Most of us would like to be more productive. Even if you don’t want to get more done, then having more free time is still attractive. No life-hacks, no gimmicks – here are 7 steps to becoming more productive.
Let’s get the three obvious things out of the way first – make sure you eat healthily, get enough exercise ( at least three 30 minute blocks a week), and have enough quality sleep. These are the foundations for so much of what people want and need to do, like becoming more productive.
If you aren’t hitting these three then you can still try the 7 steps below. They might even work for you, but never as well as they would if you were well nourished, active, and rested.
1. The first hour sets your day – How you spend your first hour, after waking or at work? If at home it’s a stressful race against the clock, or self-recrimination about unfinished tasks, that’s launching your day in a particular direction. If at work it’s spent looking at emails and reacting to them then that’s setting the tone for your day too. If you start your day playing catch up from yesterday, or being reactive, you’re hamstringing your ability to be more productive.
2. Understand your strengths and habits – Another reason not to start the morning catching up or reacting is because for most people it’s their peak concentration time. Use it to make inroads into long-term tasks and difficult problems. Be aware of your own peak times and as far as possible plan your day around them. Be aware as well of your habits. Are you spending a couple of minutes on social media or the web after completing a task? Time yourself honestly, and make an honest count of how often you do it as well. You might be surprised about how long in total you spend on “a couple of minutes here and there”.
3. E-mail and social media notifications are kryptonite to becoming more productive – This means that you have to turn off notifications, not just on your work phone/tablet/laptop but on your personal one as well when you’re at work. As well as increasing your productivity this will also increase the accuracy and quality of what you’re doing. As well as turning off notifications get into the habit of checking your emails twice a day. If this makes you nervous about missing something important then put that message in an automatic response, and ask people to call you if it really is urgent.
4. Learn to say no – If you don’t value your time then you can’t expect other people to. The same applies if you put other peoples’ tasks and deadlines before your own. This might seem selfish, and lots of us like to please people and be liked. However, if you allow yourself to be more productive then you’ll actually have more time to help other people, and not be anxious or begrudging while you do it. And while saying “no” is still awkward practice being out of contact – not checking emails and taking yourself somewhere you can focus and make progress.
5. Stop multi-tasking – I’ve a suspicion what some of you might be thinking here and I’m afraid you’re wrong. Multi-tasking isn’t more productive – it’s cognitively expensive, and takes up a lot of unnecessary brain activity. This is more tiring than concentrating on one task at a time. Tiredness plus the greater opportunities for mistakes in multi-tasking means less work completed, and more of it done wrong. Getting less done, and having to do more of it again, are the very opposite of being more productive.
6. Be consistent – Having identified when you’re at your mental peak and built your routine around it, then stick with it. Having started looking at your emails only twice a day, stick with it. Having stopped multi-tasking then stick with it. Often when we want to be more productive it’s because of pressure to achieve at work or at home. These aren’t quick wins to get past an immediate problem. They’re long term steps to stopping that pressure building in the first place.
7. Be organized – Mess and disorganisation don’t just make finding work and information more time consuming. They are also mentally distracting while we’re sat amongst them. Stop telling yourself that normally you can find anything in those stacks of papers or folders stuffed in drawers. The same goes for your digital storage too – and if you’re telling yourself you haven’t got time to get organised then have you rally got the time to waste looking for things over and over again?
Now you’ve got the skills to be more productive why not check out 7 ways to be more motivated?
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