‘How to be more productive…’. While not exactly a new topic, it’s one that most busy people find infinitely fascinating.
Because we live in a fast paced world with endless to-do lists and never enough time. How many of us get to the end of the day, collapse on our sofa (or bed!) exhausted from a long, busy day, yet discouraged or annoyed because we didn’t get everything done?
I bet its a feeling most of you can identify with, am I right?
There are also countless articles out there telling to do this, or to use this app, or to follow this rule, etc. etc. etc. for being more productive. I’m not going to tell you that I’m offering anything revolutionary here, but having tried more tips and tricks than I can count, I’ve found a few to actually be worth their weight.
So, to help you spend your time more wisely (i.e. not spend an entire afternoon Googling tips to be more productive!), I’ve compiled my favorite tips that have worked wonders for me, plus I added on a couple of my own.
8 smart tips to be more productive
#1 | Plan ahead
I've said it before and I'll say it again (and again and again!). If you want to get stuff done and stay on track, plan for it.
Spend some time on Sundays planning out the week ahead...take 15 minutes each evening to plan out the next day (or first thing in the morning with your cup of coffee).
Related Topic: 5 Steps to Successfully Plan Your Week
#2 | Prioritize
@@Everything on your to do list is not weighted equally.@@ Everyone has a different way of approaching this once you note what items on your list are the most important things (I call those my 'must do's') vs. the busy tasks that don't necessarily have to get done right away.
Related Topic: Master Your To Do List, Part 1: The Basics
For some, it's more productive to figure out what absolutely must be done and focus on those first. For others, it's taking 30 minutes to plow through the mundane little things to clear off a nice chunk of your list before settling in on the big ticket must do's. Find a process that works best for you, but first you have to prioritize things.
#3 | Set a Timer & Compete with Yourself
If you really want to focus in on something and get it done, set a timer and challenge yourself to get XYZ done in that amount of time.
This is my favorite way to clean my house since I hate cleaning my house, so I'm easily distracted. What should take me 1 hour can drag into 3 because I get distracted with a book that I picked up on my table to move, but just had to stop and read a little bit. But, if I set a timer for 45 minutes, the competitive side of me wants to hit my goal and I become a woman on a mission!
#4 | Eliminate Distractions
This is my biggest struggle. A lot of people will cite social media as the main source of their distractions and while this is definitely one of them, it’s not necessarily my biggest distraction. Random internet searches can become a rabbit hole that I completely jump in and follow. Or, the disorganized mess on the side of my desk suddenly beckons me to straighten it up, right NOW. It doesn’t matter what it is…distractions are one of the biggest deterrents to productivity.
It takes focus and a dogged determination to ignore the distractions and focus in. Try different things to see what works best for you. I’ve found that when it comes to writing my blog posts…I’m most focused and productive when I write on my laptop in my bed. So, if I want to work on upcoming posts, no matter what time of the day it is, I grab a cup of coffee and get comfy in my bed with my lap desk and laptop. I can knock out a ton of work with this setup!! I don’t know why this works for me over working at my desk, but it just does, so I’m not going to fight it!
#5 | Work in Blocks
I love this technique! Basically, you set specific blocks of time to each task and you stick with that. This is another one where your timer will come in handy.
Let’s say you have 5 hours to work on your to do list and you need to clean up the house, write some blog posts, pay the bills, and work on some party plans for your holiday party in December. You might set 2 hours for cleaning up the house, 1-1/2 hours to work on blog posts, 45 minutes to pay bills and work on your budget, and the final 45 minutes to work on party ideas.
With this method, you start off with a plan that addresses everything you want to get done. Set a timer and get to work. When it goes off, stop what you’re doing and move on to the next thing. If you finish a task before the timer goes off, move on to the next block. Be sure you schedule in some breaks, though, which leads me to...
#6 | Take Breaks
Yep...you read that right...@@one of the keys to being productive is taking a break@@ when you're starting to feel overwhelmed or tired. Your body and mind will have a chance to relax so when you come back, you'll be more refreshed and likely be more focused. If you're more focused, you'll get things done quicker (and you'll do better on them!).
#7 | Outsource
Sometimes you just can't do it all. By 'outsource', I don't necessarily mean to hire someone, although that's definitely an option if that fits your budget. But, work with those around you...what more could your spouse/partner, kids, friends, co-workers, etc. do to even the load? Reach out and explain where you are and that you need help.
#8 | Listen to Yourself
Yes, there are times when we have to get things done that we just don’t feel like doing. But, there are other times when we don’t but we make ourselves anyway because it’s on the list.
Give yourself a break, listen to yourself, and if your heart isn’t in the task, shelve it for another day. It’s okay!!! It’s better to use your time and energy on tasks that fire you up in the moment. You’ll do better work if you listen to yourself and respect what your mind is telling you (And obviously, there are times or tasks that we don’t want to do but we have to anyway, so I’m not referring to those tasks. To get through those, implement some of the other strategies mentioned above!).
One final thing I want to note…it’s okay if you don’t finish everything on your list every day. The world won’t come crashing down around you if three (or more!) of the items on your list aren’t crossed off by the time you go to bed.
Retrain your thoughts to notice everything that you did complete! Congratulate yourself at the end of each day for how productive you were and go to sleep feeling good about yourself instead of feeling like a failure.