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Have you ever said that there is not enough time in the day to get everything done? More than ever we are faced with an onslaught of things demanding our time and attention. Work smarter, not harder is a popular saying for a reason. Yes, hard work is important but doing it in a smart way is how to be more productive.
What is Productivity
There are a lot of definitions out there that talk about what productivity is for companies, manufacturing, investments, economics farming, etc. But what does it mean for you as an individual person? Personal productivity is how much you can get done in a set amount of time.
How to be More Productive
Increasing productivity will help you reach your goals by getting more done each day or getting your work done in less time, giving you more free time. It means you are able to get all your work or tasks done, reducing overwhelm and leaving more time available for what is important in your life.
If you find yourself slaving away all day but not really making any progress, then you need to figure out how to be more productive. And the good news is that I’ve compiled a bunch of productivity tips to help you boost productivity. You don’t need to implement every single one of these techniques to increase productivity. By reading through each productivity tip, you’ll be able to determine if you have a shortfall in that area and how to fix it.
Not all tasks are created equal. There is an 80/20 rule, also known as Pareto’s Principle, that states that 80% of your results will come from just 20% of your tasks. Use the 80/20 rule to guide your efforts on the tasks that will drive the biggest results.
Unfortunately, most people do the reverse and spend their time on the 80% of tasks that are only going to drive 20% of your results.
When looking at your list of tasks, determine which ones will have the biggest impact in your life or workplace and focus most of your time on completing those tasks. Allot less time to the other tasks that aren’t going to drive big results, or better yet, delete, delegate or outsource those tasks.
Make a Plan
I love checklists/to-do lists so you can easily see what needs to be done. It’s also such a great sense of accomplishment to check things off when they are completed. Some people prefer paper and pen lists, while others love digital lists. Pick whichever one works best for you.
Break large tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. This will lessen overwhelm. It also helps you realistically plan what you can accomplish. If you have a big task, like write a book, you aren’t going to be able to sit down and finish it in one day. Instead, list out each step that needs to occur to complete your large task and then put those smaller tasks on your to-do list.
Spend about 30 minutes at the beginning of the week to make a plan. Then each night take a few minutes to review your plan for the next day and make any adjustments. Life happens, unexpected things will come up. But if you have a plan, then you will be able to adjust and quickly get back on track.
Just Say No
Don’t take on more than you can handle. Eliminate or reduce tasks or commitments that aren’t helping you meet your goals. It’s not possible to say no to everything but you can definitely cut back. If your boss asks you to do something, saying no may not be an option. But you don’t need to accept every request from the school’s PTA, the church or friends.
Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.
Plan Your Day For Productivity
Wake up earlier
Rushing around in the morning can make you feel stressed and kill your productivity. By waking up earlier, you can focus on your well-being by exercising, meditating, reading or whatever activity will help you mentally prepare for the day. By the time your family wakes up or you’re ready to leave for work, you’ll be in a productive frame of mind.
Even if waking up earlier sounds like torture, give it a try for a couple of weeks and see the difference it can make in your productivity.
Check out How to Create Your Best Morning Routine for step by step instructions. You can also read the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. If this book doesn’t convince you of the benefits of waking up earlier than no one can! Seriously, buy this book. It’s life-changing.
Get Over the Slump
Are you ready for a nap by late afternoon? Schedule more active tasks when you’re feeling tired. Getting up and moving will help get you over the slump.
Groggy in the morning? Schedule shorter duration time blocks with less mentally challenging tasks when you aren’t feeling at your peak.
Plan Breaks and Rewards
Life can’t be all work and no play. Schedule in breaks for a mental rest. Breaks actually help you be more productive and will help prevent burn out. Just make sure to keep a time limit on them so your breaks don’t spiral into wasting the entire day.
Rewards can be so motivating, especially when you are developing a new habit or tackling a difficult task. Allow yourself 10 minutes of social media time if you’re focused during a 90-minute work session. Splurge on a dinner out if you increased productivity that week. Reward yourself with whatever motivates you.
The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
A key to increasing productivity is to take action. If you’re procrastinating then you are taking action. There are several different techniques that can help you beat procrastination. These techniques help break down your tasks, making it so easy to get started that there isn’t any excuse for procrastination.
If you can do a task in 2 minutes or less, do it now. It will take longer to schedule it. Or it will pile up and take longer later.
Set aside 5 minutes to work on a goal. Sometimes starting a task is the hard part. Even if it’s a task you are dreading and avoiding, committing just 5 minutes is easy. Bonus: once you get started you will most likely want to keep working on it. I can’t tell you the number of times I put off a task, only to start it and realize that it wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating.
Eat the Frog
This concept originally came from Mark Twain who said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. It was then made into a famous time management technique in the aptly named book Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy.
So what does it mean to eat a frog? Do your most dreaded task first. It’s the task that you’re most likely to procrastinate. If you pair this technique with the 5-minute rule then your task doesn’t seem so bad.
Stay on Task
Multitasking was once all the rage and now there are numerous articles and studies that show multitasking is bad for us. Multitasking can be damaging to your brain, actually decreases your productivity and slows you down. Instead, focus on just one task or batch tasks.
It takes time to get into the groove of each task. If you are constantly switching gears between different tasks you’re wasting time getting back into the rhythm of each task. Instead, group similar tasks together and work on them at the same time.
Make phone calls in one time block vs. spreading it out throughout the day.
Batch small tasks such as email, social media, phone calls. (4 hour work week by Tim Ferris)
Don’t constantly check email, schedule email into your day at set times. Every email should be dealt with. Your email is not your to-do list.
Time Blocking is the process of scheduling in your tasks on the calendar like you would for an appointment. You determine a specific day and time to work on each task. Scheduling every minute of the day may seem too restricting for some. But the benefits outweigh that in my opinion. Time Blocking helps you prioritize your tasks, track how long each task takes and prevents procrastination by holding you accountable to take action.
Also, your schedule does not need to be back-to-back tasks all day long. Time blocking will help you organize your workload and set time limits, giving you more free time. And don’t forget to block off time for breaks, which will help prevent burn out.
Set a time limit
If time blocking is too intense for you, at least set time limits on each task. Putting a time limit helps prevent analysis paralysis, perfectionism, time-wasting activities. If you have a competitive nature, try to beat the amount of time you set aside for each task, while still doing a good job.
Smartphones are useful in so many ways but they are also the source of so many time-wasters. You might not even be aware of how much time you are wasting every day on social media or Candy Crush. Apple’s iOS now shows you a break down of your screen time. Be ready to face some hard truths when you check that out!
Turn off push notifications. Not only are they are distracting, the temptation to just check “real quick” spirals into 45 minutes on Facebook.
If you’re struggling to limit screen time, there’s an app for that. There’s actually quite a few apps that will help you get your smart phone usage under control. Inc. and Digital Trends provide lists of apps that help limit screen time.
Declutter and Organize
Having less stuff and organizing your stuff means you’ll always find what you need quickly and have fewer distractions to take you away from what is important. Having clutter everywhere can make you feel overwhelmed or that you have more to do than you really do.
Don’t Let Failure Hold You Back
Don’t give up because you didn’t execute your plan perfectly. Your schedule is meant to be a guide that will need adjustments. The more you plan, the better you’ll get. But don’t expect perfection.
So you procrastinated on a task or you wasted hours on social media. That doesn’t mean you’re never going to be more productive. Acknowledge what happened, determine if you need to make any changes in your plan and move on. Feeling guilty about wasted time will only distract you further and hinder your productivity.
Remember that failure is an event, not a person.
– Zig Ziglar