“I waste time all the time.” “I wish I could get more done.” “I procrastinated some of my tasks today for no reason.”
Do you curse yourself often saying any of these? You want to make the most of your day but each day goes by with some tasks finished, half of them incomplete and more piling up for tomorrow.
You worry about your days going by without any achievements. But you are not sure how to fix the problem either.
At work or home, we have good intentions to spend our time on the right things. We are all obsessed with productivity. Yet, only a few manage to go to bed satisfied with the time spent on the day.
There is no dearth on productivity tips on the internet. These 9 productivity tips approach the problem from the long term goals perspective than trying to tick off a hundred things off your checklist.
Your goal must be to do the right things instead of trying to do a lot of things.
- What is productivity?
- Here are the 9 productivity tips which can change your results
What is productivity?
The world has a huge misconception about productivity. People tend to believe that a lot of tasks completed implies a productive day. Unfortunately, most people complete tasks that they never should have worked on in the first place.
People assume being busy implies productivity but these are 2 different things. You can be extremely busy but unproductive. Also, you can be productive without being busy the whole day.
A productive day is when you spend your time working on the tasks which matter and take you closer to your goals. For example, you may send out a daily report which takes you 20 minutes to complete. If you complete this activity without any misses for the next 6 months, do you think you did a good job?
Take a moment to think if the report helps anybody.
- Does any action come out of it?
- Does it help in making an informed decision?
- Does it improve the business, revenue or customer satisfaction?
If not, the 20 minutes you spend daily are useless even if you perform it like Rocky chasing his boxing dream.
You can forever dump many of the tasks you perform every day without causing any impact. If you do, you will end up with a lot more time to work on things that matter.
Working on tasks that help you make progress towards your long term goals should be your mission every single day. If you do not know what your long term goal is, answer these 3 questions.
The most productive people spend their day differently. Using proven techniques of successful people, you can increase your productivity by 3 or more times.
Here are the 9 productivity tips which can change your results
Knowing productivity tips and implementing them in real like are two different. One can only take a horse to the water but cannot force it to drink. Similarly, knowing these productivity tips serves no good unless you practice them in real life. These apply for work at a professional level and students with their learning.
1. Plan your day roughly
You must approach each day with a small plan. You do not have to plan it by the minute or the hour. But you need to decide which are the important things to complete or work on today.
Do not mistake urgent tasks with important tasks. Your phone will buzz with an urgent call from home or all hell can break loose at work.
These tasks are urgent and need your attention, no doubt. But if you spend your entire day attending one urgent task after another, you will not accomplish your goals.
By the way, if you think a to-do list solves the problem, you are mistaken. To-do lists of most people include a large pile of things to do. Many of these tasks do not add value.
To fix the problem, all it takes is 10 minutes of your morning. For best results, use a notepad and write down the important tasks you should complete that day. Let the notepad remain on your desk. It will serve as a reminder of the important tasks you have to complete today.
2. Target your long term goals
Most people miss out on working on their long term goals daily. For example, running a business of your own could be your long term goal, while you work at a full-time job now. But if you do not take baby steps towards your goal, you will never achieve it.
If you plan to run your business someday, without any action, your plan will remain just that – a plan.
You must break your long term goal into short term tasks. Only when you work on your long term goal 5 days a week will you succeed in moving forward. You do not have to spend half a day working on your long term goals. Even 1-2 hours a day will work wonders in the long run.
These tasks are the ones you must aim to complete even if the urgent tasks take a backseat. It won’t be easy, but you have to find a way to make time for it. And trust me, you do have time for it.
3. Do one thing at a time
We have a ton of things to do. In a hurry to complete them all, we switch from one task to another. Working on multiple tasks gives us a false comfort that we are pushing ourselves to the limit.
People consider multitasking as a skill and even boast about it. Mentioning the ability to multitask as a strength on resumes is not uncommon either.
In reality, working on multiple tasks destroys your productivity. When you switch from one task to another, your brain carries some attention residue when you move to the next task. The residue leads to dilution of focus during the next task.
The same repeats when you move back to the first task. Complete one task and move to the next.
Thinking you are efficient by multitasking is as stupid as a dog trying to fly. Not only will you never succeed, but you will also even hurt yourself. Do yourself a favor and stop multitasking.
4. Spend time thinking
Your superpower is the ability to think. No other living species can think like a human. Yet, most people fail to utilize thinking to its full potential.
Spend 15 minutes a day, doing nothing but thinking. You can use this time to planning action towards your goals, how to be a better person, how to delight your spouse or anything under the sun. During these 15 minutes, think about what could you do better.
The ideas generated from those 15 minutes will pay a thousandfold return in value.
