How can we be more productive in all areas of life, not just work? While many of us count on being productive in our jobs it’s still an essential trait for accomplishing personal goals too. Whether it’s financial, personal development or other goals you have in mind, the only way you’re going to achieve them is by being productive and putting in the work.
There are many elements that lead to a person being more productive than others.
The first is committing to accomplishing something.
The second is having the discipline to not let anything distract you from your goals.
The third is to work effectively.
The fourth is a great track record.
If you can manage all the first three elements then you will notice your productivity levels sore. It also means that the fourth element can come into play. The more you achieve the goals you set out to, the more motivated you will be and the easier you will find it to be productive.
Productivity is a Sprint
Thinking of the workday as an 8-hour stretch with a quick lunch in the middle is enough to turn anyone off wanting to do it. Instead, practice breaking your days up into specific ‘sprint’ timeslots. This means you allocated 60-90 mins working solidly with no distractions, and then taking a 30-minute break in between.
It is much easier to stay focussed in these shorter periods of time than it is for an entire day! Even though you might get 4 of these sprints done, you’re still going to get more work done than a lot of people do in a week.
It’s great at keeping you motivated as well as you complete the sprints as well. You’ll feel like you’ve got a handle on your focus and after your break will find it much easier to settle down into the next one.
Some people just seem to be able to get through an incredible amount a day and while this is heavily associated with mindset, there are also a lot of habits that productive people have, that allow them to make the most of every day.
Try these habits for yourself:
Focus on one thing at a time
Multi-tasking might seem like a good idea, but it is intact counterproductive. You’re never giving your all to one thing and you have to keep in mind that not all tasks are equal. Multi-tasking will take you much longer than focussing on each task individually.
Productive people prioritize what their most important task is and focus solely on that for at least 2 hours a day. No distraction, just complete focus. Rather than thinking about all the things you need to get done, starting on one and beginning another before you’re finished, practice finishing in entirety before moving onto the next.
Not only does this make you get tasks done in a quicker and more efficient manner, on every completion you’re getting a nice boost of achievement.
Write things down
All productive people carry a notebook somewhere on their person. Anything of interest or any bright ideas they get, they’ll write down. This is essential, the mind only remembers so much and you don’t know what idea could be the next big one.
On top of this, writing something down allows you the comfort of forgetting about it until later. This free’s up your mind to focus on what you need to be doing at that moment.
Check emails twice a day
We spend so much time checking our emails, getting distracted and trying to answer everything as it comes in. This is definitely not a productive use of time and alarmingly, people check their emails on average, over 30 times a day!
Imagine how much time you could save if you only checked your emails once after you’ve finished your most important task of the day, and once again 1-hour before you leave the office. This is what productive people do and they know that if there is an emergency, someone will always be able to get them via another form of communication.
There’s no point wasting time worrying that you have to respond to everyone right away.
Meetings are massive time-sinks and productive people know that most companies hold far too many of them.
Most of the stuff that is covered in a meeting can be done in alternative ways. By email, for example, a 5-minute conference call, or if needs be, a walking meeting while people get to where they need to be.
Follow the 80/20 rule.
Also known as the Pareto Principle, productive people know that 20% of the work can consume 80% of your time and resources, but 80% of outcomes usually emerge from only 20% of activity. They know what activities create the best results and that’s what they focus their time on.
It is essential that you learn what activities are time sinks and produce very little results. This is where you need to stop investing so much of your time or learn to delegate it out.
Make it your business to be on time, it becomes a habit and you’ll find it easier to deliver. Arrive for appointments 5-10 minutes early and treat your own schedule with the same importance. Deliver early on your goals.
Make Schedules and Stick To them
It’s essential that you create your own schedule and stick to them. Know exactly what you’re doing during the day and how much time you have to spend on something. It allows you to allocate time for your most important tasks while not allowing too much of the non-essentials to absorb your time. Also, ticking off goals you have written down for the day provides a sense of accomplishment, motivating you to get more done.
The way in which we approach work can really affect our productivity levels. Things we think are essentials are done in the wrong way or given the wrong priority.
The key to productivity is to set yourself up for the best chance of success.
No distractions. No time sinks. Just pure focus on your essential tasks.
In order to achieve this, you need to identify what your biggest distractions are and the time periods in which you start to feel sluggish and unmotivated. Knowing these will allow you to make adjustments that will increase your workload by a huge degree.
Watching the News
The news is a massive time sink and lets face it, what good does it actually do to read it? The tone of the news is sensationalism and negativity, and that’s not an emotion that ties in well with productivity.
If your job relies on knowing financial information, stick only to that. If you don’t need the news for any aspect of your life then try to ignore it completely. You’ll be amazed at how sucked in you got and just exactly how much it affected your mood.
