Everyone wishes they could be more productive. We all have projects, dreams, and goals we wish to achieve, and sometimes you just need the motivation and focus to knuckle down and get things down. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an aspiring novelist, a freelance worker, or the owner of a paperboard packaging supplier; sometimes you just can’t summon up the energy required.
And to make matters worse, we are living in the worst possible time for productivity in human history. We all have smartphones in our pockets that give us instant access to IT counselling services, food, shopping, and more. These devices may look innocent, but they are remarkably effective at stealing hours of time away without you even realizing it. It’s so easy to open up your phone to reply to a WhatsApp message only to find yourself two hours later watching endless cat videos on YouTube.
This self-destructive behaviour not only prevents you from getting things done.
But it also wastes a monumental amount of your valuable time on this Earth. Do you want to spend your limited days trawling through random corners of the Internet and scrolling Twitter for a dopamine hit? Or would you rather spend them working on your dreams and doing things that make you happy?
Tech addiction is something that affects nearly half of all people on this planet, so you’re not alone. But you can break free from this cycle of unproductivity. With the right techniques and strategies, you can learn to make better use of your time and avoid distractions. As a result, you will be able to work harder and with more focus, enabling yourself to produce better results in every task you set your mind to.
To get you started, here are ten ways to instantly become more productive.
Set clear goals
You’ll never be productive unless you know exactly what it is you want to achieve. That’s why it’s so important to set clearly-defined goals for yourself. Nothing makes you less likely to succeed than a vague goal without a strategy. A common business term is SMART goals, and these aren’t just a tool for the boardroom. They can help you do well in all areas of your life, whether you are a gamer, writer, or marathon runner. A SMART goal must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Sensitive. For example, “I want to write a book” is not SMART. However, “I want to have completed the first draft of my novel in six months” could meet all of the criteria.
Create a to-do list
Lists are one of the most effective ways of maintaining productivity and staying on top of all of your tasks. Create a to-do list for every single working day, as well as an overarching weekly list for all the biggest jobs. Having a visual checklist to look at and tick off will give you a sense of progress and the motivation to work that little bit harder. Make sure you refrain from making your list too complex or lengthy, as this is a surefire way to set yourself up for failure. Keep track of your list throughout the day or week and adjust your schedule accordingly to make sure you get everything done.
Swallow the frog
A famous quote from American writer Mark Twain says “if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” What this means for you is that it’s always best to get the biggest and hardest jobs out of the way early on. This way you optimize your productivity and you won’t have the stress of the task looming over your head all day. As a result, you won’t end up putting up the big task by procrastinating, and you’ll save yourself a hefty chunk of time as well.
Focus on results, not activity
So many people are incredibly skilled at the art of self-delusion. They think that by ticking off as many tasks as possible, they are being incredibly productive, but it’s easy to confuse activity with productivity. If you are continually replying to emails, having Zoom meetings, and organizing your filing system, you are certainly keeping yourself occupied, but are you getting anything done? Wouldn’t your time be better spent writing that sales pitch, getting words onto paper, or planning your business? Always prioritize the jobs that will make the most difference towards achieving your dreams. Everything else is secondary. Measure your progress not by the number of tasks you complete but by how close you are to your goals.
Supercharge productivity by setting technology restrictions
There are so many time-wasters in easy reach just waiting to steal your attention away. Social media apps, your email inbox, and the vast expanse of the Internet don’t make it easy to get things done. The best way to reduce their influence is to set firm restrictions. This means switching your phone off if possible, or blocking distracting apps when you’re working.
That is easier said than done though, so here is a helpful infographic that lists all kinds of digital minimalistic tactics to try out.
This way, the next time you get that urge to check your notifications, it won’t be so easy to indulge that craving. Over time, this might help you break your addiction.
As well as phones and internet access, there are lots of other distractions in your daily life that can hinder your work. The ping of your email inbox, colleagues and roommates wandering around, and all kinds of background noise. The more of these distractions you can eliminate, the better equipped you’ll be to stay productive for longer. Close any distracting programs, switch off the TV and radio, close the windows and shut yourself away from others. This peace and quiet will allow you to go deeper into your work and maintain focus for a longer period of time.
Some people think they can be more productive by completing several tasks at once, but scientific research overwhelmingly suggests that multitasking isn’t possible. While you may think you’re being incredibly efficient, your brain is just quickly switching from one task to the other and is therefore unable to give either one the full attention it deserves. This means it could take you even longer to complete some tasks, and the quality will suffer. Focus your attention on one project at a time and give it your full attention.
Supercharge productivity by working at peak times
Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, every single person has peak performance times. Hours of the day when they are more motivated and productive and can get the best work done. Work out when your peak times are and schedule your more important tasks for then. Don’t be swayed by all the motivational advice that says you need to get up at dawn and go to bed early. Everyone is different so find out what works for you.
Get plenty of sleep
No matter when your peak performance times are, you still need to ensure you are getting enough rest. When your brain is working hard, it needs to recover in order to maintain cognitive function. If you don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis, your memory, concentration, and productivity will suffer.
Supercharge productivity by staying organized
Are you the kind of person whose desk is always cluttered and you have thousands of unread emails in your inbox? You might think this doesn’t matter, but evidence suggests that a disorganized lifestyle creates a disorganized mind. It can make it harder to concentrate on tasks and you are more likely to make mistakes. Keep your workspace tidy and perform a digital declutter to keep your computer in line. Your future self will thank you.