On average, we work well over 400 hours of overtime per year, so it’s no wonder we never seem to have enough free time. Being productive can help us get more done in less time, so we can do more of what we enjoy. So let’s discuss the secrets to being productive?
It’s about being efficient…
Being productive means getting the most out of what you put in. It’s about using resources like time wisely, not necessarily ‘having more time’. It’s about using the time you already have better so you can get more out of it.
If you’re productive…
- You prioritize – You know what needs attention and what can wait
- You manage your time well – Cue less stress from looming deadlines
- You waste less time – You stay on track and finish tasks quicker
Sounds good, right? So why aren’t we all super productive all of the time? Well productivity has a major enemy… Distractions!
Productivity relies on focus. Sounds relatively simple, but our brain has other ideas; Admin? No thanks. Social Media? Now you’re talking. Distractions are everywhere, sapping our valuable time and killing productivity, so how do we get rid of them? We have to Find the Fix; in order to fully get rid of distractions, we need to know what exactly they are first, and how to fix them.
- Mobile Phones – Disable notifications when you need to get your head down.
- Email – Set aside time to check emails and leave them alone outside of that.
- Clutter – Keep your workspace tidy so your brain can’t fixate on anything else.
Ask yourself; do distractions find you, or do you find them?
Another productivity killer is procrastination, where we look for distractions to put off doing something else.
Do you procrastinate? When you’ve got some important work due in a few days, but you’re really not in the mood to do it, what do you do? Plan what to do when you eventually make a start? Find anything else to do instead? Or just get on with it?
It’s not going to start itself, so get on with it!
Procrastination is the opposite of productivity, and if you find yourself occasionally thinking “I’ll just finish off some other things first”, or “I’ll come back to this tomorrow”, you’re procrastinating. Reducing how much you procrastinate is the key to being more productive.
To reduce how much we procrastinate, we need to know why we’re doing it. Are you afraid of doing something wrong, or don’t even know where to start? Let’s look at common reasons why we procrastinate, and how you can tackle them.
Don’t know what to do – Ask for help; it’s easy to get lost researching, and spend more time than you have looking for the right answer, but asking someone who has done the task before can save you a lot of work. Why reinvent the wheel if you don’t need to.
Don’t know how to do it – Break it down; that overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to start can be offputting, so make a to-do list of each individual task, then separate them by urgency. This way, you’ll have a prioritised list and won’t have to worry about what to do next.
Don’t want to do it – Try the 2 Minute Rule; we often put off tasks because we dont want to do them, not because we cant, so if a task will only take you two minutes, do it now. Even if you cant finish it in that time, you can still make progress. Make use of deadlines too; dull tasks are never enjoyable, but an effective motivator can be the feeling of running out of time, and it might also help to reward yourself once that task has been done.
If you’re a procrastinator, use it to your advantage; If you’re going to do a task anyway, you might as well spend wasted time more wisely. There’s bound to be smaller things you can cross of your to-do list while you put off that larger task!
But there’s only so many hours in a day, so be aware of what’s distracting you, but don’t waste all your time figuring that out. Work smarter, not harder, and make use of your time by working to your strengths.
You’re not a machine.
Over long periods of time your concentration decreases. Mistakes happen more often, and work quality usually takes a hit. The Pomodoro Technique can help here. The idea is you work in interruption free bursts, immersing yourself completely in a task for 25 minutes, and then take a short break after it. Taking regular breaks gives your brain a chance to rest, so you’ll be more productive for the next 25 minute stint.