Ignore the temptation when something happens and people are talking about it, it’s just as easy to get sucked into the negativity and fear in the conversation as it is by watching the news. People can spend a huge amount of time checking live feeds or trawling through twitter for the latest updates. That’s not a good use of your time.
Not saying ‘no’
It’s not our go-to response when someone asks us something, but it’s definitely a term you need to get more comfortable with.
It’s impossible to leap on every opportunity without spreading ourselves too thin, so the key is identifying the opportunities that will yield great results amongst the time-sinks.
Many people are afraid to say no because they’re worried it will make them less likeable or hurt the other person’s feelings in some way. Remember you’re not obliged to do everything simply because you were asked.
Your time is valuable and you need to utilise it in the best way possible to achieve success.
Why not use your commute to be extra productive? If you’re driving in and out to work every day, listen to an audiobook that’ll teach you more about your sector. This technique is on the rise and many people are using this dead time to learn rather than stick some music on in the background.
If you’re using public transport even better, you’ve your hands free! Allocate this time for the jobs that aren’t essential, such as checking and responding to emails and organising your day.
People don’t see their commute as the time they can also put to work for them. Some people can commute 2 hours a day. That’s a lot of dead time that you could be using to boost your brain or get the little tasks done and out of the way.
Trying to do everything
It is impossible for one person to do everything and a productive person takes the time to learn the strengths and weaknesses of those around them so that tasks get completed as quickly as possible.
Moving on from the 80/20 rule, the productive person does everything possible to spend their time on the 20% that yields the most results. They don’t micro-manage people to make sure what they have delegated gets done, they trust their team and avoid the urge to control everything around them.
Making your deadlines too long
Setting long deadlines can make you more relaxed about finishing a project. Setting yourself a short period of time to get something done, gives you that sense of urgency to think outside of the box and get things done. A lot of people will tell you that they work best under pressure, sometimes you need to make that pressure for yourself.
Keeping productive is one area that many of us fail miserably at. Sure, we can muster up the motivation to get one or two tasks done, but a whole day of productivity? We’ll be distracted faster than you can say the word ‘procrastination.’
There are reasons for this, not least that we seem to have a gadget designed to do nearly every task available. It’s easy to fall into the thought process that everything is done for us. It’s also easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole that is browsing the net for so long that, before you know it, you’ve stumbled across your 4th article of cats doing the most hilarious things…
Hardly conducive to productivity.
However, the biggest problem we face is, we allow ourselves to get sucked into these cycles of non-productivity. It’s relatively simple to break them, but you will need to develop focus and commit to doing it.
Being Productive comes down to making a choice. In fact, there are small things that you can do right now, that all add up to an overall healthy and productive lifestyle. You need to pay close attention to the choices you make and constantly ask yourself “Is there something better I should be doing right now?”. This gets you into the habit of making better choices and makes staying productive a lot easier!
By incorporating simple routines into your day, you can train your body and mind to work at their most productive and get out of the habit of procrastinating.
Exercise in the Morning
Numerous studies have shown that exercise greatly improves productivity. The endorphins released can improve your mood for up to 12 hours after you work out, which means the morning
is a perfect time to exercise to set yourself up for a great day.
A lot of people feel sluggish in the morning – you have been lying down for around 8 hours after all. All though it might seem like torture to get up and get active straight away, you’d be surprised at how quickly you actually get used to this routine.
Regular exercise also increases the amount of energy you have on any given day. Our cells include components called mitochondria, which produce the chemical your body uses for energy called ATP. When you exercise as part of a routine, your cells are able to produce new mitochondria within your cells more frequently. This means that you’ll also produce more ATP over time leading to an increase in your overall energy – including brainpower!
On top of the obvious health benefits, working out in the morning means we’ve ticked off an accomplishment first thing, which as an excellent motivation tool. Once you’ve ticked off one achievement, you’ll look forward to getting to the rest and you’re getting yourself in a productive frame of mind, right from the get-go.
Finally, as you age, your body generates fewer and fewer brain cells (neurogenesis). However, early research in mice suggests that exercise slows this process down. This could mean that, by the time you reach your 50s, 60s, or even 70s, if you’ve been exercising regularly – you could have more brain cells than your couch potato competition – giving you a definite edge.
Turn Off Your Phone
Be honest, how much of your time is spent on your phone? Probably a lot right? The truth of the matter is that all though our smartphones allow us to stay hyper-connected, they’re also massive time sinks.
Recent research has shown that heightened smartphone use causes our brains to become bored more easily by eroding our ability to focus.
Being bored is ok but having it associated with jumping straight onto your smartphone is not. If you think about it when we’re bored we’re often looking for some kind of escape. If your answer to that is to constantly ‘fix’ this problem by browsing your smartphone, then you’re not allowing your brain to switch to solving a more productive problem or use any type of creativity at all.
