Do you feel like a lot of your time is spent just trying to get things done, rather than actually being productive? Does your to-do list keep growing while you’re still whittling away at what came first? Below, I’ll share some productivity tips to help you start working more efficiently.
Learn The Correlation Between Health and Productivity
First, before I delve into the “10 Powerful Productivity Tips”, I want to share some cool facts to help you increase your productivity even more! Did you know there is a link between your overall health behaviors and your productivity? Here are a few facts to back that up and an in-depth infographics from my friends over at www.ZeroCater.com.
- Those with poor diets will have reduced productivity by a whopping 66%!
- People who only exercise occasionally will not be nearly as productive as those who workout regularly by 50%!
- Sorry, smokers but that habit reduces your productivity by as much as 28%.
* You can check out additional factors which reduce your productivity below!
10 Powerful Productivity Tips From the Pros
1. Wake up with a specific purpose for this day.
Sure, you’re already awake today, but one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself tomorrow is to map out tomorrow’s purpose while you still have today. That’s why it’s earned its place here as #1.
Knowing what you want to get done each day may sound like common sense, but it’s tough to keep track of your daily goals when you get stuck in the distractions – and I don’t just mean checking up on Facebook, either.
Sometimes, all of the tasks you have to get done in the near future can be just as attention-stealing as the frivolous stuff in between. That’s why you need to know ahead of time which ones you’re going to commit to tomorrow.
Ask yourself: of these tasks, which of these is urgent?
Prioritizing is important, but how do you do prioritize when they ALL seem to be priorities? It’s actually pretty simple. Tackle the biggest or longest task first. You may be dreading it now, but you’ll be glad you did later.
When you continue to postpone, procrastinate, or just “try” to do a little of that big task every day instead of just doing it, more pain is caused in the long run as this one dreaded task suddenly becomes urgent.
If not that, then new obligations will continue to stack up, leaving you with a sense of overwhelm and anxiety to find time for it all that could have easily been avoided.
2. Learn to use the “Time blocking” technique.
This is another big one. So big, in fact, I wish I could make it #1.5 as one of the best on this entire list of productivity tips.
The next question you should be asking yourself is: How much time do I have to work with for my task(s)?
If you know the time frame that you have to work with, then you can start using a powerful technique called “time blocking”, recommended by Gary Keller, author of The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.
Time blocking means taking the allotted time for work in your day, and separating each task into individual “blocks” – an amount of time set aside to do just that one thing, and absolutely nothing else.
Why does time blocking work so well? Because not only do you shut out the distractions when you commit to each “block”, but you don’t multitask, either – which means you direct your energy and your full attention to one thing at a time. More on this below.
3. Multitask responsibly.
It’s easy to see why it would get you much further along on each task if you concentrated fully on one thing at a time, rather than splitting up your focus in several directions.
Why do we all continue to commit this terrible productivity sin, anyway?
Because we all have so much to do in a so little time, and the notion of being able to accomplish two or more things in the time that it takes to do one seems like it would be just what we need. By the time we learn that it never actually works out that way, we’ve already made it into a bad habit… whoops.
Hooked on multitasking? A recent study done by Stanford addresses possible neurological dangers with this habit. Yes, that’s right: As if being inefficient wasn’t enough, now multitasking may even be bad for your brain.
4. Close the door to distractions.
I’d be surprised if you haven’t already heard this one from somewhere – maybe even that little you inside of your head, nagging you to get back to the task at hand.
What you may not have already heard about before is that there are tools to help you when you’re not able to be self-accountable. (It’s okay, we all have weak moments.) RescueTime is an online application that will be your personal online productivity coach.
How? It tracks everywhere that you go online, how long you’re spending there, and adds it up for you to view at the end of the day, so that you can figure out which websites are your worst time thieves. You can even use it to temporarily block distracting websites from yourself.
It’s so much more than just a babysitter for your browsing habits, however. You can use it to set daily goals, log offline activities, and track which times in the day you are the most or least productive, so that you can learn to work more efficiently.
