How To Be More Productive
Here we give our favourite productivity tips.
Write Down Your Goals
Write down your major key long term goals, a maximum of five. Then, ask yourself whether the activity you're undertaking right now will help you to meet them. If not, change activity.
Action is more important than thinking.
It is taking action that is going to get you where you want to be in life. Sure, you can spend a bit of time thinking about what action to take, but the most important thing is that you do take action, and you start executing tasks. Do not indulge in overthinking about what to do, limit the amount of time you have to make a decision, and then take action.
Over thinking about something is a waste of mental energy, and won't help you achieve anything more. So, allocate a set amount of time to think about what to do, then do it.
Develop an action mindset, where you put the emphasis on action and achieving tasks, rather than just thinking about tasks that need to be done.
"Actions speak louder than words" is an old adage with a lot of wisdom. You could also say "Actions get you much further than thoughts".
"Just do it" is also a good saying. Don't think about or talk about doing something, just quietly get on and do it.
Take Quick Breaks
Take a quick break to recharge and refocus when necessary. However, when we say quick, we mean quick, say three to five minutes per forty minutes. We accept that this can be more difficult if you are an employee, but there are still ways to take breaks, e.g. if you work on a computer, get up and make a quick drink, or do some photocopying etc, just get a break from your current task.
If you work from home and are your own boss, this is a lot easier. Again, let's say you work on the computer, then take a quick break by making a drink, or listening to two minutes of music, or watching two minutes of TV. Just keep the break short. The brief change of focus will give you a lift.
Don't Spend Your Whole Time Working
You should not spend your whole time working, as this can start to get boring, and you'll lose motivation and productivity. Even if you really enjoy your work, you still risk burn out and demotivation if you spend all your time doing it. Everyone should have a few interests and hobbies outside of work, so make some time for them.
If you aren't spending all your time working, you will be able to recharge and be more productive when you are working. This is important because you may actually be able to achieve more by working fewer hours. Time spent resting and recharging will enhance your performance whilst working. This can be especially true of creative professions, where you need an unstressed brain to allow your creativity to flourish.
Spending all your time working can also risk the well-known condition of burnout. This is where a person has not given themselves enough time away from work to recharge and relax, and their stress levels go so high that they end up having difficulty doing even the simplest of tasks. Clearly this is not good for productivity, which is why we have recommended to not spend all your time working.
Get Enough Sleep
Get enough sleep. If you are tired, you can't be productive, so go to bed at a sensible time every night. If you think you are a "night owl" and love staying up late, learn to switch off and go to bed earlier. You will then feel more alert throughout the day. Too many late nights can mean you build up a sleep debt, and this can leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed. A sensible routine will allow you to cope with the odd late night when you need to, as you will have a sleep bank reserve.
Develop A Daily Routine and Create a Daily Tasks List
Develop a daily routine. Getting in to a routine will help you be productive, as you will know what you should be working each day, and won't get off target. Important elements to include in your daily routine are some exercise (e.g. 20 minute bike ride), some downtime, e.g. 30 minutes of your favourite hobby or reading, and a sensible bed time, which will give you enough sleep to be productive.
Create a Daily Tasks List of the important tasks that you must do daily.
Whatever you need to be working on, add it to the daily list and say you must work on it for a set amount of time.
Once you have created your Daily Tasks List, make sure you refer to it daily and stick to it.
Look After Your Health
Look after your health, to make sure you have the energy for tasks.
Learn to eat well. In particular, research food that is good for brain performance, e.g. walnuts, blueberries and avocado, and put some in your diet. This will allow your brain to function to its maximum potential.
Don't drink too much alcohol as it is not good for your brain or body. In particular, do not drink too much alcohol at once so that you get incoherent or unconscious, as this is very bad for your brain and can cause permanent loss of brain performance. Instead, drink in moderation or give up completely. Alcohol is actually a depressant and clouds the mind and stops the brain working at maximum speed. Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink will let your brain maintain a more effective state and you will get smarter and feel happier.
Get physically fit. This will give you greater energy and stamina levels and help you get more done, more quickly. There's no need to go mad with the physical training, we recommend cycling for 20 minutes or so, every evening or every other evening.
