Work and responsibilities come at you fast. Things that come up make us feel constantly busy and bogged down. Then there’s that one person…they have just as much responsibility as you but seem to have ample free time to relax and destress because they are so productive.
That person probably drowns himself or herself at work at other times, right? They have to be working at some pace that is simply impossible for everyone else to reach.
Turns out that’s not true. There are steps that we can all take to become more productive in our personal and professional lives.
To overcome the challenges of procrastination, boring work, and distraction, individuals need to commit to certain habits that can produce a positive and productive impact. In this article, we’ll cover a few of the best habits to incorporate into your life to become more productive.
These habits are just that: habits. They will not change us overnight magically, but they can be a guiding hand that can set us on the right track for success and productivity.
Although these habits may seem difficult to accomplish at first, start with one and then try to take on a new section every week until you feel you are consistently meeting your personal goals for increasing productivity.
Table of contents
- Use Technology To Your Advantage
- Build a Routine
- Time Blocking
- Use the 80/20 Rule
- Take breaks
- Use the Pomodoro Technique
- Develop an Eisenhower Matrix
- Plan for Setbacks (Before They Happen)
- Eliminate Distractions
- Incorporate the Two-minute Rule
- Cultivate an Environment to Do Deep Work
- Eat the Frog
- Utilize Batch Processing
- Use Mind Mapping
- Don’t Multitask
- Develop SMART Goals
- Do Mindfulness and Meditation Exercises
- Regularly Exercise
- Learn to Say “No”
- Some Final Thoughts
Use Technology To Your Advantage
Technology can be one of the most distracting factors in our productive spaces. Email, text messages, social media, and so much more can cloud our headspace when all we want to do is get stuff done. However, distracting us is not the only thing technology can do. We can also use it to increase our productivity if we use it wisely.
Some of the best apps can increase productivity by cutting back the amount of time that you are spent doing boring, repetitive tasks. Technology is great for automating these jobs. Apps like TextExpander can help you make these assignments quicker and easier.
TextExpander enhances productivity by automating repetitive typing tasks. It allows users to create customized abbreviations for common phrases, paragraphs, or even form responses. With a simple keypress, these text Snippets are instantly populated, significantly reducing the time spent on tedious tasks. The tool’s ability to customize and expand text makes it ideal for everything from drafting emails to coding. By eliminating the need for repetitive typing, TextExpander saves valuable time and minimizes errors.
TextExpander can turn a boring, draining task into a quick and simple one.
Build a Routine
Establishing a routine is a powerful tool for enhancing productivity. A well-planned routine reduces the time spent on decision-making by bringing structure to our day. Creating a routine saves your cognitive resources for tasks that do not involve scheduling. Knowing precisely what to do and when helps us avoid procrastination.
Routines are also effective in compartmentalizing different types of work. We can better align our work with our natural energy rhythms by assigning specific tasks to specific time slots. This way, you schedule complex tasks during peak energy periods, while simpler tasks can be relegated to periods of low energy or motivation.
Furthermore, routines enhance our ability to focus. As we habituate to a routine, our brain learns to enter a state of focused attention more readily. With repetition, tasks become habitual, reducing the mental effort required to initiate them.
Finally, routines foster a sense of control and predictability. A routine can be vital for keeping yourself level-headed and ready to be productive. With a routine, fewer aspects of your personal or professional life can jump out and pressure you.
Building a routine is essential for fostering a successful and productive environment in your life.
Time blocking is a productivity strategy that divides your day into designated blocks of time, each assigned to a specific task or activity. Similar to a routine, this technique encourages a disciplined and focused approach to work, reducing the potential for distractions or multitasking, which can significantly impair productivity and the quality of work.
Time blocking ensures that each task receives your full attention during its designated time by assigning specific tasks to specific times. This practice helps combat procrastination by creating a healthy sense of urgency to complete the task within a given time.
Time blocking also supports effective workload management. By visualizing your day in blocks, you better understand your available time and capacity, which aids in making realistic commitments and prevents over-scheduling.
Time blocking can enable you to efficiently set up a time to finish your work with minimal distractions.
Use the 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule is a principle that was created by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. The principle states that 80% of the results in any pursuit come from 20% of the efforts.
Whenever you want to maximize efficiency and productivity, look at your work and determine a few things:
- What are the most important aspects of the assignment that you have?
- These sections should be the portions that you should work the hardest on
- Determine if there are any ways that you can minimize the parts of a project that do not make the biggest impact
If you want to learn more about how the 80/20 rule can be incorporated into your daily work routine, check out Brian Tracy’s blog here.
