Do you ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in a day? When you just can’t seem to finish your tasks and all your post-its are still hanging on your laptop, your email box is full and you feel like you wasted your entire day.
We can’t add more hours to a day, but what we can do is talk about some effective ways to be more productive in less time.
Did you know that the average productive hours per day is 5.5? You can’t work non-stop and at full speed all the time so procrastination at work is normal and everybody does it. Sometimes it’s a conscious decision because we want to avoid a difficult task and sometimes it occurs when we daydream and we don’t even realise we’re doing it.
In order to overcome procrastination, the first thing to ask yourself is why you’re doing it. Is it that you have a difficult task in front of you? Or is it a boring one? If it’s boring, you should do it quickly to get it out of the way. If it’s difficult, however, and you are somewhat afraid of failing, remember that you are as good as anyone at tackling what at first glance seems to be quite a complex problem.
One thing that might help is to start out by doing some easy tasks in order to create for yourself small wins that will rebuild your will power. There is research showing that small wins are as effective in creating willpower as big wins. Seeing that you already completed a couple of tasks will boost your confidence and your desire to do more. Whatever works for you is fine as long as you make the decision of stepping out of your comfort zone and start working on something.
There are many ways to trick your brain into getting out of procrastination but the most effective one is to build momentum. Whenever you notice yourself postponing the starting point, make a decision to stop thinking about your challenges and just start doing a task no matter how small. As you know, the first step is always the hardest. Once you’re past it everything will come more naturally and easier.
When it comes to staying organized at the office, it seems like an impossible task. Whenever you actually make an effort to get tidy, 10 emails are popping into your inbox, or your boss asks you to deal with a new problem. No need to panic. There are many ways to keep yourself organized and be more efficient despite any difficulties happening along the way.
The first step towards being more organized is to do everything with purpose. Highly efficient people always work with a goal in mind. As simple as it sounds, this trick works because it gives you extra motivation when you feel like you are not in the mood or simply tired of work. Having a purpose in mind will make you more driven to reach your goals and put aside distractions that are in your way.
The next step is to start your day by making a to do list, an action plan with time-based goals, no matter how short or long. Write post-its or just a simple document on your desktop with what you want to achieve and do it daily. Start doing the easy tasks first, as they require less time. Once you finish them, strike them off the list. Seeing those strikes getting multiplied, your satisfaction will increase, giving you more drive to finish everything on the list.
First of all, let’s call this misconception. There is no such thing as multitasking because our brain simply can’t handle two mentally complex tasks at once. You can listen to music and eat at same time but you can’t write budget estimates and blog articles at the same time. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you will be fine working on two tasks as once. It’s actually a sure way to be less productive.
Multitasking is just an illusion of tricking ourselves into believing that we are being efficient. In fact, what we really do is switching between tasks and doing them in the same time at best. More than that, the risk of making mistakes is larger because you can’t give 100% to a task and your potential is scattered. It kills your focus and willpower and reduces performance and productivity.
Switching from one task to another also takes time. It takes you awhile to get used to the new one and it takes a while to go back and remember where you were in the first place. To be more precise, it takes you on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to one task after you left it for another.
Now that you know how unproductive multitasking can be, you can start avoiding it by doing one thing at a time. Also, eliminate any kind of interruptions and be present with your work and the ones you’re working with. If you have trouble focusing, a great way to clear your mind is to take a brisk walk. This is much more effective than texting to your friends or checking your Facebook profile every 10 minutes.
Stop doing everything yourself
If you are a project manager you like to make sure that everything is done according to your high standards. You like to take full control over everything that happens in your backyard but at the same time it makes you feel exhausted and you tend to lose focus of what’s important.
Many people think that asking for help is a sign of weakness but it’s actually a game for grown ups. Delegating tasks and trusting others are in fact key elements of being a wise entrepreneur. It’s a long process of self-improvement but comes with great satisfaction. You can start by learning to let go of things as it will help you focus on the ones that require more of your attention. Letting go of the small tasks that can be delegated to others will buy you more time and you will become more productive.
If you have trouble delegating, remind yourself why you are doing it and what the benefits are. Remember that you hired that specific team for a good reason and that you need to give trust to build trust. Only by doing will your team become more competent and ultimately more helpful to you, so try to give them the chance to grow.
There is no such thing as perfect
Many people strive for flawlessness in everything they do, but what they seem to forget over and over again is that there is no such thing as perfect. More than that, it is a subjective matter. When something looks perfect in your view, it could look bad for others.
No matter how hard you work on a project there is always room for better and that’s not a bad thing. Searching and striving for perfection in every single thing you do, on the other hand, makes you lose focus and makes you forget about the problems that really need your attention. If you never feel happy with the results of your work you feel a decrease in motivation because of the “I’m not good enough” feeling.
If this desire for perfection is not put into context it can actually do more harm. You can start controlling it by focusing on what really matters. Know what you want to achieve and, if necessary, recognize that especially when it comes to being creative there is no one right way of doing things.
Know what time of the day you work best
Some people are more productive in the morning, while others are night owls. Knowing when is your best time of day can help a lot.
Try to watch your work patterns and see when in the day you work better. If you learn this one thing about yourself you could maximize your schedule by tackling your most difficult tasks during those productive windows.
If you are having difficulties in finding out when you work best keep in mind that in general, people tend to have 90 minute blocks of productivity and focus, called ultradian cycles. After 90–120 minutes your brain needs a break and it’s best to take it. Otherwise, your brain gets tired and it will have lag effects when dealing with other tasks.
Also, the least productive time of the day is the post-lunch slump. 2:55 P.M. seems to be the worst time for serious tasks because it’s the period in which your brain receives less blood due to the digestion process. It’s when you feel most tired and would kill for a nap. Try to organize your schedule to resolve the heavy tasks in the morning, when you feel fresh and energized and leave the easy tasks that don’t require much effort, such as answering to basic emails, to the post-lunch slump.
Another thing that could help you to do more in less time is using smart and effective planning tools, such as Specstimate. It helps you write better product requirements and budget estimates for your prospective clients, as well as keep track of your progress. Specstimate helps agencies save time and get paid by making the estimation process more collaborative and friendly.