How often do you catch yourself running around all day and getting so little done? More often that you’d like, right? Just because you’re busy, it doesn’t mean that you’re productive. According to Cal Newport, the more things we try to get done, the less we actually do get done because we have so much time and energy in any given day that it’s better to spend it on few but important things than a lot that don’t matter much.
Honestly, I don’t think I even have to mention the amount of distractions we’re faced with on an hourly basis, let alone on any given day. The good news is that there are tools we can use and habits we can develop to help us get more productive and less distracted.
Here’s my list of 10 tips on how to be more productive. I’ve personally tested all of them and they work, some to a greater others to a lesser degree but they work. So keep reading and once you’re done, let me know your thoughts.
10 Tips on How to Be More Productive
1. Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Usually, I keep my phone somewhere on my work desk, in case someone needs to reach me. Recently, I’ve noticed that I started looking at my phone out of habit, just checking if there are any notifications. You can imagine what that does to my productivity. So, I decided to remove the obstacle and keep my phone in my bag. At first, it was hard not to reach out for the phone, but after a while, I actually felt a lot better and my focus improved greatly.
If there’s something in your surroundings that keeps distracting you and can be easily removed, try it out. And if you do, let me know how it goes.
2. Use Your Mornings to Focus on Yourself
This one comes straight from the Forbes’s 9 Habits of Productive People. According to the author, Ilya Pozin:
Start your day out right by ignoring your emails in the morning and getting in a good breakfast, reading the news, meditating, or working out. This will ensure you’ve got the necessary fuel for a productive day.
For a bit, I used to start my mornings by writing several pages in my notebook, kind of like a brain dump and I felt amazing. Whatever it is that you can do to make your mornings about you, just give it a go. You might end up enjoying it more than you thought you would.
3. Write Daily To-Do Lists
This one is a cliche but it works. If you manage to break down your goals into smaller chunks, chances are you’ll be more likely to get them done and get closer to your goal. Our brain has a tendency to close the loops so checking tasks of your list gives your brain the motivation it needs to stay focused and keep going.
4. Do More Important Tasks First
When you think about your daily tasks, make sure to assign priorities. Usually, more important tasks take longer time to complete and we tend to put them off precisely because they take up more of our time. However, the more important a task is, the more of our focus it requires so postponing it until later in the day when it’s harder to focus in general may actually backfire.
Yes, I know it might be easier to start with answering a pile of emails, but if you don’t address your most important tasks first, you’ll just end up being busy and not productive.
5. Make Your Workspace Comfy
Regardless of where you work from, it is very important that you feel comfortable in your workspace. If possible, make sure there’s a lot of natural light. Yet, if this is not doable, just bring a plant, a framed photo of your family or friends, anything to make the space more personal and more you. These little touches will make it more inspiring for you to work and get your tasks done.
6. Stop Multitasking
Even though we think we can multitask, we actually cannot. We can only focus on one thing at a time. What happens when we think we’re multitasking is actually that we are slacking with all tasks we think we’re getting done. Given that this is the case, you’re much better off with not even trying to multitask because when you do, you end up not being focused on any of the two or more tasks you’re trying to get done.
The constant task switching is making us more tired and reducing productivity. It’s taking up brain energy to switch and change that often. We aren’t being more productive, we’re skimming over the surface of things.Steve Pogue, How to Be More Productive: 18 Top Tips to Help You
7. Take More Breaks
In my article on Takeaways from Jim Kwik, I talk about the importance of breaks for learning. Needless to say, breaks are important for focus as well. In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport states that even the most trained people can stay focused for about 4 hours. Therefore, working eight hours straight without a break doesn’t mean you stay focused for all that time.
Even breaks that are just a few minutes long can help you recharge and come up with new ideas. Be proactive about taking breaks. When you take breaks, it’s important to make them structured and deliberate.Benyamin Elias, 18 Habits of Highly Productive People
You can stretch your legs, go get a cup of coffee, or just stare at a window. Anything along those lines will help, really. However, I’d advise staying away from your phone and social media because that’s more a distraction than a break that your brain needs.
8. Get Your Exercise
Mind work can be exhausting. Add to that the fact that you’re tied to your chair most of your day and you should be able to see why it gets harder to focus. Being physically active can actually help improve your focus and productivity.
When you exercise or play a team sport, your body releases endorphins. This break is essential for your mental health!Business-Essay
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to workout or play sports only to be able to increase your productivity. A simple walk will do the trick as well. The important aspect here is that your body is moving. Yes, you got it! Dancing will do the trick, too.
9. Learn Something New
After some time, our brain gets lazy. In order to keep it active, we should try to learn new things from time to time. Every time we try a new activity, our brain gets into the let’s-figure-this-out-mode, which in turn helps increase your regular productivity. In other words, you don’t let your brain get lazy and you help it stay young and active by introducing new challenges.
10. Eliminate Inefficiencies
Several months ago, I started tracking my time at work. I time-tracked every single task I did. The reason I did this was to see how much time I spend on each task and whether that is a time well spent. This little exercise helped me structure my work day better so that I could focus more on the more important tasks.
I know that it can be daunting trying to time every task you do, but once you see the results, it’ll all be worth it. Additionally, you’ll develop a habit of checking whether a task if worth your time even before you get it started, thus helping you prioritize better.
As I’ve already said, these are just a few tips on how to be more productive, but there are many more your can find out there. Now, before you start searching for more tips, maybe you can try one or two from this list. The reason I suggest this is because by trying something from the list, you’ll actually get into an active mode, instead of staying in the passive mode which is what would happen if you just kept searching for tips and not applying them to your life.
Give one of these activities a go and see what happens. If it doesn’t work, then try something else. In order to improve your productivity, you’ll have to find something that works best for you and the best way to do that is to keep testing ideas you run into. So, good luck and let me know how it goes 🙂
Until the next article, keep learning and growing.
Join my email list
Want to learn more about:
- Project Management
- Professional Growth
- Personal Growth
And get great books, articles and talks recommendations?
Awesome! Enter your email below and let’s keep in touch!