When it comes to productivity, it doesn’t matter what you do or where you work. We always want to be more productive and get more out of a day than we do. Because let’s be honest: that accomplished feeling after a productive day feels really nice.
What productivity means
You can define productivity as reaching the result you want with the most efficient use of time and effort.
Productivity is definitely not the same as motivation. Motivation comes and goes and can be quite unpredictable. One day you’re ready to take over the world and the next you’re just not feeling it. At all. The spark slipped through your fingers and you can’t seem to get it back.
This doesn’t mean you can’t be productive when your motivation is low. You can but do yourself a favour and create your ideal ‘productivity environment’ to make being productive as easy as possible, also when you’re not feeling motivated.
Know when you’re most productive
It all starts with knowing when you are most productive. Are you a morning person or do you get your energy boosts later during the day?
I’m most productive in the mornings so I come in early and try to plan most calls and meetings in the afternoon, so I can spend the mornings focusing.
Eat the frog first
Finish difficult tasks or the those that you are dreading most in the morning when your mind is still fresh. You’ll feel pride of yourself for getting it out of the way and you’ve already accomplished something great early during the day!
Schedule ‘get organised time’
I like to come into the office a bit earlier than most of my colleagues do, so I have around 30 minutes of peace and quiet to get my day started and I religiously block that time in my calendar. I have a coffee, read the newspaper and yes, I do spend some time on my e-mails. I know this is considered a productivity sin, but it helps me to get ready for the day when the e-mail clutter is out of the way. But: I do time myself and never spend longer than 15 minutes on it in the morning.
Set yourself up for success
I like to write down my to dos for the next day the night before I leave the office. That way I empty my mind when I go home and I can get started straight away the next morning, without losing time trying to think about what needs to happen.
Shorten your to-do list
Related to my previous point, your to do list shouldn’t be two pages long. Less is more. Do you really need to complete the 20 items on your list? When you take off the clutter, you can focus on what matters and adds value.
Set self-imposed deadlines
When you don’t have a time by which you need to finish something, set a deadline yourself and stick to it. I like to use the Pomodoro technique to push myself to get things done, especially bigger projects. I use the Tide app on my iPhone to time the pomodoros and breaks. Take a look at my other favourite productivity apps here.
Take breaks regularly
When I am pomodoro’ing I’m told when to take a break but when I’m not, it gets harder to step away from the laptop and focus on something completely different for a while. But your brain needs to recharge during the day so breaks are very important to keep your productivity level high. Go outside for a walk, grab lunch or a cold water or meditate, whatever works for you. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to get back at it.
Turn off distractions
Either turn off your phone or use the Do Not Disturb functionality and set your Skype status (if using) to Do Not Disturb too. You’ll notice how nice it is to be able to focus on something for a significant amount of time and how much quicker you’ll finish.
You might think that you get more done by multitasking, but the opposite is true. Multitasking can actually destroy up to 40% of your productivity because of the constant switching of tasks. It’s so much more efficient to just focus on one task at a time.
Reduce the number of meetings
Meetings are one of the biggest productivity killers. Can you reach the same result with an e-mail or phone call? Then go for it. And does the meeting need to happen, but do you really need to be there?
Group routine tasks together
If you have to make a couple of phone calls, do your expenses or send invoices, it goes quicker when you group these tasks together and get them out of the way one after the other. This way, these (usually annoying) tasks don’t take your mind of the things that really matter.
Follow the 2-minute rule
You’ve probably heard about this one, which comes from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. If something only takes two minutes or less to get it done, then do it straight away. You can apply this to anything, from making a phone call to answering an e-mail or taking your laundry out of the machine. It works! It helps to cut through the clutter and you feel like you’ve accomplished something.
What do you do to keep yourself productive?