“I’m not being productive enough!” Have you ever had this sudden worry as you realize you have been surfing the social media vortex for half an hour instead of replying to the unread emails sitting in your inbox?
Everyone’s definition of productivity is a little different, but figuring out how to be more productive when it’s your biggest weakness, like many other things, involves baby steps. Productive ones at that.
Here are seven simple things you can do to start working toward a much more productive lifestyle.
1. Establish a morning routine that works for you
The more productively your day starts out, the more likely you are to remain productive as the day continues on. Even if it takes you awhile to wake up in the morning, having a clearly established routine to follow without having to even think about it helps make sure you end up doing whatever you need to do to start each morning out as productively as possible. What’s most important, when establishing a morning routine, is making sure you are doing what works for you.
Get up as early as you can, or as early as you think you need to. There is no specific time that everyone can say is ‘best.’ If working out in the morning wakes you up, and you have time, do it. If you can’t, don’t do it in the morning. Maybe an hours’ worth of coffee and a good book is what will get your day started off right. Do what works for you, not what everyone else says is the ‘right’ way.
2. If productivity apps distract you, delete them
For many busy people, productivity apps are a life saver. They make sure someone stays on task, keeps their priorities in check and better manages their time. There are many different apps to choose from depending on a person’s needs. They may not be effective for everyone, however, and if they don’t seem to help you after you have given a handful of them a try, that is okay.
The worst thing you can do at this point is try to continue to use the highest recommended apps because you think they are necessary. If using productivity apps is more of a distraction or time waster than it is helpful, it’s okay to delete them and try something else. Just like with a morning routine, the same things won’t work for everyone searching for optimal productivity. You are much better off setting these apps aside and trying something new.
3. Take things off today’s to do list that are not completely necessary
If you are a list maker, someone who needs to write things down in a planner or notebook as soon as you remember them for fear of forgetting, you likely have a bad habit and don’t even know it. Writing every single task down on one list as you are writing up your daily agenda may seem like the best possible strategy, but in terms of optimal productivity, it is actually one of the worst.
There is no law that says you have to put everything that needs to be done on today’s list. Focus on what absolutely needs to be done today, and save other, less pressing tasks for later in the week. Don’t seek to fill your to do list with tasks that don’t really need to be done today, or at all, just to fill up much needed white space.
4. Plan out your day and stick to a schedule
Have at least a general outline, before your day begins, of what you are going to accomplish when. Doing this will make you feel less overwhelmed, because you will not wake up wondering how and when you are going to accomplish all you need to accomplish. It will also help you stay focused and on task, so that when you finish one thing, you can move right onto the next thing with having to take the time to silently debate what you should do next.
5. Batch your tasks
One reason many people struggle with productivity is because they try to switch from one task to another far too often. Our brains struggle to focus properly when we attempt to do this, making it much more difficult to be as productive as we ideally need to be.
Batching simply means pairing similar tasks together and completing them right after the other. For example, instead of answering emails, then doing research, then dropping documents into a shared Dropbox folder, then writing an article focused on the research you conducted earlier, tackle the emails and Dropbox tasks all at once, then switch to researching and writing for a better chance at having a more productive afternoon.
6. Follow the 1-3-5 rule
Making a 1-3-5 to-do list involves writing down only nine things on your daily list of tasks for the day: one large task; three medium sized tasks; five small tasks. As long as you complete your designated major tasks, the eight tasks that follow will seem easier to conquer in comparison. Instead of filling up an entire page with random things to do, stick to a much more manageable, and therefore much more productive, amount.
7. Focus on quality, not quantity
While it may seem like it, productivity is not just about how much you can get done in a certain amount of time. It is also about efficiency, and how well you are able to complete a series of tasks within a specific time span.
Focus more on how well you are working than you do on how much you are working. You will feel much more confident and fulfilled if you finish out the day knowing you performed well, instead of going home wondering if you did good enough on the plethora of tasks you managed to complete throughout the work day.
Productivity is all about making small, but efficient, changes to your routine and habits. Practice these things to help you become more productive as soon as possible.