Taking regular breaks is an essential productivity strategy that can lead to sustained levels of performance and creativity. Our brains aren’t designed to focus intensely for prolonged periods. Cognitive fatigue sets in as we persist with a task, diminishing attention span, increasing mistakes, and stifling creativity. Breaks allow mental resources to replenish, which boosts cognitive function and focus upon returning to work.
Pausing a task can stimulate creativity and problem-solving as the subconscious mind processes information, often leading to fresh ideas. Moreover, breaks that include physical activity reduce the physical strain of sedentary work, enhancing overall well-being and energy levels.
The guideline of “take breaks” can be somewhat vague. However, the following tip can be a great help.
Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management strategy designed to increase productivity by breaking work into focused intervals. These sections are traditionally 25 minutes long and are separated by short, 5-minute breaks.
With this technique, you should work intensively with no distractions and completely focus on your task, but it should not burn you out because of the break.
This technique can increase productivity and decrease your chances of falling prey to procrastination. It also enables you to have specific times when you can truly feel that you are being productive, which can be great for your mental health.
Furthermore, the technique encourages mindfulness and discipline, as it requires actively deciding what task to focus on for each section, leading to more effective use of time and increased productivity.
If you want to learn more about how this technique can improve your productivity, check out this post from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Develop an Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix, also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix, is a productivity tool that helps prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance. The matrix is divided into four quadrants: Important/Urgent, Important/Not Urgent, Not Important/Urgent, and Not Important/Not Urgent.
Using this matrix enhances productivity by providing a visual means of organizing tasks. It helps distinguish between tasks that
- Require immediate attention (Important/Urgent),
- Do not require immediate attention (Important/Not Urgent)
- You can delegate (Not Important/Urgent)
- Activities that you can eliminate (Not Important/Not Urgent)
By categorizing tasks this way, it aids in aligning our actions with our goals. The matrix encourages us to focus on tasks that contribute directly to our objectives (important tasks) and helps us avoid constantly catching up in pressing but unimportant activities.
Moreover, it promotes proactive behavior. Spending more time on important but not urgent tasks can reduce the number of important tasks, reducing stress and improving productivity.
Lastly, it supports decision-making and time management, providing a clear way to evaluate where to invest time and effort. By helping us to focus on what truly matters, the Eisenhower Matrix can significantly increase productivity.
More tips for how to organize the matrix can be found here on Asana’s blog.
Plan for Setbacks (Before They Happen)
People commonly overestimate their productive abilities. They also underestimate how long it will take to complete a task. This is a principle called the planning fallacy.
What you need to do is plan for these setbacks and interruptions. Mostly, you will always be “busy,” but you can stop planning for things so close together. These things will always pop up and be annoying, but you need to keep calm and assume that some things have not yet appeared on your calendar.
Eliminating distractions is crucial for productivity as it allows you to concentrate on tasks with full attention. Distractions cause frequent interruptions, breaking the flow of work and consuming additional time and mental energy to refocus.
There are many ways to eliminate distractions in the workplace. Here are a few
- If you work from home, create a designated place where you do your work
- Put your phone on do not disturb for your work periods, and only check them during break times
- Clean your workspace of clutter that can lead to a wandering mind
- Utilize a distraction blocker to train yourself better to avoid distraction
These ways of eliminating distractions can be very helpful in increasing productivity and mindfulness in your work.
Incorporate the Two-minute Rule
The “Two-Minute Rule” is a time management strategy popularized by productivity expert David Allen in his book Getting Things Done. The concept is simple: if a task takes two minutes or less to complete, do it immediately instead of pushing it back.
At its core, the Two-Minute Rule is about overcoming procrastination by making it easier to start tasks. Often, the inertia of starting is the biggest obstacle to productivity. By immediately tackling tasks that take little time to complete, you avoid accumulating small tasks that can otherwise pile up and become overwhelming.
The rule also helps in keeping your work environment organized and efficient, as many small tasks often involve clearing clutter, answering emails, or other activities that contribute to a more organized workspace.
This rule starts your work day off with efficiency and productivity while minimizing problems that could become much larger messes down the line
Cultivate an Environment to Do Deep Work
Deep work, a concept introduced by productivity expert Cal Newport, refers to the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. By encouraging this kind of focused attention, deep work allows us to maximize productivity, enhance the quality of our work, and derive more satisfaction from what we do.
