Try these productivity techniques to maximize your output in each work day!
Trying to be productive can feel a bit like quicksand some days; the harder that you’re attempting to be productive the further you dig yourself into a pit of procrastination and discouragement. It seems that regardless of the number of ‘Ways to Be Productive’ books we read or productivity apps that we download, some days we just don’t accomplish everything.
It may not be possible to cross everything off your daily to-do list, but there are a few tips that you can keep in mind as you go about your day. Try to implement these tips into your work routine to be productive and meet your deadlines.
1. Set Your Goals
Every morning, write down your goals. You want these goals to be your daily goals, but you want them to build on your long term, bigger goals. For instance, you may write down ‘How Will I Grow My Company Today?’ Then, your daily goals will build off that in smaller ways that help grow your company.
Writing these down on a sheet of paper will help you mentally know what you need to accomplish for the day, and at the end of the day, you can see what you accomplished. Many people spend the end of their days wondering what they did with the last twelve hours of their life.
Having a list that shows you exactly what you did acts as a visual display of your productivity. Having this visualization makes you more apt to meet your goals the following day. With a list of goals, you’ll be able to slowly take one day at a time and not feel so overwhelmed with your to-do list. The concept of lists isn’t new but knowing that there’s a bigger goal beyond the smaller ones is an encouraging way to work towards the larger picture.
Time blocking allows you to break up your daily schedule into smaller units. For example, you use 10 minutes to email, 20 minutes to draft a letter, and 60 minutes to plan an event.
The Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill time, rather than the actual time it takes to complete a task. This is why it’s important to limit the time you spend on tasks. Without a limit, the task can expand exponentially taking up all your time.
Time blocking allows you to limit the amount of time spent on tasks. The competitive pressure of making sure each time block is small can help us stay focused and results driven. Time blocking allows you to move at your own pace and makes all activities accountable allowing you to be more deliberate about how you spend your time. It’s particularly useful when you need to set time limits for low-value tasks like responding to emails, social media, and admin work.
4. Get The Worst Tasks Out Of The Way
There is no use in denying it, there’s always one task on everyone’s to-do list that they can’t stand the thought of. The one task that they’re completely dreading getting to. If you’ve been putting this task off until the last moment, like many people, then you’re doing it all wrong. You should start with the task that you’re dreading before getting to the others on your list.
You will stop stressing about doing that one task and the rest of your tasks will seem less daunting in comparison. When you write your to-do list, put the most dreaded task right at the top of your list and get it off your plate first thing. You’ll feel less overwhelmed and be more ready to tackle the other tasks on your list after you’ve gotten the worse out of the way.
5. Review What You Did
Every Friday, at the end of the week and right before the weekend, take the time to review your progress from the week. Most people are exhausted from their work and personal life once their head hits the pillow at the end of the day that they can barely process what just happened. Their mind is a whirlwind, which is why it’s good to take a day to review the week. Look at your lists and see what you accomplished and what you need to improve.
6. Assess the Areas that Need Help
Work on improving on the areas that suffered the previous week. Don’t change what is working but make yourself accountable for some of the things that didn’t get done. Ask yourself what your goals were when you started your week and what goals you managed to meet. Ask yourself about your long-term goals and how you worked towards them. Doing this every week can help you know what you can save time on the following week.
Take notice of the tasks that are repeatedly skipped. If this is a task that you can outsource, consider doing so. Otherwise, ask yourself why the task isn’t getting done and what can be done to improve its success rate.
7. Five Minute Rule
What’s the enemy of productivity? Procrastination. The best advice for procrastinators, and we’re sure that you’ve heard it before, is the five-minute rule. This rule can change your life and your productivity. When you have a task that you’re avoiding, or are having trouble getting started, go with the five-minute rule.
Start with telling yourself that you’ll only do it for five minutes. Tell yourself, that no matter what you’ll do the task for the next five minutes. You can even set a timer if it helps. Oftentimes, you’ll end up finishing the task that you started and continuing past five minutes. A lot of time, just getting started is half the battle.
8. Take Breaks
Breaks are crucial for your body to reset and for you to get your energy back before returning to work. No matter if it’s a quick stroll around the block or a fifteen-minute yoga stretch, it can do wonders to reset your mind and body. Sometimes it can be rejuvenating to get on a call with a loved one or colleague to chat while taking a break.
Those who work hard often have a tendency to push themselves too hard. The hard truth is, although it can be difficult to accept it, at a certain point your body physically isn’t capable of giving anymore. Pushing yourself can do more harm than good at some point, which is why it’s recommended to take breaks during your workdays even when you work from home.
9. Delete Social Media
If you’re really committed to getting the most out of your days and being your most productive self, social media has to be deleted. Social media is a part of our daily lives, but it also distracts us from work. Social media can be a killer of your productivity and if you find that you don’t have the self-discipline to stay away from it, deleting it is the only option.
Set up times that you allow yourself to check your phone instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media. If you set up times and an amount of time that you can stay on your phone, you’ll be held accountable. Don’t let your phone and social media be the cause of your lack of productivity.
10. Use the DRY Principle
DRY or Don’t Repeat Yourself is a technique of creating templates, checklists, and workflows for repetitive tasks. If you regularly send out the same email or invoice create a template for it to save time. Many admin tasks can be automated through services like IFTTT and Zapier. Spend some time thinking about your workflow and create a toolkit that works for you. This will save you time in the long run.
11. Don’t Spend All Your Time on Email
Constantly checking emails every time that you get a notification can be a huge distraction. Turning off your email notifications can save you time that you didn’t even know you were wasting. Even taking the time to glance up at a notification while you’re working can break your focus.
Secondly, don’t spend too much of your time writing back long and detailed responses. Email is a highly effective communication tool, but it is often where people spend too much time writing out responses. Many times, a few sentences will work just as well as long paragraphs. Respond to your emails quickly with a few sentences and clear up your inbox.
There is a whole industry devoted to workplace productivity that includes everything from workplace philosophies to productivity technology. All of the productivity tips and apps available are only tools and it takes discipline to use them efficiently.
To truly improve productivity, we must understand how we work and learn how to work smarter. Deciding why we avoid certain tasks, keeping a visual productivity journal, and delegating our time is the first step to improving productivity. With this is mind, try to change your behavior and use these productivity techniques, rather than your to do list in order to get more done.