How often do you start your day full of energy and with a full to-do list? Do you maintain your full battery throughout the day or do you start losing your energy after a while? Do you lose your focus during the day? Do you end up procrastinating? If this feeling sounds familiar, this blog post aims to help you overcome this.
Productivity is a topic for everyone, it doesn’t matter what your job is or where you work, everyone is looking for ways to be more productive! Productivity has a universal link to feeling accomplished and content with yourself.
In this blog you will find key tips on how to regain control of your time and energy.
Disclaimer: There is not a one size fits all answer on how to be more productive, you need to try different strategies and be consistent in order to find the best habits for you.
What is productivity?
Productivity is a measure of how efficiently a person completes a task. Often, people believe that productivity is applied only to jobs, but actually applies to all areas of life. Productivity can be defined as the output measured by input. For example, it means that if you dedicate 2 hours to a project (the input) how much work do you produce (the output). Or when you exercise if you do 1 hour training (the input) how much calories you burn (the output).
However, productivity isn’t always a straightforward case, the results aren’t always immediately tangible. In the example of training, if you aim to build muscles and not burn calories, it does not mean that after the 1h you will see your arms more muscled.
It is important to discuss another term related to productivity. Have you ever heard of toxic productivity?
Toxic productivity is the drive to be productive at all times, at the expense of all other pursuits.
In modern society, there are many trends around productivity, for example the “Girl Boss”, where young women are encouraged to ‘have it all’ by working, while finding time to work out, have multiple hobbies, look their best at all times, have multiple holidays a year, eat healthy meals and maintain an active social life. This is just one of the modern definitions of productivity. This is an example of toxic productivity. You may ask why? This example may appear positive and aspirational, it also represents a toxic level of productivity coupled with the need to always achieve more. In the long term it can really impact your perception of self-value.
In times of high stress, toxic productivity and the need to constantly be seen as busy or successful in all areas only boosts stress and anxiety and this can eventually lead to burnout.
Why are all so obsessed with productivity? In this digital age, staying on task and avoiding distraction is harder to accomplish than to perform in the project/task/goal.
More and more people are looking for the super hacks of productivity, more and more theories have been produced around productivity, and this has led to a huge misconception of what productivity really is. Truly productive people are not the ones that fill their schedule with more to-do, neither are those who aim to just check off to-do lists. The point of productivity is to do fewer things, efficiently in time. In my course, Hack Your Mindset, I have an area dedicated to energy and time management. One of the top tricks that I present there is the Not-To-Do-List. Contrary to popular opinion, the Not-To-Do-List can be more useful than the original To-Do list, because prioritization and identifying the key actions is so important to be more productive.
Making some simple adjustments to your schedule can lead you to an incremental boost in your productivity. Here are the best 7 habits to help you become more productive:
1 - M.I.T. first
M.I.T. stands for Most Important Tasks. The theory behind Most Important Tasks is that any given to-do list has some tasks that are more important than others. Thus, prioritization is a key skill to become more productive. If you just focus on checking off to-do list items, you’ll end up with a mix of important and less important tasks completed. Spend a few minutes at the beginning of your day to choose 1–3 MITs (depending on how big and time-consuming they are) that no matter what, you need to finish by the end of the day. On the same note, make a list of the things that do not have space in the day. To learn a more advanced technique you can get my course Hack Your Mindset.
2 - Forget about multitasking
At least when it is not necessary. People are not successful at multitasking, based on research. It’s often tempting to try and multitask, while this can be seen as productive, it rarely produces good results. When you try to multitask, you aren’t really doing two things at once, you’re just rapidly switching your focus between things. Every time you switch, you have to re-focus on the new task, the brain takes a few minutes to get up to speed on a task. This is called “switching costs”, and this “switching costs” makes multitasking inefficient (and unproductive). Switching at tasks can be really energy draining and it can cost you to the next tasks as well. However there are cases where multitasking is okay. These are the cases where for two simultaneous activities you don’t need the same mental resources. Example: When you work on a presentation and you are listening to music. It will be fine. But if you try to create the presentation while listening to a podcast, this can be very challenging, because for both actions you need your language resources. You may be wondering how to stop multitasking, it can be like muting the slack or whatsapp notifications while creating the presentation.
