This is “Get Stuff Done” week: the week I vow to catch up on all the tasks I’ve let pile up since the last “Get Stuff Done” week. And just like every other time, I find myself procrastinating by searching for ways to keep this from happening again as if there were a magical formula that would allow me to win at productivity all the time!
The truth is, productivity is the product of good habits built through repetition and constant goal assessment. If, like me, you want to build better habits to increase your productivity, check out this list of 10 life hacks for being more productive!
- Get up earlier. It may not be a cure-all, but getting up earlier does boost productivity. Especially if you’re the only one awake, early morning is valuable for setting the tone for your day and getting some tasks accomplished without distraction.
2. Pare down your tasks by prioritizing and saying “no.” Productive people assess and select their tasks and appointments using tools like these:
- Personal Mission Statement- Organizations create mission statements to summarize who they are, what they stand for, and what they do. If something doesn’t fit their mission, they don’t do it. Create a mission statement for your life, and measure everything against it. If something doesn’t match up, ditch it!
- The "Urgent Important Matrix”- List your tasks by urgency and importance. Take care of those that are urgent and important first, then set goals based on those that are important but not urgent and get started. Recognize those that are urgent but not important as interruptions and those that are not urgent or important as distractions.
3. Create your workspace with productivity in mind. Maybe you need to declutter. Maybe you need to organize. Maybe your desk is immaculate, but you don’t have what you need at hand. Creating a neat, inviting workspace where your materials are at the ready allows you to use your work time well.
4. Work on your big goals first. Important tasks and an infinite number of distractions are fighting for your attention every day. Use the first and best part of your day when your mind is most alert to work on the tasks that will have the biggest impact. Then, the rest of the time, check off the smaller items on your to-do list.
5. Monotask. People talk about multitasking like it’s a superpower, but many studies have shown multitaskers accomplish less at a lower quality than those who focus on one thing at a time. Try blocking off chunks of time to focus on one project. When you complete it or reach a certain checkpoint, take a break, and then move onto the next item, focusing all your attention there. Repeat.
6. Limit meetings. Face-to-face meetings, while important, often last too long and are unnecessary. Examine your meeting schedule and determine which ones are crucial and which could be accomplished by phone or email. Schedule standing meetings, impose time limits and abide by clear agendas with specific goals to move meetings along quickly and accomplish more during your day.
7. Plan for Emails. As valuable as they are, emails can be a time-suck or a plain old distraction if you don’t have a plan for them. Schedule times of your day to check and respond to emails instead of dealing with them as they come in. This will keep you from getting off task and having to refocus, a process, according to some studies can take up to 15 minutes. When you do check your emails, decide what to do with each one right away. Whether you file, delete, respond, or add it to your to-do list, have a system for keeping your inbox at zero and storing messages so you can find what you need when you need it.
8. Adopt the mantra, “done is better than perfect.” As a perfectionist, I will work on a task forever if I don’t create a cut-off for myself. We perfectionists must learn to do the best we can in a given timeframe and then move on, or else we will never get any closer to our goals.
9. Use a timer. Productive people swear by timers, and there are dozens of methods out there for how best to use them. One of the most popular is the Pomodoro Technique where you set a timer to work, uninterrupted, for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. Whatever method you use, timers break work into manageable chunks of time. It’s a lot easier to imagine staying focused for 25 minutes than it is for 3 hours. This also schedules in break times where you can either truly take a break or deal with any interruptions that came up during your work session.
10. Take Care of yourself. You can have all the right tools and know all the techniques, but if your body and mind are suffering, your productivity will too!
- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation makes us sluggish, less creative, and prone to error and poor time management. Set a sleep schedule and stick to it to improve the amount and quality of your sleep. Then see how much you can accomplish!
- Schedule breaks and downtime. You’re not a machine! You need multiple breaks during your workday, and times during your week when you’re not having to think about work at all.
- Exercise Regularly. Exercise improves blood flow, respiration, brain function, and even mood. When it comes to being productive, you can easily fall into the trap of feeling like you have to “sit down and just work until it’s done.” Truthfully, though, sitting still and working for hours on end is not only bad for your health, it decreases your productivity. If you don’t have time to exercise outside of work hours, get in as much movement as possible during your workday. With our lines of Bike Desks and Under Desk Products, you can even find ways to move and exercise while you work!