All of these aspects are added up like points to give you a daily “productivity score” that you can compete with yourself to beat each and every day. Better yet, all of your daily scores and charts are summarized in a weekly e-mail, so that you can keep track of your improvement. Interested? Check it out here.
5. Set up productivity rituals.
We’re all only as successful as our habits. Habits are, by definition, the things that we do repeatedly, and they can only be made by practicing them.
Someone who is physically fit clearly has different habits than someone who is overweight: they changed the habits that made them overweight with ones that would bring them closer to their goal of being fit.
Like any other habit, you can just as easily practice the habit of being successful by putting rituals into place that successful people use.
Check out some of my favorites:
- Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project advises: “Force yourself to prioritize so that you know that you will finish at least that one critical task during the period of the day when you have the most energy and the fewest distractions.”
- Famous author Ernest Hemingway describes his daily routine: “When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you, and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.”
- Brian Tracy of Brian Tracy International suggests: “Every minute spent in planning saves 10 minutes in execution. Sit down with a piece of paper and write down everything that you need to do the coming day. If for any reason you don’t do this, it should be the first thing you do every morning. When you write a list you have a track to run on.”
6. Get up earlier.
Time and time again, research has shown that how you start your day can set the tone for the rest of your day. It’s also been studied that, when it’s earlier in the day, willpower is stronger… meaning that you’re more likely to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time if you start bright and early.
According to this fascinating Business Insider article, 27 Executives Who Wake Up Really Early, it’s not uncommon for successful CEOs to begin the day well before 6 a.m. Okay, so maybe you don’t have to wake up at 3:00 am like Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne – but you can definitely see a theme here.
Not a “morning person”? Many people aren’t. Many people typically wake up groggy, sleepy, unmotivated, and with an overwhelming sense of brain fog before their cup of coffee. Part of the problem may be not enough sleep, poor quality of sleep, or a combination of both.
You can read more here about how to start getting the most from your sleep.
While we’re on the subject of coffee, your coffee intake in the morning can affect you at night too. Take a moment to read about the 7 negative side effects of drinking coffee. If you have ever wanted to quit, like I did you may be interested on how to do it.
As Laura Vanderkam says in What Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide To Making Over Your Morning—And Life, while most of us are sleeping in, successful people are already awake and getting sh*t done. If waking up early feels like a big task to you, Vanderkam advises to steps, such as use baby steps, like getting up just 15 minutes earlier from the previous day.
7. Group your interruptions.
This is an idea that restaurateur Danny Meyer recommends. He has his assistant compile all of the questions that come up during the day in one list so she doesn’t have to interrupt him with them repeatedly during office hours, zapping him out of his concentration.
This practice can be used for just about anything else. Write down all of the distractions you typically face each day – things that you do so often that they’ve become a habit. You may feel like you want to talk to a friend in the workplace.
Maybe you’d like to check on social media. If these are things that bring you joy, getting rid of them may not have to be the end-all, be-all solution.
Maybe you can just learn to treat them like a necessity that deserves it’s own time block. Yes – even distractions can get their own time blocks!
Just like if you devote all of your attention to an important task, you can be finished with a distraction much faster if you devote your undivided attention to it, and then move on.
- A conversation with your chatty coworker is easier to finish if you set their expectations: “I have to go soon, but I just wanted to say hi…” It also helps if you’re the one to initiate the conversation, rather than waiting for them to pounce on you in passing.
- Just as it works the other way around, checking your social media will go faster if you’re not trying to work at the same time. If you have multiple accounts, check one at a time, and set aside a time frame for each.
- Neil Patel, an expert on creating a successful webinar, recommends: “The best productivity tip I use in my business has to deal with emails. A lot of people spend countless hours in their inbox because they are inefficient. To save time, don’t open up your emails unless you have time to respond.“
No matter what the interruption is, you need to write it all down so that you can start blocking time to get them out of the way quickly and at the right time.