3 - Deep Focus Work
One of the most well-known books is the Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, in which Newport argues that the skill of intense focus is increasingly rare and those who can master it are at an enormous advantage. In your daily life, you have different kinds of tasks. You might have easy tasks that can be done while sleeping, and you might have no motivation to perform them. On the other hand, you might have hard tasks that need time and energy devotion and no multitasking. Whatever your task is, you understand that deep work is the answer to being productive. To focus on your work you can follow simple tactics as turning off your phone or muting the notifications. The 4 tips Newport proposes in his book are:
Schedule Deep Work: Plan deep work into your schedule daily. You can plan a similar time every day because having a regular time to do deep work helps you make it a habit.
Get bored: You need to start being comfortable with boredom. Deep work can cause you boredom and frustration, these two can cause you to seek out distractions. Avoid using social media for entertainment, or turning on your notifications but instead get more comfortable doing nothing.
Be harder to contact: Email, Slack, Whatsapp or any other communication platform you may use can be a huge distraction. Along with the environment you work in (either it can be your home, your office or a common working space), you should limit the access people can have to you while deeply working. You can ask people who contact you to research their questions before coming to you, give clearer instructions and information in the prior email. Same goes for you—spending time on communications instead of sending a quick email can minimize back and forth.
Know your work habits: Do you work best in isolation or around people? With periodic breaks or one big break? You don’t need to overhaul your entire schedule—just set aside some time for deep work.
4 - Limit Distractions
With emails, social media, a thousand little to-dos and multiple notifications it’s easy to get lost when you’re trying to be productive.
Whether you’re trying to focus on deep work or just dealing with smaller tasks, distractions are the bane of productivity.
One powerful method of reducing distractions is creating a “distraction list.”
Whether you will make it in a Google Doc or in a piece of paper, keep it nearby while you’re working. Whenever a distracting thought pops up, jot it down on the list and get back to work.
The distraction list, is one of the secrets to the Pomodoro Technique, is powerful because a lot of the time your distractions legitimately require attention. The Pomodoro technique is commonly used to prevent distractions and complete tasks. Users set a timer, removing all distractions from their vicinity (social media, emails, etc.) and work in timed sprints of 20-30 minutes. Knowing that you only have to focus for a short period is an excellent way of ability to focus for more extended periods.
If you’re doing deep work and suddenly remember a bill that needs to be paid, or have an idea for a new blog post, those are thoughts that deserve attention.They just don’t deserve it right now.
5 - Identify when you’re most productive
Flexible and hybrid working has promoted the concept of working in more productive ways. You may work best in the morning, while others hit their productive stride after lunch. Identifying when you are most productive and then organizing your daily schedule based on it, you will make the most of these peak times. This can actually be a step before setting your daily deep work time.
6 - Learn to prioritize
You can find more tips and tools to prioritize in previous blogs about focus and how to plan effectively. However there is another tool that you may use to learn how to prioritize, it is called the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. The specific tool became famous by Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
The Eisenhower matrix helps you to quickly determine what you should work on and what you should ignore. To create an Eisenhower Matrix, make a 2 x 2 square. On one axis, write “important” and “not important.” On the other axis, “urgent” and “not urgent.” (You can follow the image’s design.)
This tool will help you organize your to-do list based on each task’s importance and urgency. The Eisenhower Matrix makes it easier to identify what matters and what doesn’t.
Are you spending most of your day doing things that are urgent but not important?
Look for ways to delegate, automate, or eliminate.
Are you spending time on things that aren’t important or urgent?
Ignore those things.
Are you making time to work on things that are important but not urgent?
If you’re like most people, you could be spending more time in this quadrant.
7 - Manage your energy
Time management is a huge part of productivity. But just as important and often overlooked is energy management. As soon as you are exhausted and can barely think, it doesn’t matter how many hours are left in the day, you cannot be productive.
This is why it would be better to tackle difficult tasks early in the day or in your peak hours, you can get more done in less time before you get tired. In my course Hack Your Mindset you can find a dedicated lesson on how you can hack your energy management.
You now know some key aspects on how to increase your productivity both in the workplace and in your day to day life. Focusing on trying one or two of these productivity tips at a time, can make it possible to develop your skills in this area, while reducing stress and maximizing your professional and personal goals. You’ve probably spent years cultivating your habits–both good and bad, consciously or subconsciously–and those won’t immediately change. So give time to yourself, forgive your mistakes or if you are distracted but stay disciplined, stay accountable to become more productive.
If you would like to build accountability to achieve more of your goals and learn more techniques for your personal success, you can join the Mindset Hackers free community on Facebook and email us on email@example.com to learn more about our mindset events.