Everyone is always curious about how productivity can be increased with little or no pain to oneself. We can work harder or smarter, quicker or more efficiently, or… we can have more people doing the same job. Yet, what productivity really comes down to is our own ability to focus.
And the truth is, the ability to retain focus is riddled with difficulties. Primarily because the difficulties have been created by the ever increasing global phenomenon of constantly being connected and easily accessible to the distractions of the world. When are we ever not tuned in?
We have created a state of mind where we are always peering around the corner for the latest, greatest, and most interesting thing to hold our attention. If it isn’t great, it won’t hold our limited attention span for long. This causes a problem!
So the first step in productivity is to regain your focus, which we’ll discuss more tomorrow. Ignoring this for now, here are my top 10 tips that will help you jump start your productivity.
Top 10 Productivity Tips
1. Eliminate Interruptions!
Turn off the internet (if you can), close your browser tabs, check your email only at specific times, turn off your phone etc. Simply realizing that you won’t be interrupted will help put your mind at ease and ready to focus. Even put a sign on your door warning people that if they enter you’ll release a pack of hungry gremlins on them.
2. Batching. Group Like Items.
When working on multiple tasks, group every item that can be done in one sitting that are similar. Once you are focused on a single task, it is easier to retain your focus on similar items than to switch your mental gears onto something different.
3. Log Your Time Usage
Recognize where all your time has gone! When you switch tasks, record which task you are attacking and how long you spent on it.
At the end of the day, review your time usage and you’ll start to recognize that you may be spending too much time on low priority activities, succumbing to too many distractions, or not progressing as quickly as you hope. Don’t be surprised if you realize that many hours of your day are being wasted!
4. Use Timeboxing and Cut Back on Total Hours Worked
Timeboxing – Getting started can be the most difficult part! To fight this, simply coax yourself into working a solid 15 minutes and no more. 15 minutes is all you ask of yourself. And if you get to 15 minutes without distractions, you can quit! BUT, often at the end of the time, you’ll want to stick it out for more!
Cut Back on Total Hours Worked - It’s funny how deadlines work. People tend to fill all the time they have up to the deadline. If you have 5 hours to finish a task, it usually takes the full 5 hours. If you have 3 weeks… well, you get the idea.
By allowing yourself a limited time to work on a task, you create a feeling of time sensitivity and you’re concentration usually increases. Additionally, decreasing your time allowed will force you to increase your work efficiency. Once your efficiency increases, then you can gradually increase your total hours.
5. Work in a Field You Love.
This one goes without saying but is the most effective productivity tip of all. If you are passionate about your work you tend to enjoy a fast tempo. Your quality and quantity of output increases, and you find it easy to work for longer durations. Productivity is never more difficult than when productivity is forced when you are doing something you don’t enjoy.
6. Set Daily Goals
Every day, choose at least 3 goals for the day knowing that if you complete these 3, then your day will be a success.
Don’t work on anything else until these three items are completed.
7. Early Bird Gets the Worm… and Gets More Done Too
Getting your day started before most of the world awakens is a great way to knock out important tasks before the distractions begin! Remember, controlling your environment is easier than changing your behavior. Start your daily goals right away!
(I will actually attest, that for some, being a Night Owl has the same effect as well. )
Tell other people about your personal deadlines. Adding accountability to your tasks will motivate you so you don’t let yourself, and them, down.
Work on ONE project at a time. Changing focus loses time and efficiency. Studies have shown that once lost, it takes 15 minutes to reacquire your focus.
10. Optimization and Automation
Being that my background is in IT, this is my personal favorite.
Do you have tasks that are repetitive? Design templates or outlines to quickly get you started.
Can it be fully automated? Create macros that can automate the task or at least get you started (Microsoft Office products make this easy for you). (Can you program? Make something cool to simplify your life.)
Need to be creative? Create a list of fun questions that gets your juices flowing before starting.
Every time you do something more than once, pause for a moment and decide if any part of the process can be simplified, optimized, or automated!
When it comes to being productive, where are you lacking? Can you learn new skills, improve your focus, or use one of the suggestions above?
When do you find it hard to be productive? Sometimes, when you are stuck, it’s easiest to just take a break and step away from the task, and return to it later with a fresh new outlook. (If you don’t have much time, at least try and take a walk around the office or house.)
Don’t just read these suggestions, try them and see what works for you!