Everyone wants to be more productive, especially if that means we achieve better results in a faster time period. Productivity is an important skill to develop, and learning how to be productive and eliminate distractions will help you in many areas of life.
In this blog, we will discuss what productivity is, what can affect productivity, how we can improve our productivity, as well as research techniques to improve productivity.
What is productivity?
Productivity is the measure of efficiency and effectiveness with which tasks are completed. It is about making the most of your time, energy, and resources to achieve desired outcome or goals. Simply put, it’s about how much work can be done in a given period of time, such as an hour or a day.
Knowing how to maximize your productivity is important given the numerous distractions readily available to us. Social media, game installations on our phones, text messages–it can be hard to focus when we have all of these distractions in our lives. Moreover, if you work around other people, you will likely face plenty of distractions just by having others present in your area.
Different workplaces will measure productivity differently. Some jobs may be target driven, such as sales jobs. In these workplaces, productivity may be determined by looking at a sales rep’s number of sales or the amount of money they bring in.
Other workplaces may define productivity in terms of the amount of words written, customers served, food made, etc. There are so many possibilities that are dependent upon the environment in question.
What Can Cause Low Productivity?
Productivity can be influenced by various things:
Distractions can greatly impact our productivity. In this day and age, it can be really hard to avoid distractions which is why we need to make more of an effort to eliminate them. With our smart phones and smart watches buzzing all day long, co-workers talking to us all day, or family running around the house, we need to make an effort to turn off our devices, and work in a private space if that’s what is necessary.
Obviously some distractions cannot be avoided, but by making an effort beforehand to limit them, you will increase productivity.
Multi-tasking, while seemingly a positive tool in some contexts, can actually hinder your productivity. While people are capable of working on multiple tasks, this does divide your attention and concentration, which inevitably lowers the quality of each task.
Pick one task at a time. Focusing on just one task allows us to concentrate on just the task at hand. When we pick too many tasks to manage, our brains will be thinking about the 2nd task while we’re in the middle of working on the first one.
What can you do if something else pops up? Jot it down and move on to working on the first task. This is a great way to stay focused and ensure the quality of the work being done. Once you’ve completely finished your first task, then you can move on to the next task.
Tackle bigger tasks first. Then move on to the small tasks, specifically the tasks you might dread doing. Sometimes when we think about the things we have to get done, we tend to make them seem a bit harder than they really are.
Sometimes when we do something new, the task might seem much more daunting. Chances are that once you get started, you’ll realize it’s much easier than you thought and you’ll feel great to get that checked off of your to-do list.
Lack of Organization
Not being organized can result in unwanted delays. Before you get ready for a long work or study session, make sure to spend some time getting everything organized beforehand.
Write down everything that needs to be done and the steps required for each task. Part of a task might require emailing colleagues to obtain a specific document. We don’t want something like that delaying us, so be sure to make requests well in advance.
Not taking breaks
Taking breaks is super important when it comes to long productive sessions of work or study. We actually lose productivity at a certain point after working for too long. The best thing you can do to be more productive is to make sure you re-adjust when you feel yourself losing focus. Take a little break, then get back to it.
Taking regular breaks is ideal. Set a time for how long you will work intensely for, maybe 30 minutes for example. Then take a set 5 minute break every 30 minutes. Decide your own timeframe by what works for you.
Poor time management
Time management is very important when it comes to having good productivity, especially when we have goals to meet. Not only does work need to be done on time, but we can also spend too much time working on things that are already good to go. For example, we might have two essays to write. Instead of getting started on the second essay, we obsesses over making the first one even more perfect when it is already outstanding.
Some tasks don’t require as much time as we think and each task will likely have its own deadline. We need to prioritize our tasks in order to meet these deadlines which requires sitting down to decide how much time we will spend on each task when we’re pressed for time.
What can I do to improve my productivity?
Here are some tips to help improve your productivity. These tips can be a great starting place, but not everything will work for all people, so don’t be afraid to modify a technique to fit your work or personal style.
Create a Small To-Do List
Stop wasting time being stressed out about an oversized to-do list. A small to-do list can help because it is far more realistic that we will accomplish what is on it, versus an unreasonably long laundry list of tasks, in one day. We recommend keeping a master to-do list containing every action item that needs to be done and then we suggest narrowing down your to-do list to prioritize what comes first, what may be “extra” and keeping only a few must-do items each day.
