Yes. You. There are all sorts of productivity tools and methods out there but they share a key feature at their heart. You. When it comes down to it, the only way you can become more productive is by changing the way you think about and act toward, the things you want to achieve. So, at the start of a new year, here are ten tips that should help to start you on your way to greater productivity.
Review your activity regularly.
Can you streamline the task you are doing? Can you do the task differently, or put the steps in a different order so that you can be more efficient with your time? Can you automate any steps? Can any of the routine tasks, or parts of tasks, be outsourced to save you time?
By regularly evaluating what you are doing, and how you are doing it, and making small changes, you can improve productivity a little bit at a time.
Baby steps are better than no steps at all
A little bit at a time is a great way to tackle anything. Baby steps can build into quite a journey if you just keep going. This is particularly valuable if the task is large or one that you are not looking forward to. Breaking a larger task down into smaller chunks and taking steps to complete each small chunk, one by one, gives a sense of achievement. Also, if you have lots of small things on your list and you get through several of them, you do feel productive. Feeling productive will encourage you to be productive.
Just get started on something. If you are really stuck, just start on the thing that you know you can do well that day. Even if that thing is tidying up the office. Oddly, I have been known to have my best ideas when I’ve stopped trying to force them and just had a tidy up. Some new idea will be triggered, you will get your motivation back, and you will be off again.
“If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right.” – Henry Ford
Motivation and having a positive mindset are key parts of productivity. Believing that what you are about to tackle is not only possible but that you will smash it, is critical. It is hugely helpful to surround yourself with positive people who motivate, challenge and support you. When you are struggling (and no one can be super positive all the time) having people there who are supportive and positive can be hugely beneficial in getting you back on track and allowing you to believe that you can do the task you have set out to achieve.
If you find yourself feeling negative toward your task then it’s time to put that task away and work on something that you do feel positive about. Go back to the difficult task on another day when you are feeling more positive about the work and you will probably find that it moves forward more quickly.
Say No more often.
That might seem odd, but it works. There are only so many hours in the day and you can’t do everything. If the task must be done but you don’t have time, then delegate it. If the task is not important enough to actually delegate, consider whether you should just say No. If you concentrate only on the tasks that will move you toward your goal, and say no to the things that will not contribute to the goal or will move you further from it, you can become more productive.
Consider tasks in the light of your goals each time and take on those that you really feel have value. Reject or delegate tasks that will affect your work life balance because getting that right is also a key part of productivity.
Get some sleep, have some downtime
You can’t be productive if you are exhausted, stressed by all the calls on your time, starting to hate your job or business because you are spending too much time in it, and have lost sight of why you are doing what you do. Motivation will hit rock bottom if you are tired and if you do nothing all day and all night other than work.
You will be more productive if you switch off for a while each day. Whether you exercise, veg out in front of the television, pursue a hobby, read or meditate, whatever works for you. But do something different. You will get a perspective on your tasks and be more productive as a result.
If you don’t have an externally provided deadline, then create one. Whether you are the sort of person who leaves the work to just before the deadline, or one who takes pride in submitting work well in advance of the deadline, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to set deadlines so that you have to complete work by a particular time or date. If you don’t, the work just expands to fill the available time and you end up doing busy work that doesn’t contribute to the outcome.
Organise your day into chunks, fit tasks into time slots, and stick to those. It really does help to make you more productive.
Focus, Focus, Focus
Don’t multi-task. Please. Just don’t. Most people don’t benefit from it and there is scientific evidence to suggest that it actually reduces productivity. It is much more productive to really focus on one thing at a time.
One way to do this is the Pomodoro Technique, which has you completely focus on a task for a set time, usually 25 minutes, and then take a five minute break. Do four of these task focus sessions, with the 5 minute break between, and then have a longer break of 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse and repeat.
Keep your To Do List short
There are few things more stressful than a massive To Do list. You will spend much of the day panicking about how much you still have left to do on the list. This panic will affect your productivity because in the back of your mind you are always thinking of the next task and this affects your focus.
It is better to be realistic, have only three or four main tasks on your list and get those done. You can also add a few small tasks that need very little focus and can slot those in between the larger tasks. This can be helpful in giving your mind a bit of a rest before you tackle the next larger task. Things like answering Emails, making routine calls and setting up appointments would all count as smaller tasks.
By keeping your list realistic you can focus fully on each task on your list and you will complete them successfully because of this.
Notice what wastes your time
And take steps to corral those things into a set timescale so that they cannot take over your day. For me, it is Social Media. I have three set times each day when I look at it. I’ve banned myself from looking at it at any other time because otherwise I’d be reading interesting articles and adding new and exciting ideas to my “Investigate This Further” list for rather longer than planned.
Disorganisation and mess are the enemies of productivity
I’m not advocating a sterile, clear desk that contains only a beautiful mug, a flower and one, beautifully clean, laptop. I am not sure I’ve ever owned a desk that had a flower on it, and most of my mugs are well loved and not a candidate for one of those fancy flat lay photos that seem to suggest we all work on clear desks, in really large, light rooms, and make fancy patterns on our coffee every time we go to the kitchen for a brew.
If you saw my desk you would know it was a place of work. However, I know where everything is. The things I need to lay my hands on quickly are right where I need them. My filing system yields up its information quickly and effectively. I seldom need to spend much time looking for things.
You can be so much more productive in an organised environment. If you are surrounded by an environment which you feel is not organised then you will feel less organised. You will be distracted by the need to put something away, move something out of the way, or search for something that you were sure you had last week.
It can be useful to set aside time to tidy the desk or workspace on a Friday before you leave work. When you get to your desk on Monday you have a tidy and organised environment which will set the tone for a productive and effective week.
Task delegation was mentioned earlier in the article and it really can make a difference to productivity as it is the best way to free up more time for you, more time for you to concentrate on your business and more time to achieve your goals. If you are struggling with your productivity and your admin is taking over your life, then let’s have a chat.
I can take your admin tasks and make them run smoothly, so you don’t feel you want to run away from them. Leaving you free to be really productive in the areas that will most benefit your business. Still not sure? Why not see the difference my support has made to other businesses here.