Productivity is a strange beast. But with a little “know how,” it’s easy enough to tame.
We’re each allotted the same 24 hours each day. And yet, some of us make better use of those hours than others. By becoming a master of productivity, you can use your hours more efficiently, allowing you to do more while working less.
Here are ten key tips to get you started.
1. Set Goals
Great productivity starts with a great plan. Sometimes we feel like we’re being productive in our daily lives – we’ve completed many varied tasks throughout the day relatively quickly – but when we look back on our activities, we realize (too late) that we didn’t accomplish what actually needed to be done.
It may sound harsh, but no person, no matter how successful they may seem, can unlock their full potential without goal setting.
Start with an overall “big picture” goal – a large life goal that you’re striving to achieve – and then work backwards. Each day, take small steps toward your overall goal. These small steps are what you put on your “To-Do” list for the day. If your “big picture” goal is to create a large Internet following, some of your smaller goals may include reaching out on social media or creating a weekly newsletter.
Proper goal setting creates a snowball effect – little things become big things once you get rolling.
2. Eat and Sleep
How many times have you delayed eating or sleeping to work “just a little longer?” And how many times has “just a little longer” become an hour (or several hours) later?
Your body, including your brain, needs fuel to function properly. Food is that fuel. In other words, if you don’t eat, your body – and your mind! – start to cease functioning. And then how productive do you think you’ll be? If you guessed “not very,” give yourself a gold star.
Much like eating, sleep is also a basic human need, tossed briskly aside when we feel we have “more important” things to do and not enough time. Trust me on this one: you do have enough time. It’s all about prioritizing.
A lack of sleep often results in a lack of quality. Other people may be able to forgo sleep and achieve a larger quantity of output. However, I can almost guarantee that what they produce won’t be as good as something coming from someone well-rested. And, when it comes to pulling in higher rates, quality trumps quantity every time.
Social media is an essential part of modern day marketing. Unfortunately, it can also be a major time suck.
By automating your process as much as possible, you can gain back several hours of your time. I’m a big Twitter user and have had remarkable fortune using Tweet Adder to help grow my following without any additional manual labor from me. Furthermore, social media management systems such as Hootsuite are a godsend. By gaining the ability to blast out a message to all of your accounts at the same time, you no longer have to waste precious moments logging into individual outlets.
By using a scheduler, you can send out your message at the exact time you want it to be read, without having to keep crazy hours.
4. Take Breaks
I know. First I told you to eat, then I told you to sleep, and now I’m telling you to take breaks…It doesn’t sound like you’re being very productive, huh?
As strange as it seems, taking the occasional break throughout the day is essential to productivity. Your brain, and your body, get worn out (even if what you’re doing isn’t labor intensive). Imagine picking up a barbell and lifting it for three hours straight. It sounds ridiculous, right? Well, that’s more-or-less the kind of workout you’re giving your eyes when you stare at your computer screen for that long.
Get up out of your chair. Get away from your computer. Rest.
You can try to arrange your meal times to coincide with your break times. Me? I like taking a nice twenty minute nap.
5. Be Realistic
When people get overwhelmed, they procrastinate. And people get overwhelmed because they’ve set unrealistic goals for themselves.
As the idiom goes: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t expect to lose a pound of weight a day, or gain 100 new followers in the next hour. Be realistic.
Start small. When you first set goals for yourself, try following the “Rule of Four.” Assign yourself four tasks that you must complete and then focus on nothing else until they’re finished. Anything you do after those four is gravy.
6. Don’t Multitask
Studies have shown that multitaking actually reduces productivity by up to 40 percent. For optimal productivity, focus on one task at a time. Ideally, you shouldn’t even think about your other tasks until you’ve finished the one at hand.
Focus on quality, always. If you have to choose between doing two things extremely well or four things mediocre, do the two things.
7. Embrace the Future
We stick with our old familiar things because they’re comfortable. But would you ever go back to using pay phones instead of your cell phone? Or how about using a dot matrix printer, floppy discs, and a dial-up Internet connection?
Upgrade your tech. It might feel strange at first, but after the initial shock you’ll find yourself more productive than ever.
Every minute counts. Why would you waste any of that time wrestling with an ancient OS or struggling with outdated hardware?
8. Socialize…Just a Little
The longer you stay inside your own mind, the more your mind will start to betray you. From mild boredom and loneliness to crippling anxieties, isolation can really mess you up.
Make it a point to reach out to someone at some point in your day. But remember to be firm with your boundaries. Let the other person know that this is a “quick” hello and that you have to get back to work (but you’ll dedicate yourself to them fully sometime in the near future on one of your days off!).
Obtaining a work/life balance may seem impossible at first, but once you successfully increase your productivity during your work days, you’ll find yourself with more time off in the long run. Be patient.
9. Don’t Panic
Setting goals and making plans is great. However, life is funny, and there will often be times when you’re thrown for an unexpected loop and your “To-Do” list will be torn apart.
The first step is to remain calm. No matter what just happened to ruin your day: take a breath. Panicking will only make things worse. The more quickly you can calm down, assess the situation, and move on; the better.
And, if you absolutely can’t recover the lost time, don’t be too hard on yourself. Life happens. Dust yourself off and start again tomorrow.
Getting started is the hardest part. Everything that comes after gets progressively easier.
The best part? You can get started at any time. You don’t have to wait until the start of next week, you don’t have to wait until Spring, and you don’t have to wait until you run out of excuses (because that will never happen). Increasing your productivity can – and should! – start right now.
So what are you waiting for?