on the task at hand. You can even turn off your phone or tell friends and family not to disturb you during certain times of the workday.4
Music or silence
Music helps me to concentrate for long periods of time, and hence I am more productive. I listen to gaming music or just rain falling and it keeps my attention. You can find these on YouTube. If you can listen to these on a noise-cancelling headset, then even better.
Multitasking is a no-no
If you try to do many things at once, you end up doing a whole lot of nothing all at once. Your brain cannot focus on multiple things at the same time, although we’d like to think it can. It’s like having multiple tabs open in your browser. You’re not doing multiple things at once, but rather flicking through different tabs quickly.
Rather, let your brain focus on one specific task, and finish it before you move on to the next one.1 Then it’s something you can tick off your to-do list. Speaking of which …
I have already written about making reasonable to-do lists (find the post here) and I can testify that this is an amazing technique to boost productivity. By using lists, you will know how much you need to get done, and at the end of the day (or specific time) you will also know how much you actually got done and then feel proud of yourself.1
Write your goals
If you have goals and have written them down, you will know what you are working towards. In that way, you will be motivated and attentive to making those goals a reality.
It is very important to write your goals in as much detail as possible.6 First, you will be able to look at them again (and add to them, or revise, if necessary). Second, if you know exactly what you want, it is easier to plan the steps that will make it a reality.6 Third, knowing where you’re going will help you focus on tasks and activities that are important instead of just what is fun in the moment.7 Yes, I know, much easier said than done.
Also, revisit those goals regularly, for example, every week, and also keep track of how much progress you have made.2 It’s a good thing to think of rewards for yourself for reaching certain milestones in pursuit of your goal.
Attach a time frame to activities
I have tried this with my writing. Sometimes I just don’t want to get writing. Then I tell myself, I wonder how much I can get onto paper/screen in 30 minutes, or even just 10 minutes. Usually, that helps me to get into the groove and then I can continue with the post or story. Even if I don’t get into the groove on that specific day, then at least I wrote something.1
It is also a good idea to plan how much time you want to spend on a task. Obviously, it is very important to work in a grace period for when life happens. Also, don’t be overly ambitious. You can only do so much in a day.
Don’t sit in front of the computer for hours and hours on end. First, it’s not good for your eyes to keep staring at a screen for that amount of time, and second, your body gets tired. Make a point of it to stand up and stretch, or get some water, etc. every half hour.1 If you are very busy with a project, you can have 25-minute chunks of work followed by 5 minutes of rest.2
Remember, being productive is not only measured in the amount of work that you do, but also in the quality of that work.
Emails are time eaters
If you get into the habit of answering emails as they come in, you may become distracted from more important tasks, or you will try to multitask, which as you have seen is unproductive.1
Rather, pick a specific time of the day (or times) to answer emails.1
If your work environment is a mess, it will be difficult for you to be productive. If you struggle to find your paperwork, stationery, etc. obviously you are not using your time optimally. Also, if my work environment is cluttered, my brain feels cluttered as well. My workspace needs to be tidy for me to explore my brain’s clutter box optimally.2
Use those times that you have to wait
I want to start carrying a book around with me everywhere, so when I have to wait in line somewhere, I can read a few pages of my book. Reading is great for unwinding as well as creativity. It’s amazing how many books I get through by just using those few minutes in a day.3
If you are lucky to live somewhere where you can commute to work, and not be squashed or stabbed, then you can use that commuting time to catch up on any pending activities, like writing your to-do list or doing research for your upcoming project or meeting.3
Don’t be a jack of all trades
‘Jack of all trades. Master of none.’ With the internet, you can learn to do virtually anything, but that takes time, and you don’t always have time. It will be much more productive to focus on one or two areas that you are great at than trying to do and be good at everything.5
This is also something that I’ve learnt with this blog. I don’t know much about the technical stuff, that’s why I got great people to handle that for me. So, I can rather focus on the stuff I’m better at—writing the content.
Obviously, if one of your weaknesses is negatively influencing your work or life, that’s something to work on.5 Also, I’m not saying you can’t learn new things. I’m just saying it’s better to prioritise one skill at a time.
Say no when you can
If something does not contribute to your goals, or you feel like you only have to do it because you feel guilty or don’t want the person to dislike you, these are good indicators that you should say ‘no’ to the proposition. Obviously, this is not an excuse to be lazy (or tick off your boss). Sometimes it is okay, or even good, for your mental health to say no to things.1
Slow and steady
Remember, not every day has to be perfect or life-changing for it to be called a good and or productive day—just keep doing the things that bring you closer to where you want to be. Slow and steady wins the race.8
What do you think? Will these tips help you? Contact details are below.
- Harris, V. 2008. The productivity epiphany: Become more productive in any area of your life!Trenton: Beckworth Publications. Page 121-122
- Page 124
- Page 128
- Ibid Page 130