When you’re growing your business and have a seemingly insurmountable to-do list, continually improving your productivity is a sure-fire way to achieve your goals more quickly.
But productivity isn’t simply about ticking more tasks off your to-do list. It’s about maximising your energy and focus and working smarter so that you can achieve more at work without compromising your work-life balance.
Read on to learn seven practical ways to improve your productivity.
Your most important tasks might have lots of different stages to remember. Figuring out what comes next can cost precious time and disrupt your concentration. Instead, break it down into small steps – as small as possible so that nothing is assumed – and write each one on your to-do list.
This is called the “Get Things Done” method, invented by David Allen in the early 2000s. It helps if you have some software or a written checklist of all the stages that a project or piece of work needs to go through to be completed. This means you can get started on the next small chunk of work straight away, and then the next.
Technology is carefully designed to demand your attention at every possible opportunity. According to research shared by the University of Texas, just having your smartphone in the room with you, even if it’s on silent, reduces your cognitive ability. In the study, participants who left their phone in a different room outperformed those who had their phone in their pocket or on the desk next to them as they performed tasks that required a high level of concentration.
So, if you want to improve your productivity and your performance at work, start by leaving your phone in another room. Then, keep your emails closed except at specific times of the day when you need to check them.
By removing anything that can divert your attention, you’ll find it much easier to focus and your to-do list will feel much more manageable.
Being productive at work isn’t just about your time management. What you do in your spare time can affect your concentration and energy levels for better or for worse.
Make sure you’re looking after yourself by exercising frequently, eating healthily, and getting enough sleep. Resting isn’t optional, it’s an essential part of life without which you are much less likely to be able to remain focused and effective when you arrive at work in the morning.
Everyone has certain times of the day when they feel more focused and energised. This is sometimes known as being in a state of “flow”. By identifying when you feel most focused, you can start to plan your day around it. Block out time for tasks that require high concentration when you know you’ll be able to focus.
It helps to assign time on your calendar for this so that your teammates don’t schedule in calls when you want to be working. When you can work with your energy levels rather than against them, you’ll find yourself able to complete more tasks with less resistance.
While it’s tempting to stay glued to your laptop when you have a long to-do list, taking breaks has been proven to improve productivity. So, make sure you schedule in short breaks to refresh yourself.
Use these breaks to remove yourself from your work so that when you return, you can continue feeling refreshed and energised. A few ways to do this are:
The most important thing is to make sure you take regular breaks, even if they are very short. This will help you to avoid becoming too tired or stressed through the day as well as improving your energy levels. When done consistently over time, this can help you to be more productive.
It might sound counterintuitive, but studies have shown that if you end your working day in the middle of a task – or even in the middle of a sentence – it can be much easier to get your momentum back the next day. It’s a trick that has been employed by some of the greatest writers in history, including Ernest Hemingway and Roald Dahl, to help them to hit the ground running when they continued writing the next morning.
Give it a try and see if it helps you power up more quickly tomorrow.
Momentum is a key element of productivity, but sometimes getting started is the most important part. One technique that could prove useful is to tick off some smaller tasks first thing in the morning.
By completing some easy wins and crossing them off your to-do list, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment early on and should be more motivated to keep going. This technique has the added bonus of allowing you to clear the rest of your day to focus on those bigger tasks that require deep focus.
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