For some reason, I have been experiencing an increased rate of unproductively and laziness lately. However, the thing with being a professional (or a grown-up, for that matter), I need to make sure to stick to my commitments.
Yes, I am not the most diligent person at first, but by reading some blogs, researches and studies, I found some of the best tips that really increased my own productivity. With that, life has been much easier and more exciting.
Track and limit time for each tasks.
This is the very first thing that I applied, and it has given a significant increase to my own productivity rate. People usually think that they are pretty good at gauging how much time they’re spending on various tasks. However, it’s not that easy: research suggests that only a few people are able to accurately estimate the passage of time.
After knowing this, I switched to looking for the best resources so I can track and limit my time spend on tasks. Eventually, I came across a bunch of applications and software to aid me in this. Some tools like Rescuetime had helped me by letting me know exactly how much time spent on daily tasks, including social media, email, word processing, and apps.
No to procrastination, yes to the two-minute rule.
David Allen wrote the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and suggested the two-minute rule to be efficient in each time window that is given. The idea is this: If you see a task or action that you know can be done in two minutes or less, do it immediately.
Completing the task right away actually takes less time than having to get back to it later. When I am presented with something that I could complete in a couple of minutes, there’s no need for me to put the task off, or add it to my to-do list. Doing so would only make my never-ending task list even longer.
As such, each time I follow the two-minute rule, I unlock the power of quick wins. Every time I finish a task, I gain momentum that makes it easier to conquer the next one.
Avoid meetings; Do standing meetings when needed
Another big thing that affected the increase in my productivity is when I stopped being a Yes Man to all meetings. If I can achieve tasks without meetings, I can skip them. If I need to announce something to my team, I need not summon them to a meeting. Instead, I just send out memos or announcements through Google fax.
Studies have shown that some meetings can be just an utter waste of time.
However, there are still time when there is no escaping these meetings. For those times when meetings are unavoidable, I try some of those unusual ways to conduct meetings, such as the standing meetings. There’s a lot of evidence that standing meetings result in increased group dynamics, decreased territoriality, and improved group performance.
No need to multitask
While we tend to think of the ability to multitask as an important skill for increasing efficiency, the opposite could be true and be much better. Psychologists have found attempting to do several tasks at once can result in lost time and productivity. Instead, make a habit of committing to a single task before moving on to the next project.
Then again, it is ok for me to multitask if I know that I can achieve them both; if I’m going to finish all tasks by the same time expended as compared to the time expended when doing them individually, better switch to taking them on one by one.
Take exercise breaks
According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, using work time to exercise may actually help improve productivity. “This increased productivity comes, on the one hand, from people getting more done during the hours they are at work, perhaps because of increased stamina and, on the other hand, from less absenteeism owing to sickness,” says Ulrica von Thiele Schwarz and Henna Hasson, the researchers behind the study.
If possible, build in set times during the week for taking a walk or going to the gym. Getting the blood pumping could be just what’s needed to clear the head and focus. People who have been exercising during work breaks has reported improvements in self-assessed productivity – they perceived that they got more work done, had a greater work capacity, and were sick less often.
Good food and adequate sleep
Small business operators pull long hours. They snack when they should eat a good meal, and they miss an inordinate amount of sleep. The result? Success, sometimes.
More often than not, poor health.
I found it the hard way that productivity is all about working steadily at a goal, and not about burning out with a visit to the hospital thrown in. I have totally increased my productivity when I started minding my health while being goal-centered while working.
Work in 90-minute intervals
Researchers at Florida State University have found elite performers like top-cut athletes, chess players, musicians, etc. who work in intervals of no more than 90 minutes are more productive than those who work 90 minutes-plus. They also found that top performing subjects tend to work no more than 4.5 hours per day.
When I applied this, I found myself less stressed and more productive – and I felt like my source of energy is almost unlimited. As what the study I mentioned before suggests, “The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology. Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.”
Minimizing interruptions, for me, meant setting office hours, keeping my office door closed, and working from home for time-sensitive projects. This also gave me a lot more time to work on my tasks. Also, I put away any device that would allow me to play any video game while working.
Mobile apps offer a tempting opportunity to tune out of any mundane work tasks and tune into an exciting game of killing zombies. It’s better for me if I just promise myself a reward of 30 minutes of zombie killing after work, given that I have completed a certain project.
Take regular breaks.
It may not sound as effective, but taking scheduled breaks can actually help improve concentration. Research has shown that taking short breaks during long tasks helps maintain a constant level of performance. On the other hand, working at a task without breaks can lead to a steady decline.
Set self-imposed deadlines.
The only stress that could be healthy is the stress that comes from self-imposed deadlines. I have found the best practice to increase my own productivity by setting deadlines based from judging my own work ethic, and see to it that I follow everything. For open-ended tasks or projects, I have given myself a deadline, and then stick to it. Applying this, anyone can discover just how focused and productive he or she could be when watching the clock.
Turn off notifications
No one can be expected to resist the allure of an email, voicemail, or text notification. During work hours, turn off any notifications, and instead, build in time to check email and messages.
All in all, if there is a need to increase the productivity at work, resist the temptation to put in longer hours. Instead, take a step back, and think about ways to work smarter, not harder.