Cultivating a deep work practice allows us to complete tasks more quickly and efficiently, minimizing the time lost to context-switching and reorienting our attention. Research suggests that we lose a significant portion of productive time when we shift between tasks, so by engaging in deep work, we can make the most of our time.
Moreover, deep work enables us to engage with more complex problems and think creatively. It is during periods of uninterrupted focus that we can make new connections, develop innovative solutions, and produce high-quality work.
Eat the Frog
“Eating the frog,” a term coined by Mark Twain, is a productivity strategy that involves tackling the most challenging task first thing in the morning. The “frog” metaphorically represents the task you are most likely to procrastinate on, yet also the one that could have the greatest positive impact on your day if accomplished.
By addressing the most difficult task first, when your energy levels are naturally at their highest, you’re more likely to complete it efficiently and effectively. This practice also reduces the anxiety or stress associated with anticipating a daunting task, freeing up mental resources for other activities throughout the day.
The sense of achievement gained from “eating the frog” generates positive momentum for the rest of the day. The satisfaction derived from completing the most challenging task can boost morale and motivation, leading to increased productivity on subsequent tasks. This approach ensures that you will still accomplish something significant even if your day gets derailed.
Utilize Batch Processing
Batch processing is a time management technique that involves grouping similar tasks and completing them in a single period, rather than switching between different tasks. This method mirrors how computers process data, performing similar operations in one go to improve efficiency.
Batching tasks increases productivity by reducing the cognitive load associated with task-switching. Each time we transition between disparate tasks, our brains require time and energy to adjust. This mental “gear-shifting” can lead to a productivity loss known as a context-switching cost. Focusing on similar tasks in a batch minimizes these costs, enabling us to work more efficiently and effectively.
Batching also promotes deep work, the state of flow achieved when we focus on a single task without interruption. Concentrating on a group of similar tasks allows us to immerse ourselves more thoroughly, enhancing the quality of our output.
Additionally, batch processing aids in maintaining a clean and organized work environment, as it often involves completing tasks to completion in one session, leaving no loose ends or half-finished tasks.
By minimizing context-switching, fostering deep work, and leveraging economies of scale, batch processing is a powerful technique for enhancing productivity.
If you want more tips on batching your tasks more effectively, go to the goskills site here.
Use Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is a visual tool used to structure, analyze, and generate ideas or tasks. Originating from psychologist Tony Buzan, this technique involves creating a central node (the main idea or task) and branching out with associated ideas or subtasks.
Using mind maps can significantly increase productivity in several ways. Firstly, they enable more efficient brainstorming and ideation. Visually representing ideas allows you to see connections and relationships more easily, promoting creative problem-solving and decision-making. This process can save considerable time when planning projects or developing new concepts.
Additionally, mind maps can streamline tasks and project management. They can act as a visual to-do list, helping you break down complex tasks into manageable parts. Providing a clear view of tasks and their interconnections, they help prioritize work and manage time effectively.
Furthermore, mind maps enhance learning and memory retention. By organizing information in a structured and interconnected way, they encourage active engagement and deeper understanding, increasing the speed and efficiency of learning.
Mind mapping also reduces information overload. They simplify complex subjects by representing information visually and hierarchically, reducing cognitive load and stress.
Mind mapping is a potent tool for boosting productivity by facilitating effective brainstorming, task management, learning, and information simplification.
Here is an article on Ayoa’s blog with more arguments in favor of mind mapping in professional and personal endeavors.
While multitasking might seem valuable in today’s fast-paced world, evidence suggests that focusing on one task at a time can lead to greater productivity. This is because the human brain is not designed to simultaneously handle multiple cognitively demanding tasks.
When we multitask, our brain participates in the same context-switching discussed in the article’s batch processing section. Context-switching not only slows us down but also leads to more errors. Forbes indicates that multitasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%.
Conversely, concentrating on a single task can fully engage our cognitive resources, allowing us to work more efficiently and produce higher-quality results. This focused approach promotes a state of “flow,” where we become fully absorbed in the task at hand, leading to optimal performance and increased satisfaction.
Additionally, not multitasking reduces stress. Juggling multiple tasks can create a sense of pressure and anxiety. Focusing on one task provides a clear direction and decreases the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Furthermore, single-tasking helps improve memory retention and learning, as our brains can process and store information more effectively without the distraction of simultaneous tasks.
Refraining from multitasking and focusing on one task at a time is a potent way to enhance productivity, work quality, learning, and overall job satisfaction.
Develop SMART Goals
SMART goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound – can significantly increase productivity by providing clear direction and a means of tracking progress.