8. Outsource and automate wherever you can.
Being choosy about how you expend your energy can help immensely in being more productive, and one of the best ways to do this is to outsource the things taking up your time that other people can do for you instead.
Alexis Ohanian, the founder of Reddit, uses online services such as Fancy Hands, a community of virtual assistants ready to help.
Analyze how you spend your time, and determine how much of it is occupied by simple daily tasks. See if it’s worth offloading a portion of it, so that you can focus on the bigger picture.
If outsourcing doesn’t sound financially possible, look into automation through tools. Often, tools that you have to use yourself cost less than outsourcing, because they still require some of your own time to use rather than someone else’s.
Hootsuite and Buffer are some online tools for automating your business’s social media accounts, so that you have less to worry about while you have bigger fish to fry.
9. Write down ideas and new tasks as quickly as they come.
Whether it’s an idea for a project that will benefit your life or your business, or even just an idea for somewhere you’d like to go in your free time this week… Write it down!
Time blocking only works if you can guarantee that you’re able to have 100% focus on the task in each “block”. Having ideas swimming around in your head all day is no way to accomplish this.
I can personally attest that this tip has helped me so much. For so much of my life, I’ve had the bad habit of keeping a running To-do list in my head, thinking that I could keep it there forever, and mentally check things off as I did them.
The problem was, the more tasks that piled up, the more I had weighing on my mind, leading to anxiety and overwhelm over not knowing when or how to do it all. Sometimes, it even led to forgetting about some entirely. Yikes!
If you write it down, you’re much less likely to forget about it later when your mind is too preoccupied to think about it. You’ll feel better that it’s somewhere where you can look at it and plan for it when you’re ready, instead of having it hanging over you while you’re trying to work.
10. Learn from others.
I’d like to finish off these productivity tips with a project for you: find some new role models.
It’s one thing to read an article from someone successful and to come away from it having learned a strategy, but one of the best ways to feel consistently inspired to keep growing is to have a role model. Inspiration goes hand-in-hand with motivation.
If you have a specific long-term goal to achieve, start reading up on the habits of the people who are already kicking butt in the one thing that you want to do or become, and see how you can tailor some of them to fit in your day.
Don’t be shy! If you have a question, comment on their most recent article. Maybe even contact them directly through their website. Be sure to compliment an article or their website for how it’s already helped or inspired you.
People love to teach, so if you come to their doorstep ready to learn, they will likely be happy to talk to you. If you feel intimidated, you could comment anonymously, or contact them through your junk e-mail.
Ready to take a big step toward being productive right now?
If you feel fired up and ready to get more done in your day, I’ve created a simple, printable worksheet for you to start designing your day more intentionally – right this second. Best of all? It’s free!
To download it, just click this button!
With this worksheet, you can…
- Set your focus on your biggest task for today
(And what to reward yourself with when you conquer it!)
- “How would I re-live this day?”
Dwelling in the past for a moment can be productive, IF you intend to improve upon it instead of regret it. With a positive mindset, use this simple daily reflection to set your sights on making each today better than every yesterday.
- Create a to-do list
Conveniently keep your daily tasks in the same place as everything else in this worksheet, so that you have something to keep you returning to it often.
- Plan your “me-time”
Like everything else in your day, YOU deserve a special place in it, too!
- Write your vision – yes, every day!
So many of us put our long-term goals on the back burner when we’re too preoccupied to think about them. That’s why it deserves it’s own spot on something you’ll see all the time.
Write it, feel it, remember it. Every day.
Did you enjoy this article? I encourage you to share it with anyone else who you think might benefit from it.
I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
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Good post! These tips will be very helpful for anyone who wants to improve their productivity. Keep up the good work and I wish you all the best.-Chris Thompson
Excellent article, Sharon. Great tips, my personal favourite – time blocking. It certainly makes it easier to cope with distractions. Thanks, Niraj (Founder at hiverhq.com)
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