Keep a master to do list with an estimated ideal timeframe next to each task. Try to prepare for your week with a view to accomplishing at least one task each day. Once you’ve finish a task, anything achieved after that feels like you’ve gone above and beyond on that day. This might not work for you and your style of work, but it’s worth some consideration.
Make sure to pick high value tasks for each day. That way you know you’re working on items that need attention. As earlier mentioned, a massive to-do list which includes, at times, unnecessary tasks, will only produce stress and a feeling that, no matter what you do, nothing gets done.
Start with the hardest task
Most people will have a “hardest task” on their list, a task that seems extra daunting to us, or that may appear to take the longest amount of time. Typically, this will be a task that you’ve never done before. The hardest tasks tend to be ones we cannot easily visualize the steps to complete. Usually we figures these ones out as we go. In the end, these tasks can tend to turn out to be the easier ones once you get a rhythm going.
Make a plan and prioritize
Decide what you are going to accomplish today, tomorrow, and the rest of the week. Take some time to decide what tasks need priority based on how long they might take, whether you may need to rely on the contribution of others and which actually have a more pressing deadline.
Make your plan and stick to it as best as you can. It’s okay if you aren’t perfect, nobody is! Simply add the tasks you couldn’t complete onto tomorrow’s list. Make sure to avoid adding too much on your to-do list, keep it reasonable, and even anticipate delays by setting aside some time for catching up on the previous days work.
In order to improve your productivity, delegating is an important skill to acquire. It can be hard to let go of tasks and entrust them to someone else, but if you have a team, they are there for a purpose and it’s essential to learn how to distribute the workload among them. Doing so not only lightens your own load, but this usually means that tasks get done faster and more accurately.
Make sure to be clear about the task instructions and expectations as well as what resources are available to complete them. This will help your team understand in clear terms what is expected of them and how they can succeed in their given roles. Once you learn how to delegate effectively, it will make a huge difference to your productivity.
Adjust your surroundings
When assessing the productivity of our work environment, it is important to consider a variety of factors. For instance, the space and atmosphere we work in can have a huge impact on how productive we are. Working at home versus at the office can drastically change the way we approach our projects and tasks. The presence or absence of noise, whether it be soothing music or a loud environment, can also affect our productivity. Furthermore, lighting, furniture arrangement and temperature all play a part in how productive we are.
We should also consider the type of tasks we’re doing – some tasks may require us to be in different environments to get the best results. Certain activities, such as creative writing, may require complete silence, while others such as problem-solving may benefit from a bit of background noise.
Start your day right
Starting your day off right is essential for maximizing productivity. The most important factor for a productive day is to get enough restful sleep the night before. Studies have shown that adults should get around seven to nine hours of sleep per night in order to be fully alert and ready to tackle the day. When you don’t get enough sleep, it is harder to stay focused and this can lead to decreased productivity.
Once you have a good night’s sleep, start the morning with a plan. This could be as simple as writing down your priorities for the day or creating a more detailed list of tasks that need to be accomplished. You should also take time in the morning to do something calming and positive, such as reading a book or meditating. This will help you stay focused and motivated for the day ahead.
Make sure to set aside time to review emails and messages. Make sure you add enough time to respond to them if necessary. This will ensure that you are on top of any important tasks that need to be done. By taking the time to do this in the morning, you can ensure that your day starts off as productive and organized as possible.
Researched techniques to improve productivity
The Pomodoro technique is a very popular time management strategy created by a university student back in the 1980’s in order to increase productivity and efficiency.
Here is how it works:
- Limit distractions
- Spend 25 minutes on a task
- Take a 5 minute break
- With every 4 sets completed, increase your break to 15-30 minutes.
According to the official Eisenhower matrix website it, “The Eisenhower Matrix, also referred to as Urgent-Important Matrix, helps you decide on and prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important tasks which you should either delegate or not do at all.”
It works by prioritizing tasks into 4 categories:
- Do First. First focus on important tasks to be done the same day.
- Not-so-urgent stuff should be scheduled in a Schedule-focused system.
- Delegate. What is urgent, but less important, delegate to others.
- Don’t Do. What’s neither urgent nor important, don’t do at all.
There are many ways to be productive and the tips we’ve provided in this blog post should help you get started. It’s important to find what works best for you and to experiment with different techniques until you find something that helps you stay on task and achieve your goals. We encourage you to try out the Pomodoro technique or the Eisenhower matrix method and see which one works better for you.