Do not spend those 15 minutes on the problems you have and breaking your head over them.
5. Spend 30min – 1 hour learning
When was the last time you took the time to learn something? For most people, learning ends in college. Any other learning only occurs in the actual job.
For example, once a fresher out of college lands a job, he only learns from the training provided. Searching for solutions to problems on Google adds some learning too but that’s about it. Such a process of learning is as slow as a snail crossing the road.
Pick up a book on how to do your job better, take up a course online, read articles from the experts in your field, listen to podcasts. Set aside time to learn daily.
Spending 30 minutes a day getting better at what you do puts you in a different league altogether. 6 months later you will race forward in a super-bike while the others who did not spend time learning will still be on a bicycle.
6. Target Few Important Things
Given 2 options below, which one would you prefer?
- Completing 10 tasks a day, 6 of which are routine
- Completing 5 tasks a day, all 5 of which help your long term goals
Most people would say they prefer the second option but go by their day as per the first option. Doing more does not imply productivity. Period.
Set time aside to complete the tasks which matter to you. You must manage your other tasks and responsibilities outside this time. If you plan to complete the tasks that matter to you after you complete your tasks and responsibilities, you will never complete them.
Prioritize your long term goals like a sharpshooter with his eyes on the target.
7. Turn off distractions
Distractions do to your productivity what a bad apple does to the whole basket. Unfortunately, we live in a world of distractions and a bad apple lies within our arms reach all the time.
With the advent of smartphones, tablets, and computers, the attention span of people has reduced day by day. You must be taken aback to know most people spend less than 3 hours a day working.
We socialize with people when we get to work, browse social media feed, watch YouTube/Netflix videos, answer our texts, glance group messages, read emails, respond to work messages on the messenger and so on.
Keep your smartphone away while you need to work on a task. By away I mean, your phone should not beep, vibrate or make any noise. You cannot place it face down on the table either.
The more you separate yourself from the smartphone world, the better your productivity will be.
Similarly, look for other ways to eliminate distractions.
Everyone has different distractions so identify your own. For example, I had a habit of browsing random articles. Today, I only open one tab in the browser when I am working to avoid looking at an open tab like Quora and wasting time on it.
You can also cut distractions by wearing earphones, closing doors, putting up a DND sign and anything else that floats your boat. Working without distractions is like working out with a healthy diet. Only the people who follow it regularly know the difference it makes to the results.
8. Record Thoughts and Ideas
How often do you forget your thoughts or ideas? If you are like me and most other people, we break our head trying to recall a thought which came to our head earlier.
You might have thought about a task to complete, about calling a friend or had a brilliant idea, but a few minutes later – poof. It disappeared into thin air.
We forget our thoughts on a daily basis. Yet we live with the overconfidence of having the memory of a whiz kid who can recall the sequence of a deck of cards.
Record your important thoughts by noting them down.
- Did you recall a task to complete? Note it down.
- Were you flashed with a great idea? Note it down
- Did you find an interesting article but do not have the time to read it now? Note it down.
Do not procrastinate and tell yourself you will note it down later. The whole purpose of taking notes is to help you recall your thoughts. If you postpone this activity itself, you dilute the whole purpose.
What do you do first when you wake up in the morning? Most people have the habit of checking their phones for messages and social media for updates. All this while in bed.
If you do the same, you are an addict.
Checking your phone as soon as you wake up shows how glued and addicted you are to your phone. Your addiction is no different from a smoker who feels the need to light up a cigarette in the wee hours of the morning.
Similarly, emails can dictate your day by asking for your attention on various tasks one after another. Once you check your email, you lose control of your day because the emails in your inbox can dictate your day.
For most people, checking emails a few hours later makes no difference. We live in the delusion thinking that checking emails helps in keeping a tab on what happens at work.
In reality, it clutters your head and forces you to work on things others want you to. Your priority should always be working on things you want to.
Therefore, check your emails a few hours after you step into the office. Use the time until then to think, work on the long term goals you have set and learning new things.
Try this for a few days and check for any impact due to your delayed email checking. For more than 90% of the job roles, you will notice no impact whatsoever.
Finally, all the above are only tips. Productivity should be a lifestyle, not a bunch of tips to follow. People know one or more simple productivity tips already. The problem lies in people lacking the discipline to follow the productivity tips they already know.
By reading this article and even before, you already knew enough tips to increase your results. The question to ask yourself is, how many of these have you tried implementing? Do not be obsessed with finding umpteen ways of being more productive.
Knowing and implementing 3 unique productivity tips produces far better results than knowing 15 productivity tips while implementing none.
You already know enough tips. Will you start implementing tips from this list? Or will you forget them tomorrow?
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.