Being Specific involves defining precisely what you aim to accomplish, eliminating vagueness. A clear, well-defined goal focuses your efforts and keeps you aligned with your desired outcome, enhancing efficiency and effectiveness.
Making goals measurable ensures that you can track your progress and determine when you have achieved that goal. This makes the process of reaching your goal tangible, providing motivation and enabling adjustments as necessary, both of which boost productivity.
Setting achievable goals guarantees that they are within your capabilities. While it’s important to be ambitious, setting unattainable goals can lead to frustration and decreased motivation. Achievable goals, on the other hand, are motivating and lead to a higher rate of success.
Relevant goals align with broader objectives and values. By ensuring your goals are relevant, you invest your time and effort into what truly matters, maximizing productivity.
Finally, Time-bound goals have a deadline, which creates a sense of urgency, encourages commitment, and helps prioritize tasks. Deadlines keep you on track, ensuring sustained effort over time.
SMART goals enhance productivity by providing a clear, tangible, achievable, and relevant objective within a set timeframe. These factors lead to focused efforts, increased motivation, and better use of time and resources.
Do Mindfulness and Meditation Exercises
Mindfulness and meditation practices have numerous benefits for productivity. These techniques involve training the mind to focus on the present moment, enhancing mental clarity, focus, and emotional regulation.
Firstly, mindfulness and meditation are a great way to help manage stress. By teaching techniques to calm the mind and relax the body, these practices can mitigate the impacts of stress. A less stressed mind is more capable of focused work, leading to increased productivity.
Moreover, these practices can enhance concentration and attention. Regular meditation is linked to improvements in sustained attention and resistance to distraction, crucial factors for productive work. Enhanced focus can improve the quality of work and the speed at which you can complete tasks.
Mindfulness also promotes emotional intelligence, including self-awareness and empathy. These skills can improve interpersonal relationships in the workplace, leading to a more harmonious and, consequently, more productive work environment.
If you want some mindfulness exercises to try, check out Positive Psychology’s article.
Regular exercise has a multitude of benefits that can directly contribute to increased productivity. These benefits are not only physical but also mental and emotional, affecting different aspects of our work performance.
Firstly, exercise improves physical health and energy levels. Regular physical activity promotes cardiovascular health, boosts the immune system, and increases stamina. This means fewer sick days and more energy to invest in your work, thereby enhancing productivity.
Secondly, exercise enhances cognitive function. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, promoting the growth of new neurons and improving connections between brain cells. This leads to improvements in memory, attention, and mental sharpness, all of which are crucial for productive work.
Exercise also boosts mood and reduces stress. A positive mood and reduced stress levels can lead to increased motivation and focus, further boosting productivity.
Exercise can give you a positive disposition at work, enabling you to complete your task without feeling as fatigued or burnt out.
Learn to Say “No”
Saying “no” to new projects can be difficult. You want to say that you can take on everything in front of you; however, sometimes it is better to keep your head down and work on what you already have on your plate.
In this regard, learning to say “no” greatly relates to the “achievable” principle of smart goals. You need to consider that you might not be able to accomplish everything if you are divvying up your work among 10 different, large-scale projects.
Knowing your limits and abilities is essential for being productive. Being able not to do things that unfairly overwhelm you is extremely valuable in the workplace.
Within every productive and on-task person, there is a side of that person that knows how to kick back. Your work should not be the only thing that you do in your life. You need to know how to recharge yourself.
After a week of long and strenuous work, hang out with your family and friends for the weekend. Being able to separate your professional and personal life is essential for avoiding burnout. If you can stay away from an overbearing and over-extending professional life, you will be able to stay in that position and profession for far longer.
Keeping personal relationships can also enable individuals to be happier at work. They also become more motivated in their work lives because of their positive interactions with loved ones outside of work.
The most productive people are productive because they know that they only have a certain amount of time to reach a deadline. No matter how stressed or overwhelmed you may be, do not make a common habit of taking your time off to raise your production margins.
Some Final Thoughts
Increasing productivity in the workplace will look different for everyone because everyone has different specific struggles. The most important thing to do when creating tactics to help your productivity is to analyze yourself.
When you look inward, are you the type of person who is easily distracted or easily exhausted? How much help do you need when trying to overcome this problem? Should you enlist the help of a productivity app? These are the questions that you should be asking yourself. Once you know your problems, you can truly pinpoint which habits you should work hardest to develop.
Everyone can become more productive, and everyone has weaknesses in their work that they can improve. The most important thing to do is to know yourself and assess what will work best for you.