5 Things You Can Do Right Now to be More Productive

In a constantly accelerating world, the need for efficiency is ever growing. In this post, we explore a few tools and tips which have kept me sane, and hopefully will help you too.

  1. To Do Lists
  2. Focus on two things at a time
  3. Keeping your workspace organized
  4. Keeping your digital workspace organized
  5. Incremental Change and Continuous Improvement

#1 on the list of tips: keeping lists!

If you feel like there are always moving targets, conflicting priorities, and that you have to work during meetings just to stay afloat, you’re not alone. We live at a time when speed is everything, and that means everything needs to be done yesterday. How do you stay afloat while drowning in paperwork?

That’s where lists come in. Lists do three important things: they help you keep track of tasks, prioritize those tasks, and not feel overwhelmed by tasks.

The first part is simple- a task written down is less likely to be forgotten. I keep a to-do list on me at all times so when something comes up, I don’t commit precious mental resources at that moment. I write it down, and worry about it when I get to that item.

Secondly, lists help you prioritize. Having a list allows you to see all the things you need to do, and you can start from there by numbering what needs to be done, in what order. This ensures that if you aren’t able to complete the list, you have saved the least important for last.

Finally, lists help give little motivation boosts throughout the day. What can seem messy or impossible becomes easy when it is broken down into parts, and making lists helps not only in achieving progress, but feeling like you’re making progress as well.

Take a few minutes at the start of each day to either list out the things you need to do, or review that list. Actively work off that list, and feel the high of productivity!

#2- Take things in twos

First of all- what is multitasking? Generally, people think this means doing multiple things at the same time. However, studies have found that our brains are designed to attend information one at a time (Meyer et al, 1997). When you are working on getting a report ready, you’re not really paying attention to the phone call you’re on. In fact, even when you are watching a video of a presentation, you can’t work both the visual cortex of your brain at the same time as listening to what is being said.

Multitasking is actually switching between tasks. We listen, then watch, then listen again. To work on something, we zone out of the conversation, then back in when we hear something relevant, like our names. Even though you are technically listening, you’re not always paying attention. The first step to being more productive is to admit we’re designed with a single-core CPU and work with that in mind.

Research has found that the optimal number of assigned tasks is actually two. The less time we spend trying to focus on too many things at once, the faster we can finish each task. So try taking life two things at a time when multitasking is necessary.

Clark, K. B., & Wheelwright, S. C. ( 1993). Managing new product and process development: text and cases.The Free Press

#3 Physical Organization

If having too many concurrent tasks hinder productivity, isn’t physical clutter the same? Starting from a “blank slate” helps in two ways: reducing distractions and taking the pressure off.

Humans need their “space” to be at their most productive. This helps with creativity too. Some people say “it’s all in your mind” and in a way that’s true- if you’re a practicing monk. For everyone else- where is your mind, your focus? Is there something that steals your attention while you’re trying to work, maybe your keys or pink stapler peripherally in view from your screen. How about the files and paperwork scattered around, taking from your functional workspace? Removing those distractions provides you with more room to think.

Not only is clutter distracting, it’s also demotivating. Ever heard of “fake it till you make it”? If you’re not a very organized person- pretend to be. If you and your workspace look the part, you can trick your mind into believing that too.

This is not only the case for business, but also your home. Wherever you want to be more productive and achieve more with your limited time, make the space conducive for success. Too busy to do it yourself? Hire a professional organizer!

#4 Digital Organization

Just like the need for your own physical space to be clear, your digital space could also use a makeover.

Free yourself from virtual clutter by turning on ad blockers. If you find yourself on Facebook or Youtube too often, there are extensions which set limits on how long/often you can get on too.

Focus on creating a filing system for projects you are working on. This makes things easier to find and saves time (if we tally up minutes spent looking for a file to email out, how many years can we get back?).

The same goes for emails (too many is no excuse). Similar to making lists, spending five minutes each day reading, filing, and prioritizing emails will save you more time and make your day more productive. Creating folders for important information not only helps you find it later, but also helps mentally sort away the information. Keep things you need to respond to in a folder, things you need to work on in a folder, and things you need to know in another. This will help you not feel overwhelmed when your inbox says (501) Unread Emails.

#5 Incremental Change and Continuous Improvement

The last tip is to make time to improve on your productivity and organization. Everyone is different, and you may need to adapt these tips to fit your personality. Occasionally take a few moments to think about how you could save time, reorganize for better efficiency, alter a habit or practice a new one.

Figuring out how you work best is not only a smart thing to do for your business, but for your own happiness. You deserve to work in a way that best suits you, and it doesn’t need to be boring. Maybe you write better while you’re in the Jacuzzi. Maybe you are most engaged with digital meetings while you’re pacing the halls. Maybe math becomes easier while you’re sitting, but you are more creative lying down.

Just as Rome was not built in a day, learning to tap your full potential does not come with one planning meeting. It comes from a lifetime of 5-second time-savers. It comes from knowing yourself and being true to yourself. It comes from a mindset of continuous improvement.

Tags: , , , ,
blog comments powered by Disqus