Ever wondered why some people get a huge amount done each day with seemingly little effort while others spend their time struggling to overcome a lack of motivation, constant distractions, and brain fog? If so, we’ve got good news for you, because maximising your productivity may be a lot easier than you think.
The following tips will teach you how to manage your time better, how to prioritise work effectively, and most importantly; will get you a little closer to reaching your goals, whatever they may be.
Table of Contents
1. Track Your Time
The first thing you need to do is find out exactly where all those hours and minutes actually go each day because you might find that you spend a whole lot less time being productive than you think you do.
Tracking your time will not only highlight bad habits and inefficiencies, it will encourage you to stay focused on one task at a time, which a 2009 Stanford University study found to be a far more effective means of increasing productivity than multi-tasking. Even just the simple act of monitoring your daily behaviours will lead to improvements; after all, it will be much more difficult to justify wasting hours doing nothing hen you know it is being monitored.
While there are plenty of easy ways to track your time to improve time management–from using a pen and paper to spreadsheets and apps–none are simpler and easier to use than free time tracking software, such as Toggl, or My Hours.
2. Ditch Your Distractions
Distractions can be absolutely crippling to your productivity levels; so, whether you’re being distracted by your phone, emails, co-workers or the latest sports news, do something about it. Knowing how to stop distractions is one of the best changes you can make to your routine and both you, and your employers will be able to notice the sudden increase in productivity.
Turn off your phone, shut off the message notifications on your computer, and if you need coffee, water, snacks or music, get it before you settle in so that you aren’t tempted to stop again straight away. Train your friends, family and partner to contact you during breaks (as opposed to all throughout the day); if noise is an issue consider investing in earplugs or headphones.
If most of your distractions come in the form of other people, try starting your day a little earlier if possible, because you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done during those blissfully quiet early mornings.
3. Upgrade Your Tools
Whether you’re working in an office, freelancing from home or studying for final exams in your local library; to have any chance to be productive you’ll need to have a decent set of tools to work with.
Start by making sure that your workspace is as ergonomic as possible, which may mean investing in a better chair, mouse and keyboard or perhaps even just adjusting your current setup to suit your body better. If your work area is overrun with clutter, a set of drawers, shelves or cabinets may be all you need to reclaim the space, while there is no shortage of productivity apps available to keep you on track and organised, such as SelfControl.
If you don’t have the tools you need and can’t afford to buy them, try borrowing from friends, utilise your local library, or download free trial versions of the software you need
4. Don’t Skimp on Breaks
Just like the rest of your body, your brain requires regular breaks in order to perform at its best; in fact, a recent study in the journal Cognition found that switching your attention for even just a few seconds every 20 minutes can be enough to refresh your mind and reset your focus.
One of the most popular time management philosophies aimed at boosting work performance is known as the Pomodoro Technique which is focused on the idea that working for 25 minutes (a unit called a Pomodoro) uninterrupted followed by taking a 5 minute break is the most effective way to manage time better. After completing 100 minutes of work (or 4 Pomodoros) a 15-20 minute break is recommended.
Not surprisingly, what you do on those breaks also makes a difference; for example, using your breaks to stand, stretch and relax your eyes will do far more to re-energise your body than remaining seated with eyes glued to a screen.
5. Set Clear Goals
Without a concrete idea of what you hope to achieve each day, those minutes and hours can fly by without much to show for your efforts; however, even a simple list of goals can provide the framework you need to thrive.
Setting goals makes it easier to prioritise your work, focus your efforts and create clear targets for the day, not to mention establishes a guideline with which to hold yourself accountable and celebrate your achievements. Just be careful not to be overly ambitious with your goals as this can cause unnecessary stress; rather, aim to set SMART goals, those that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
Ending each day by planning your goals for the next will make it easier to hit the ground running the following morning. Better yet, spend a few minutes picturing yourself reaching those goals, as mental imagery is linked with a wide range of powerful cognitive processes, including attention, planning, memory and perception.
6. Fuel Your Body Properly
The human body is a truly amazing thing; however, without the right fuel, it will struggle to perform anywhere near its best. This makes your diet one of the most important factors affecting productivity.
Eating a well-balanced diet can help to reduce stress, improve sleep, boost cognitive activity, increase energy levels and even sharpen your memory. Drinking plenty of water can benefit everything from your vision and focus, to your stamina. Poor nutrition has been linked to stress, insomnia and a lack of energy so make sure you give your body what it needs to get through those gruelling hours of the day at work or even when studying.
For best results, avoid eating highly processed foods; prioritise those that are rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, and omega 3 fatty acids and be sure to drink at least two litres of water each day.
If all this talk about productivity has you itching to attack your to-do list, there is no better time to start than now. Just think of all the things you could achieve if you were operating a little closer to your full potential!