Regardless of what you do in your line of work, you’re probably just like everyone else in that you try to be productive. Now the general idea of productivity suggests that to get the most out of your day, you must do as much as possible in as little time as you can. I don’t know about you but from the countless articles I’ve read about reaching optimal productivity, I’ve gathered a couple of key ideas: set goals and write lists. Then you start checking items off the list and voila- productivity achieves goals.
Unfortunately there’s more to it than that. For starters, the main definition of productivity could use alteration. It isn’t so much about getting everything done now, but rather about making choices about what you do altogether.
Here are ten of the most effective ways to work smarter rather than harder and increase your productivity:
Know Your Body’s Timetable
Your body natural rhythms and behavioural patterns should be recognisable to you. Chances are, you know best whn you work at your best and when you're more likely to hit a brick wall. If you take on challenging activities when you exhibit the highest amounts of energy (for example, in the morning, after you have breakfast), you will do a better job than if you were to leave it until you're feeling weak (during an afternoon slump). When your energy dips, take on some of the routine tasks that don't require too much effort.
Ironically, the act of ranking the tasks you must get around to can often take more time and energy than the tasks themselves! But it is worth being organised in this respect as it can cut out a lot of unnecessary work and brainpower (ie. thinking about what you should do next, worrying about when you'll get around to another task, etc).
Creating a behavioural pattern will teach your brain to recognise this as routine and therefore allow you to do it with ease and comfort, increasing productivity and efficiency. At work, this could be something as simple as automating your email's inbox check and then responding, archiving and delegating at a set frequency.
Another cool thing our brains like to do is they lump together similar tasks and activities. You can utilise this powerful function by planning to take care of a group of smilar items back to back. For example, you could write all the emails you know you have to write at one time and then later make all the phone calls you must make.
Take Regular Breaks
There are certain tasks such as writing and strategically planning, that take a lot of mental effort. The human brain, however, can't take on a whole lot of strenuous activity for extended periods of time without a break, so it's imperative to rest your brain at regular periods by taking sufficient breaks. Go for a walk around the office to chat with people or take that rest outside and get some fresh air in the meantime.
Create a low-energy list
The energy slump generally drains you of the ability to take careof big, complex tasks so it's a great idea to keep a short list of low-intensity, easy jobs that you can take on in say five or ten minutes. This could be anything as simple as printing documents, filing or some quick online research. This is a way to be productive during those short slumps before lunch or during the afternoon.
Make routine fun
One of the reasons people often procrastinate is that they find a task boring and have trouble motivating themselves to do it, says Tate. But those tasks still need to get done. She suggests making the routine work more fun, perhaps by listening to music or trying a new environment. Have your team meeting in the park or during lunch, for example.
Believe it or not, procrastination is not always the enemy of productivity, says Tate. It sends an important signal. If you're procrastinating, ask yourself why. Is the idea not yet fully formed? Is the task even worth completing at all? Is the project out of alignment with your goals or skills? Use the information to cull your to-do list and focus on what's really important.
Photo Credit: vecci.org.au