Did you wake up this morning vowing to be more productive only to find unchecked boxes on your to-do list at the end of the day? You’re not alone. Many people also start with good intentions to be more productive but find it difficult to make this actually happen.
While wanting to be productive may sound easy, just telling yourself that you’ll do so is often not enough.
There are many other factors in your environment, in the routine that you are used to, and in your working habits that may affect your productivity.
There are, however, some useful techniques that can help you maximize your time and achieve more throughout the day.
1. Plan ahead
To quote Sun Tzu’s Art of War, you should try to win the war before you fight. This means you should have a plan and prepare what you want to do even before your day starts.
By doing this, you’ll have a game plan for the day and you can focus on tackling those tasks rather than dilly-dallying on what you need to do next.
Many people find it useful to create to-do lists to map out their day. This can be useful but for this practice to be effective you need to make sure that you’re being realistic. Do not cram an impossible list of task in just one day. You know yourself and your capabilities so make sure that it is actually humanly possible to achieve everything in your working hours.
If there are more tasks than what can be achieved in one day, schedule them in the following days or for the rest of the week. Planning your week ahead would actually be more helpful. It will give you an overview if you need to make adjustments in your schedule or workload to meet your deadlines.
2. Take frequent breaks
This may seem like the antithesis of being productive. You may be wondering why would you want to take frequent breaks if your goal is to get more done?
What you may not realize is that taking frequent micro-breaks can actually help you more than hurt you. When you work continuously without getting a breather, the possibility of making mistakes is much higher which will just slow you down.
If your work requires you to be stuck on your desk, get up at least once every 30 to 60 minutes. This will help you recharge and refocus by breaking the monotony of your work.
Take time to stretch your legs, walk around, and take coffee breaks. According to studies, drinking coffee boosts productivity as it can help improve alertness, memory, and cognitive abilities. This is contrary to many productivity myths that coffee is a productivity killer.
However, too much of everything is also not advisable. If you need a caffeine fix, make sure you’re taking coffee breaks in the mornings and only until the early afternoon. Having coffee too late in the day may overstimulate you and disrupt your natural sleep cycle, which could make it troublesome for you to sleep at night.
3. Focus on a single task at a time
Multitasking is a habit that many people pride themselves in excelling at. HR employees from all around the world are probably so fed up with reading this certain skill in countless resumes. While there was a time when multitasking was seen as an advantage, recent studies are coming out with data indicating that this habit lowers productivity rather than improve it.
The issue with multitasking is that it divides your attention and it creates mental chaos. This makes you more susceptible to errors and instead of completing your tasks faster, this only slows you down.
It is understandable that there are instances when you really need to multitask. Many people face that time when they have to finish a client presentation while needing to speak on the phone with another client.
These instances, however, should be emergencies and should not happen on a daily basis. If you find yourself needing to multitask constantly, either you have to improve your time management skills or your workload is just too massive for you to manage alone.
You can outsource your business tasks to avoid overextending yourself. This is ideal especially if you do not really have the budget to hire more employees full-time.
4. Avoid procrastinating on small tasks
Some people swear by the efficiency of completing the most challenging task first or in tackling the one closest to the deadline. While it is true that prioritizing is very important, you also need to balance your workload.
Many people tend to delay other small tasks in favor of that big job. The problem with doing this regularly is that all these small tasks pile up and you’re burdened with a plethora of odd jobs that you could’ve completed right then and there
There are two ways of tackling these tasks. First, you can do them right there and then especially if it only takes a few minutes to complete, like replying on an email or needing to make a phone call.
Of course, you should only do this if you are free at the moment, and not while you’re in the middle of doing something else. If you find that these small tasks are distracting you, schedule a time in your workday to perform them.
For example, instead of checking emails as they come, create a routine of checking emails at 9 AM, 1 PM, and 4 PM. Other than these times, mute your inbox notifications so you won’t get distracted.
5. Get rid of distractions
Your tireless inbox is not the only thing that could be affecting your productivity. There are different causes of distractions around you.
How many times have you found yourself browsing Instagram Stories instead of finishing that report you planned on doing?
How about those days when you were hooked on watching cat videos on YouTube instead of actually focusing on your assignment?
Or maybe that time when you ended up gossiping with your colleague instead of discussing the meeting agenda?
It is quite easy to be distracted nowadays especially with the presence of digital devices and the internet competing for your attention.
If you find yourself easily distracted, what you can do is to evaluate first what causes you to be distracted and then remove it from your workspace.
If your weakness is constantly checking your phone for messages, keep your cell phone out of reach so it becomes less tempting.
Another way is to disable or restrict certain sites from your browser during working hours and just enable them when you’re done with your work. You’ll find that the extra step of getting through these restriction settings in your browser is enough deterrent to keep you from opening these websites.
The clutter in your work area is also a possible cause of your distraction. Are there too many paperwork filed around you? Is that half-uneaten sandwich taking up prime real estate on your desk? Can you even see your table anymore?
There have been many findings indicating that when your workspace is disorganized, the clutter can cause overstimulation in your brain, which could affect your mental capacity to focus on what you need to do.
What could help is if you clear out your workspace and only leave the essentials? Utilize your drawers or storage boxes to keep what you don’t urgently need at the moment. This can even help you free up more space in your office.
6. Eat nutrient-dense meals
Chocolates and candy bars are go-to picker uppers for people who need a boost of energy. What many people do not know is that these sugar-packed food items can only provide temporary alertness. Because these do not really have a lot of nutrients, eating these could cause a sugar crash which causes you to feel lethargic and even sleepy.
Instead of snacking on sweets, opt for well-balanced meals with protein, healthy carbs, vitamins, and minerals. Go for whole foods like lean meat, seafood, dairy, nuts, vegetables, and fruits. Choosing these items is not only better for you physically, but it can also give you brain-boosting benefits because they are filled with nutrients.
If you have a long day ahead, eat at regular intervals. This means have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition, you can snack on fruit or nuts in between. This will ensure that you’ll have sustained energy throughout the day.
Don’t let yourself go hangry (hungry and angry at the same time), because not only will it affect your work, you’ll also be more likely to choose unhealthy stuff.
7. Get enough sleep at night
One of the main reasons why you’re feeling sluggish at work is because you didn’t have enough sleep. When this happens, it instantly ruins your chances of having a productive day. Instead of focusing on the work at hand, you’ll probably spend more time yawning and trying to keep up with your work.
On the contrary, if you make sure that you have adequate rest, you are prepping yourself up for success the next day. Being well-rested gives you a more positive vibe, sharper focus, and better energy. If you had a rough night, taking a 20-minute power nap is also recommended to get you recharged.
The Key To Productivity
Productivity may seem like an elusive concept for many people. It can truly be challenging to work on achieving your daily goals especially with so many distractions present.
However, if you follow these tips, it may bring you closer to becoming more productive throughout the day.
Just curious, what’s your daily routine that keeps you productive? Or you still struggle with that? Let us know in the comments