As life gets busier, making the most of the time you have becomes more and more important. Here are our 9 top tips to supercharge your productivity
1. Start where you are
Starting a difficult task can be tough, especially if it’s something you’ve never done before. It’s tempting to put it off until everything is perfect, you’ve done all the research, and have all the resources in place. The longer we wait for things to be just so, the longer we put off getting started. But, getting started really is the hardest part. Once you’ve written that first sentence or made the first phone call, everything will get easier. Don’t fixate on being perfect or racing to the end, start where you are. You can always go back and refine and reassess as you go along. Just start.
2. Take breaks
It might sound counter-productive but it’s impossible to work productively without a break. Set yourself a goal, whether it’s one hour or two, and then at the end of that work time take a walk, get a glass of water, or do something else that will take you away from your desk for five minutes. Don’t ignore longer breaks either; take advantage of your lunch break to get some fresh air, chat with colleagues or read a book, and be sure to schedule regular vacations where you can let go and unwind before returning to work refreshed.
3. Tackle the tough stuff first
We’re all guilty of putting off those jobs that we really don’t want to do or know will be tough. Keeping them on your to-do list and enduring that nagging feeling that you really need to get them done can kill your productivity. Our advice? Force yourself to do the hardest tasks first. Not only will they finally be off your list, you’ll feel a lasting sense of satisfaction that’ll make every other task feel like a breeze.
4. Block distractions
Let’s face it; it’s easy to get distracted. Whether it’s spending five minutes on Twitter, taking a quick glance at our friends’ WhatsApp group, or taking part in the office water-cooler gossip, there are many reasons why we might get distracted and lose productivity. Try to minimize potential distractions as much as possible. Leave you phone in your bag, download apps that monitor or block certain sites, and take advantage of private offices (or noise-cancelling headphones) to give yourself the best chance of avoiding temptation.
5. Know your rhythms
The world is split into morning people and night people. The same is true when it comes to work, you might be most productive first-thing in the morning but struggle after lunch, or you might find that you get a rush of energy towards the end of the day. Make sure that you learn your own work rhythms and make the most of them. Of course, you might not have the flexibility to determine your own hours, but if you know that you have an important project that will be a struggle to finish during your afternoon slump, make sure you reserve your most productive hours to tackle it.
6. Have a to-do list – and an agenda!
It’s easy to veer off track when you don’t have a plan in place. Always start with a to-do list. That way, you have a clear overview of the tasks you need to complete, it’ll be easy to prioritize them, and you’ll feel a surge of satisfaction every time you cross something off your list, which’ll help you be more productive. The same is true with meetings, one of the biggest productivity drains in the workplace. Only commit to meetings that have a clear outcome and make sure you have a fixed agenda, that way you’ll avoid having the same conversation over, and over, and over again!
7. Keep everything in one place
One of the biggest productivity blockers is the time it takes to find important information. Whether it’s an article, a tweet, blog post, image, or report, finding great content quickly can be tough. And then you have to re-find it. Did you save it to your iPhone Notes app, in your browser bookmarks, or as a photo? Using a site like Wakelet helps you save everything in one place. You can add anything from articles, photos, and social media posts to PDFs and documents from your Google Drive. Organize your content into stunning collections, add notes for context, and then keep those collections private or share them with anyone you like.
8. Don’t be afraid to say no
Your time is precious, and your productive time even more so. Resist the temptation to say yes to everything. Map out your goals and objectives, and if a task doesn’t meet those objectives, don’t agree to it. Assess every invitation in the same way. If you’re not going to enjoy it, get to spend time with people you like, or gain a worthwhile skill or contact, why are you even considering wasting time on it? Guard your time carefully and never be afraid to say no.
9. Be health conscious
It’s impossible to be productive when you’re exhausted and fuelled by a mix of coffee, sugar and adrenalin. Prioritize your health and your work will improve too. Make sure you get enough sleep (7-8 hours ideally), eat breakfast and a well-balanced meal at lunchtime, and make time for regular exercise. When things get especially stressful, make sure you set aside time to get some fresh air, take a walk, or even try ten minutes of mindfulness meditation.