Does it seem like you never finish your to-do list? Are you looking at how to increase your productivity?
Sometimes, it looks like the more we work, the more we have to do and finishing everything seems impossible. In addition, remote working, technology and meetings can add more distractions than ever to our working day.
However, despite this, we can still manage to improve our productivity and reap the rewards.
Being and feeling productive reduces stress and anxiety, benefiting our work-life balance. Even more, it gives us a sense of accomplishment and makes us feel good about ourselves.
If you are going to be productive, it’s crucial to understand that productivity doesn’t increase by working longer hours. If anything, knowing that you will be working late gives your mind an excuse to postpone tasks.
Research has revealed that the average UK office worker is only productive for 2 hours 53 minutes within an 8-hour shift.
This doesn’t mean we should work only three hours a day, but it can help us organise our workload and help ease our minds, resulting in us letting go of the guilt we sometimes feel when we are not productive enough.
So, the ultimate question is how can we be more productive? Here, we have gathered 7 tips that our team uses to increase productivity.
How to increase our productivity
Be realistic about time
How much time do you have? How long does it take to do different tasks? What can you do with the amount of time you have? Answering these questions is the first step to increasing productivity.
Sometimes, we set ourselves up for failure just because we are not realistic about time.
Measure your tasks. Knowing how long it takes you to do something is essential.
Understand that productivity isn’t static. We are not as productive every day, and we shouldn’t punish ourselves for it.
Allow time for fallback activities. Allocate some time during the week to catch up on all the things you may not have finished.
A member of our team leaves her Friday afternoons pretty open. By doing this, she ensures that everything gets done before the end of the week.
Evaluate your processes
In the same way that you re-evaluate and measure the time needed for each task, you should evaluate and measure the efficiency of your processes.
Sometimes, the way we do things is established by people who are not doing that job. Or maybe we built those processes based on old technology and old ways of working. All of these can have a significant impact on how productive we are.
Re-evaluate every process – make sure you reconsider how things are done, both personally and within the company and don’t be afraid of change.
Involve the right people – it is essential to involve the people who are actively using those processes.
We all encounter multiple distractions that take our attention away instantly. For example, we lose our concentration even just by answering a 2-minute email. Regaining that concentration is what takes more time and, in turn, makes us less productive.
Did you know that 35.5% of knowledge workers check their emails every 3 minutes?
Put all your energy and attention into the task at hand, and forget about the rest.
Use different tabs on your computer. For example, if you want to have your email open at all times, you can use a different tab for other activities to help keep your concentration (out of sight, out of mind).
Schedule time to look at your emails, notifications and messages. For example, instead of jumping from one task to the next, use 10 or 15 minutes to check your emails. This way, you are reachable and aware of “news” during the day and avoid the need to look at every notification as soon as you get it.
Prioritise and organise your workload efficiently
Being organised is a crucial element to success and having to-do lists is a great organisation technique. Use them wisely, and they can be your best friend; use them wrongly, and they can transform into your worst enemy.
There will always be about a thousand things we need to do, making it pretty easy to create a never-ending to-do list. The trick here is to prioritise and organise.
Use to-do lists wisely – for example, create a long list of everything that has to be done, then, from that list make a daily to-do list; this way, you only focus on what you need to do today.
Write it down – when we write things down, we put our minds at ease. We are freeing them from having to remember a lot of things.
As David Allen said, “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”
Move one step at a time. Sometimes we tend to add everything into our lists when in reality, we have to follow a structure. For example, you can’t write an article without doing research. So, avoid putting all the steps down at once; instead, only include the one you need to do before moving to the next.
Avoid writing the big tasks. Everything we do has multiple steps and processes, so instead of adding the big result, add the small steps. By doing this, we give ourselves a sense of accomplishment, allowing us to enjoy the small victories.
Being productive hinges on self-awareness. It’s essential to understand when we are more productive, when we are more creative, where we do our best work and which tasks we drain the most. By knowing all these, we can organise our work and life more efficiently.
For example, a person on our team knows that her most productive time is Tuesday mornings. This insight gives her the ability to organise her weekly calendar accordingly. Another person on our team concentrates better at night, so he takes advantage of these quiet hours to get his work done.
Choose your hours. Depending on how much flexibility you have, you should organise your tasks depending on what works best for you. For example, if you know you’re more creative at night, what’s the point in waking up at 5 AM?
Choose your location. Here we don’t only mean choosing to work in the office or at home, we mean that some tasks don’t require us to be sitting at our desks. For example, when we have to listen to videos, podcasts, etc. we do it while going for a walk, this way we maximise the time we spend at our desks.
Create a routine and healthy habits
Having a routine not only helps our productivity but can even help us live longer. Listen to Dr Angel Iscovich, author of the book “The art of routine”.
Plan your small decisions. Sometimes we waste precious time on trivial decisions and having a routine can help avoid it. For example, knowing what you are eating or having a precise schedule to do things frees up our minds from many distractions.
Create healthy habits. Exercising, eating healthy or sleeping well help us be more productive, for example, exercising before work gives us more energy and activates our minds. On the contrary, eating heavy meals at lunch makes us feel sleepy and lowers our productivity.
Control your thoughts. Our minds are always wondering, either to the past or to the future. By staying in the present, we can increase our focus and, therefore, our productivity.
The “gone with the wind” trick
“After all, tomorrow is another day.” We need to accept that our productivity won’t always be the same and that tomorrow will be another day. Also, sometimes we make the mistake of overloading our to-do lists. So, this trick can help you let go when you need to.
“I can’t think about it now; I will think about it tomorrow.” Our minds will always give us things to think about even if we realise that it’s not the right time and that we cannot do anything about it right now. So when this happens, just think about Scarlet O’Hara and tell your mind that you can’t think about that right now, you will think about it later.
Every day is different, so we can’t always use the same ruler. Also, we are not machines immune to outside events. Sometimes, we are just not at our best for whatever reason and that is ok too.
Using these tricks is not about postponing our work, quite the opposite. It’s about being aware of what we need to focus on and knowing when it’s time to let go.
How to feel productive
Being productive and feeling productive are not the same. Many people and especially, high achievers, tend to be really hard on themselves and create unrealistic goals.
Aiming for greatness and having high goals and expectations is excellent and can help our growth but we shouldn’t measure our productivity in comparison to incredibly high expectations.
Choose the right picture to look at
Sometimes it’s helpful to look at the big picture. For example, there are tasks that help us advance later, but sometimes they can seem unproductive.
In this case, it’s wise to look at your whole week, where you can see that spending an entire day on these tasks helps you do the rest of your tasks more efficiently.
Other times, looking at the big picture can have the opposite effect. For example, if we start thinking about all the things that need to be done next month, we will probably get overwhelmed.
So we need to focus on the here and now, our task at hand and what we can do today.
Reflect on yourself
Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget about reflecting on our work.
Taking 5 minutes at the end of the day to review our daily accomplishments can make us realise how much we have done and feel more productive.
We also need to celebrate small victories and pat ourselves on the back when we do things right.
In addition, reflecting on our work can help us understand why we are not as productive or how we can improve.
As Vivek Naik said, “Reflect on what you do in a day. You may have never realised how some simple, harmless activities rob you of precious time.”
The Optimist view…
Everyone will have different ways to be more productive depending on their personalities, lives, jobs, or flexibility. So, the important thing is to find what works for you.
We want to hear from you; what are your best tips on how to be more productive? Let us know in the comments section below.