17 Proven Productivity Techniques You Can Start Using Today
The search for better and smarter ways to be awesome at what we do never ends. Your quest to make significant progress everyday can be achieved with some of these productive techniques.
- Do it first. In Zen To Done Leo suggests picking your 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs) and doing them first thing in the morning. Similarly, once you find what truly matters, try to take care of it first before spending time on tasks that matter less to you. Some people have experienced significant increases in productivity when writing, working out, or meditating early in the morning.
“Perform the dreaded task now and the unpleasant activity is soon over. Delay action will nag at you infinitely.” — Anonymous
2. Peak times. Identify your peak cycles of productivity, and schedule your most important tasks for those times. Work on minor tasks during your non-peak times.
It’s important to organize your day around your body’s natural rhythms, says Carson Tate, founder and managing partner of management consultancy, Working Simply. Tackle complex tasks when your energy’s at its highest level.
3. Recognizing the difference between importance and urgency is crucial. What is important today may be urgent tomorrow. It’s your job to know what is urgent and needs immediate attention and what is important that can be put off until tomorrow.
When your tasks are separated into important and urgent, you are more likely to give attention to them and get them done as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to have someone take a message, or to answer that e-mail tomorrow, so you can concentrate on your tasks.
4. Single-task. Stop multi-tasking, at least not on a day-to-day basis. Instead, focus on one task at a time. This leads to greater productivity and less stress.
“Think of many things; do one.” — Portuguese proverb
Multitasking doesn’t work. Researchers believe that the human brain only has so much processing capacity — so in trying to carry out several different tasks at once, you’re creating a bottleneck, rather than maximizing your efficiency.
5. Don’t plan meetings that require more than thirty minutes to complete. Seriously, cut out all the unnecessary meetings. If you do have a crucial meeting in mind that requires a long time-span, it’s better to split the meeting into two or more parts.
6. Monitor existing improvement strategies. What strategies have worked in the past for you? How did you achieve goals yesterday? What is currently working and what is not working?
If you start, you’ve already made a big step towards finishing. Stick with what works and do more of what makes you happy and productive. Monitor what you do on a daily basis for about 1 week.
7. Create and publicize short-term wins. Share your success stories with your team. As the little victories occur, make sure that they are communicated and celebrated. Once you team realize their efforts are paying off and are being achieved, it gets easier for everybody to work towards the common goal.
8. Get uncomfortable at least 1x per day (ideally 3x or 5x). By “get uncomfortable” I mean “summon the courage to do something that makes you anxious”. Speak up during the work conference call. Say hi to the pretty girl or fella standing next to you in line. Run 4 miles instead of 3. Et cetera. Go the extra mile. Remember: “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” — George Addair
9. Before your sit to work, remind yourself of the ONE thing you need to get done today. There are high chances you will get more important things done this way.
10. Plan your tomorrow, today. This is no new knowledge. Almost all the productivity content you would read on the internet talks about planning your day ahead.
“What you do TODAY can improve all your tomorrows.” — Anonymous
Managing time is an art and only a few people know how to do it. And, a majority of those who do it exercise a better control on their lives. You feel empowered and confident when you know in advance what to do today?
11. Get your priorities right. Put first things first. What is the most important thing you need done in the month, week or day. Start writing things down to remind yourself of the urgent tasks that need your attention.
Both what needs doing and what has been accomplished. Separate urgent and most important tasks from non-urgent ones. Set time bound and measurable goals.
12. Focus on what you can control. You may not have control over a lot of things that take up most of your working hours. But the good new is, you can focus your time and attention on things you can control. That’s where you can find your balance.
Many business leaders will tell you that work/life balance is a myth and can’t deliberately be achieved. But guess what, you can make deliberate choices about which opportunities you will pursue and which ones you will decline. That way you can engage meaningfully with work, life and even family and be better at it every month.
13. Stay in the moment. If you feel overwhelmed (like pretty much everyone), it might not be because you have so much to do, but rather that you are trying to do too much at the same time, says Douglas Merrill founder of ZestFinance.
14. Don’t reply on your memory. Our memory sucks. You won’t remember to get all those tasks done. Write it down or use an app. There hundreds of productivity apps out there. You can use them to dictate reminders, events, and tasks that need to be done as you think about them.
15. Nothing beats good old planning and sticking to a schedule. If you know what needs to be done today and tomorrow, you are more likely to see it through and get it done. Executing an action plan is easier if you constantly revisit your plan and remind yourself of the deadline. Knowing why you are doing something and how it ties back to your long-range goals is crucial.
What if you write “Get X, Y and Z done today” and stick it where you can constantly see it. If your tasks are too intimidating in size, break them down into tiny chunks and get them done one after the other.
Discipline is the key. Be your own watcher when it comes to keeping track of time spent for each task. Don’t put something off if you can finish it now and get it off of your plate.
16. Find your flow. This is actually two steps grouped into one. First, you’ll want to find a time that’s quiet, or you’ll never be able to focus. For me, that’s mornings, before the hustle of everyday life builds to a dull roar. That might be early morning, when you just wake, or early in the work day, when most people haven’t arrived yet or are still getting their coffee and settling down.
Or you might try the lunch hour, when people are usually out of the office. Evenings work well too for many people. Or, if you’re lucky, you can do it at any time of the day if you can find a quiet spot to work in. Whatever time you choose, it should also be a peak energy time for you. Some people get tired after lunch — that’s not a good time to go for Flow. Find a time when you have lots of energy and can concentrate.
17. Finally, don’t overload yourself! People tend to pile too much on themselves for a single day, overestimating how much they can actually do.
Believe it or not, a break is actually the best way to keep your mind focused. The brain can only concentrate for so long before it switches off entirely. It’s why at the end of a Friday afternoon your motivation to continue working slows to a crawl.
Every person has a limit. Extend this limit by taking a short ten or twenty-minute break every few hours. Your boss might think you’re lazy, but they’ll soon see you can stay fresher for longer.
You have to make a little time to be refreshed every now and then. You are far more likely to succeed if you are having fun, so play just as hard as you work. Find time to laugh, whether it is catching up with friends, chatting to new people.
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