Are you struggling to complete your to-do list?
Learning how to be more productive doesn’t mean a massive change to your work life. You can do more by cutting out the distractions and making little changes to how you behave.
Whether you’re looking to get more done in your daily routine at home, or become a more efficient employee or manager at work, you don’t need to make drastic changes to see lasting results.
Most of the time, the smallest things make the biggest impact on your life.
Follow this guide to be more productive.
Step #1 – Create A To-Do List
Write at least 3 things you need to complete during the day.
By putting your goals on paper you’ll be able to track them, and begin to get a feel for what’s required to achieve them.
Your willpower is like a battery – you only have a limited supply of willpower each day. So you must refresh your willpower every morning.
For the corporate wellbeing experts at Wellbeing Health Retreats, the hardest task should be tackled in the morning. “Completing the most difficult task in the first-thing before your will-power runs out is very liberating. You’ll be more productive after this because you won’t feel as much pressure afterwards.”
Action Step: To create a to-do list that you stick to, write the most important or difficult task first. The discipline to accomplish the tasks that bring the most value can be life-changing. And even if you find your motivation drops throughout the day, you’ll already have completed the big picture tasks.
#2 – Minimise Distractions
Distractions make it impossible to get anything done.
For example, if you can’t stop checking your phone or you have someone coming into the office every couple of minutes, you won’t be able to complete your to-do list.
Putting your phone on do not disturb or simply putting it in another room is the best solution for this. But to successfully overcome distractions takes more than a silent phone.
You could also place a sign on your door so that people will leave you alone. Twenty minutes of undisturbed work is more productive than forty minutes of work where you didn’t have any time to concentrate.
The quality of work is more important than the quantity. Get into the flow of things and you can easily complete a lot more work.
Action Step: While distractions may seem like an external influencer, you are still in control. If you find yourself distracted by your phone, or social media, or any other external influence, don’t fight it. Rather than try and go ‘cold turkey’, allow yourself small rewards of controlled distraction after completing a certain amount of work.
#3 – Organise Your Space
You can work easily when the desk space is clear.
When your desk space is cluttered, your brain will feel foggy and overwhelmed. Clear off your desk in the morning so that you have a clear mind during the rest of the day.
If you work from home, you can amend this tip by finding new working spaces. As mentioned in the previous point, distractions can kill productivity. So instead of working from home, prepare as if you were heading into the office and find a quiet cafe or library. With less distractions at arm’s length you’ll also have a clean and organised space ready made for you.
This will let you work more productively during the day.
Action Step: Use your space to inspire you. This means reducing clutter, taking advantage of storage, and adding things that inspire you. This could be a motivational poster, or a picture of your favourite holiday destination as a reward for when you kick all your productivity goals.
Step #4 – Set Deadlines (Parkinson’s Law)
Parkinson’s law states that ‘work expands to fill up the time allocated for its completion’.
For example, imagine you are a student and your teacher gives you a large essay to be completed in two weeks.
The first couple of days, you will be highly motivated to work on the project and finish it as soon as possible. But time gets away from you because things will keep coming up.
Before you realise it, you find there are only two days left to complete your essay. You will likely end up cramming all the work into these two days to complete the paper before the deadline. And that’s not going to help your productivity at all.
That’s why you need to impose deadlines to finish a project in half the normal time.
Self-imposed deadlines will help you deal with any project without postponing it. For example, if you’re looking to renovate your kitchen, set a finish date and map out the steps to get there. Otherwise you’ll end up living in a permanent construction zone with no finish line in sight!
Action Step: Divide up your new to-do list and assign set periods of time to complete each task. Then cut those times in half. This will set challenging goals and help you avoid filling out your allotted time to complete tasks that could be completed quicker.
#5 – Take Care Of Yourself
Your health will directly affect your productivity.
That’s why you need to take care of your body. Working out is very important in this regard.
Focus on getting a few exercises at least 3-4 days a week. Make sure you are aware of what you eat and drink.
A healthy snack will boost your productivity. But junk food can be harmful to the body. It will make you crash and decrease the quality of your work.
Take care of your body if you want to increase your productivity over time (this will also help you deal with any anxiety or stress).
Even take your work outside and get some much needed vitamin D. “It will boost productivity and make you feel happier and more alive”, recommends Jeanine, a life coach from Sydney.
Action Step: Poor diets have been shown to reduce productivity by 66%. Counter this by rewarding yourself with healthy snacks for staying on track. Take breaks to stretch the legs and get the blood pumping too.
#6 – Set (Realistic) Goals
Goals can push you towards your dreams and ambitions.
So set goals that are within your ability and have time constraints to them. A goal like “I will lose ten kilograms in two months” is a perfect goal because it’s realistic. The goal is measurable and you have an idea when the goal will end.
In contrast, saying “I will lose weight” isn’t defined enough. It leaves too much wiggle room for you to avoid hitting the target you meant. It is not measurable and doesn’t have a time constraint to it.
For the career coaches at Open for Life, taking stock of your goals is important. “Take your time every day to check up on your goals and see where you are in your progression. This will help motivate you and push you to accomplish more with your time to keep your eyes on the prize.”
#7 – Target Result Oriented Activities (The 80/20 Principle)
Are you a busy person?
There is a difference between being busy and being productive. Being busy means you are just doing something such as opening emails or daily chores. But being productive means you are working on something that gives you results.
You may have heard of the 80/20 Principle – which states that 20% of the work you do will produce 80% of your results.
You should know what the 20% of work you do that produces 80% of your results are, and start focusing on it.
Minimise the work that can be dropped or outsourced to someone else. You need to stop wasting your time and concentrate solely on being productive. This isn’t just for minor tasks either, with the Credit Capital personal loan experts explaining that major financial goals can benefit from the 80/20 principle. They explain “dealing with finances can feel overwhelming. But whether you’re applying for a loan or paying off a debt, you can benefit by focusing on the things that actually move you towards your goals. By using the 80/20 principle you’ll be surprised at just how many things are not moving the needle.”
Action Step: Write down your 10 most important goals. Now ask yourself, “If I could only accomplish two goals today to bring about the greatest positive benefits, which would it be?”. The 2 goals that you choose should represent the 20, in your 80/20 split.
#8 – Focus On One Thing At A Time
Amateur workers may believe that they are super multi-taskers. They try to do multiple things at a time to get more done. This will result in a lower quality of work over time.
Smart workers know that they have to focus on one thing at a time to improve the quality of work as well as their productivity. They will focus on one thing at a time from start to finish.
Many people think they get more done with multitasking. But even computers only do one thing at a time. This can lead to errors and setbacks, as the team from Mobile Fuel Rescue have seen where distracted drivers end up with the wrong fuel in their car.
Even though you may think your devices are multitasking, in reality, they will finish one task before moving onto the next task.
That is why you need to learn to do one thing at a time if you want to improve your productivity and finish your work on time.
Action Step: Did you ever wonder why TEDTalks are 18 minutes long? Studies have shown that our brains can handle 20 minutes of focus before we start to get distracted. Set a timer for 20 minutes and apply laser focus on one task. By the time your timer goes off, you’ll be surprised at just how much you’ll have done.