Do The Hard Tasks First
Do not ignore the hard tasks and sweep them under the carpet. Unfortunately, they aren't going to go away just because you ignore them. The hard tasks should be given priority and tackled first. Develop an attack mentality where you attack the hard tasks. You know what they are, attack them! If you don't give priority to the hard tasks, you are NEVER going to get them done and you aren't going to achieve much. Just make a start on the hard task and see what happens, but you have to attack it. If after a serious crack at it, you need a little break, then do an easier task for a bit, but make sure you go back to the hard task again. Remember, it's not just going to go away.
Work on Things Little and Often
Little and often. When you're getting daunted by an onerous task, use your attack mentality to hit it little and often, and grind it into submission. For example, let's say you work from home but your flower beds need weeding. When you need a quick break from work, go outside and do five minutes of weeding. You might find pulling out the weeds is therapeutic! Keep this going over the next few weeks, hitting the garden little and often, and you'll soon find your garden has no weeds left. This principle could be applied to housework too, just keep hitting it often in short bursts. This should break down daunting tasks for you.
Group Your Interruptions
Group your interruptions. E.g. check you e-mail at specific times, rather than reading it straightaway as it comes in. Or if you are trying to work at home, explain to family members that for non-essential issues, they are only allowed to interrupt you at certain times.
Take Action When Possible and Don't Leave for Later
When you have committed some time to a particular task, e.g. you are going to check your e-mail for the next half an hour, then whenever possible deal with items straightaway, and don't say you'll come back to them later. What I'm saying is try to take the actions you believe are necessary as soon as you can, and don't delay them for later. If you won't ever have time for those actions, then the action may need to be binned completely and somebody may need to be told it can't happen.
Get organised. Being disorganised can seriously impair productivity. For instance, if you need a tool to do a particular task but can't find it because your house is disorganised and messy, you have little chance of being productive. So, get organised, and tidy up.
Delegate where appropriate. If you have competent people that you can delegate tasks to, then do so, as the more you can delegate, the more time you will have to get on with your own important tasks.
Keep Yourself Fuelled, Don't Be Hungry
Don't let yourself be hungry when trying to work, as this can be distracting. Keep some emergency healthy snacks to hand to prevent hunger, we recommend muesli bars or nuts.
Learn To Say No
Say no to more stuff that is not going to benefit you much, put yourself first, and you'll be able to get more time to get through your own stuff.
Ignore Negative People
Don't listen to negative people. If you hang out with someone who is constantly moaning and being negative, hang out with them less, they will sap your energy.
Write Down Your Ideas
Have a system whereby you can quickly write down your ideas, e.g. a special notebook on your desk, or a spreadsheet on your computer. Your ideas are gold, and can help you become more successful, so make sure you have this system in place.
Keep A Daily Journal
Keep a daily journal, either in a notebook or on your computer. This will help with productivity because you can refer back to it when you can't remember things, and it will help you pick back up where you left off.
Research How To Generate Passive Income
Passive income means making money without you having to make active effort. Examples might include dividends from shares, or advertising income from a website. Research passive income techniques and see if you could implement some of the techniques yourself. By definition passive income is good for your productivity, because you aren't having to put in active effort to gain the income, so you are free to do other things.
Don't Allow Yourself To Be Distracted
There are lots of distractions in life, but if you are going to be productive, you need to learn to stay "On Task". A simple example of this would be when checking your e-mail. A lot of it will just be irrelevant marketing e-mails or stuff that isn't requiring action by you. What you should not do is take a lot of time reading these e-mails, or even worse, visiting the websites they mention and waste time on them too. Instead, be disciplined with yourself, and when you know something is nothing more than a distraction, don't waste your valuable time on it. For example, non-relevant e-mails should be moved immediately to a "Done" folder, or just deleted.
Have a Work Sanctuary
Have a work sanctuary where you won't get distracted. If in your current place of work you are getting distracted by things irrelevant to your work, then see if you can find somewhere else to work.
Have Good Lighting
Improve your lighting. If you are working in a gloomy room, you will start to feel gloomy, and that is bad for productivity. If you brighten your lighting, you will start to feel more awake and upbeat. We recommend the latest LED bulbs, which give out an excellent bright light yet are low on electricity consumption. If you don't have many ceiling lights, then add some table lights to your desk.
Quit smoking. It's extremely bad for your health, and the cravings mean you need to take too many breaks. Give up, and the cravings will soon go, and you'll be able to get on with something more constructive.
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