For people that work in creative sectors, this can be a major problem. Boredom gets creativity and the ability to hone your imagination. By starving your brain of the time to do that you’re setting it up to be much harder when you need to do it.
Do yourself a favor and turn your phone off when you need to be productive. Not only that, but fight the temptation of jumping onto your phone whenever you have a spare moment. It’s ok to do nothing, or just sit and think.
Hydration plays a massive part in our productivity. A 2012 University of Connecticut study found that mild dehydration (just 1 to 2%) causes a noticeable decrease in the cognitive function in young men and women.
Young men are more likely to experience difficulty in performing mental tasks, particularly in the areas of vigilance and working memory. Whereas female participants were much more likely to experience an increase in anxiety and mood swings.
We are mostly made of water and every part of us needs an adequate amount to perform to the best of its ability. We substitute water for juices, sodas, teas, coffees etc. not realising that we’re not being adequately hydrated by them.
The amount of water the body needs varies depending on who the person is, but a good guideline is to consume a minimum of 3 litres a day. Add more if you’re exercising or if you’re just in a particularly thirsty mood.
Not only will your brain be able to function at the highest capacity, but you’ll also find it easier to regulate meals, your body will detox and you’ll generally feel much better.
Eating smaller amounts, more often, allows our metabolisms to work at a faster and more continual rate. Having large portions 3 times a day means that your body is waiting too long for food and stores a little back each time rather than burning it all off. It also means that for a period of time after eating your large meal, you’ll be sluggish and unproductive – eating smaller meals more often lessens this effect.
You need sleep, not just any kind but good quality sleep. You also need to make sure you get enough. this is usually between 7-9 hours for most people. A lack of sleep is obviously a leading cause of a lack of energy but it also materialises itself in higher stress levels, lower productivity levels and an overall drop in mood.
Sugar is hidden in everything! Foods you’d never dream of having contained it so the best way to make sure you know what exactly is in your food is to prepare it yourself from scratch. Lessen the amount of sugar you have each week until you’ll get to the stage where it’s hardly in your diet at all! You’ll feel more energised and get rid of the crashes it brings when our body wants more of it. Having consistent levels of energy allows you to stay productive, so while you think a sugar boost will help pick you up, you’ll actually lose more time when you come crashing down.
Create Your Own Morning Ritual
Sleeping in at the weekends does much more harm than good so your morning ritual needs to happen EVERY morning, not just on weekdays. To regulate your body clock you need to try to go to sleep and wake up, at the same times each day. Switching this up too much can make us feel sluggish and disoriented.
The biggest thing productive people do is develop their own set of morning rituals. This includes the following:
- Waking up at least an hour earlier than necessary.
- Drinking lots of water to get hydrated and keep the brain working.
- Light exercise.
- Brain exercises such as a puzzle, some meditation or affirmations.
- A healthy breakfast.
- Reading something relevant but not work-related. (A book on leadership for example.)
- Listen to an audiobook on the commute.
This is an example but very close to how productive people start their days. It means that they are fully awake in both mind and body by the time they reach the office and ready to jump straight into the action. They also use this time to improve themselves through reading and learning.
5. Surround yourself with positive people
Positive people will make sticking to your productive pact a hell of a lot easier. On the other hand, negative people will convince you that you won’t stick to it, or worse, that there’s no point in trying to better yourself! Until you’re firmly stuck in your productivity routine, surround yourself with the people that will support you and help you stick to your targets.
HyperOffice – HyperOffice works as a shared office space, making it ideal for collaboration projects and web conferencing when you’re away from your desk. The app allows you to read and add to these projects, and can be set to stay synchronized throughout the day – so you don’t have to miss anything.
Air sharing – This app allows you to transfer files between devices using Wi-Fi – so if you want to share something from the cloud in a hurry, you can just connect, click and send in seconds. You can even send it directly to a printer on the network if you need to.
Trello – The free, flexible, and visual way to organize anything with anyone. Drop the lengthy email threads, out-of-date spreadsheets, no-longer-so-sticky notes, and clunky software for managing your projects. Trello lets you see everything about your project in a single glance. Trello is available to iOS and Android users as well, all for free!
Basecamp – Basecamp is the most well-known project management app out there and the first app built on Ruby on Rails. Basecamp 3’s exclusive “Clientside” feature keeps client feedback on the record and completely separate from the rest of your project. This means your client never sees anything they shouldn’t, and your team doesn’t have to tiptoe around worried about saying the wrong things. It’s the best way to work! It is user-friendly and has a free 60-day trial period. After that, plans start at $20 per month and go up to $3,000 per year if you want to