The natural ability to be productive, was not something all of us were lucky enough to be born with.
The good news, for the rest of us “unlucky” people, is that productivity, can in fact be learned and honed with practice.
I’m going to share with you 7 small changes which I’ve made in my own life that’s doubled my productivity.
Before we start, you have to understand that there’s a big distinction between working to get things done and working to get the right things done. Some people work a lot and they’re always busy, but they never seem to get any of the important things done.
This is not what we’re after.
I’m talking about real productivity; Ways to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the time you spend working, in order to achieve whatever goals you’ve set for yourself.
Here, are the 7 small changes you can implement in your life right now to start doubling your productivity:
1. Focus on only one thing at a time
We’re moving towards a culture of multitasking, where our daily focus is being split into thousand different directions. This is really counter-productive when it comes to maximizing productivity.
You want to make it a habit to focus on only one task at a time. Focus your attention like a laser, on your most important task. Complete the task properly and thoroughly before moving on to the next one.
Multitasking can reduce productivity by approximately 40-percent according to some researchers.
Switching from one task to another makes it difficult to tune out distractions and can cause mental blocks that can slow down your progress.
- Multitasking – The Cognitive Costs of Multitasking. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/cognitivepsychology/a/costs-of-multitasking.htm
2. Work in 60 minute chunks of time
Schedule your work into fixed chunks of time, followed by a period of “disconnect”, where you completely change your focus to something non-work related.
Your body has many natural rhythms which occurs automatically, whether you’re aware of it or not.
One such rhythm is called the Ultradian Rhythm.
For most people Ultradian Rhythms occur at intervals of 90-120 minutes throughout the day, during which they feel energized and are able to get things done. This is followed by a 30 minute stretch of low energy levels. Then the cycle starts again and you’re on your way towards another period of peak performance.
- Don’t Work Hard For More Than 90 Minutes Straight – Stratford … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://stratford.patch.com/blog_posts/dont-work-hard-for-more-than-90-minutes-straight
Our body naturally goes through periods of high energy followed by periods of low energy, also known as the energy renewal and restoration stage.
The problem with our culture today is that whenever we feel a bit tired, we like to turn to stimulants like coffee, instead of letting our body renew itself as it was intended to do.
This is very taxing on the adrenal system and also burns your willpower very inefficiently.
Doing this consistently over a period of time can lead to feelings of being chronically burned out.
Working in 60 minute chunks of time will allow you to take advantage of this natural cycle.
I recommend scheduling all your work into two consecutive 60-minute “work blocks”, followed by a 30-minute break where you disconnect from your work and focus on something complete unrelated to your work.
3. Eliminate distractions and interruptions
Create uninterrupted work blocks where you can focus 100% on your planned task and nothing else.
It takes a bit of time for your mind to go back to your original activity every time you’re interrupted, no matter how small the interruption is.
Keep a notepad near you at all times. If there’s an urgent interruption that can’t wait, write it down on your notepad and go back to it at a later time.
As always, use your judgement too because some interruptions may be urgent and time-sensitive.
4. Stay organized in your own way
Stay as organized as you can and create a system for yourself which allows you to find what you need, when you need it.
Spending time on small tasks might seem insignificant to you, but add it all up, and it can really damage your focus and greatly diminish your productivity because of the time it takes for your mind to re-focus on the task at hand.
Keep your workspace organized and you’ll notice a huge increase in overall productivity. Read Getting Things Done by David Allen.
5. Become more productive, not more busy
Prioritize all your work so you don’t end up working for the sake of working.
You have to look at the results, not just the work you put in.
Ask yourself if the work you’re doing right now is bringing you closer to your goal. If it’s not, then you have to consider whether it’s worth your time doing. Read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.
6. Don’t try to manage time better, manage yourself better
Managing time is such a misnomer.
People who try to manage time are often referring to managing themselves because you can’t really manage time, it just flows, and you have no control over it.
Since time is an external thing, when you try to manage time, its almost as if you’re not taking the full responsibility for the outcome.
What you want to do is manage yourself better as it implies that you’re taking full responsibility for whatever happens. It’s a small change in the way you think, but by accepting responsibility, you eliminate excuses and dramatically improve your productivity.
7. Create a to-do AND a must-do list
Before you go to sleep each night, sit down for about 15 minutes and create yourself a to-do list along with a “must-do” list for the following day.
Figure out what your long term goals are and use it to derive a series of short term goals.
Create an action plan consisting of the most basic level steps required to reach your short term goals. Prioritize them and add it to your list as “60-minute work blocks”. If you have a bunch of smaller tasks, go ahead and combine them together to form a single 60 min block whenever possible.
Tasks that are vital towards your goal should be listed under the “must-do” category while the regular tasks should just go into your to-do list.
Make sure you complete your must-do list every day without fail, before you start working on your to-do list. This creates a sense of urgency as you’re not allowed to start your to-do list until your most important tasks are out of the way. This will stop you from working on unimportant menial tasks as a way to procrastinate on the important high-value tasks.
It will take a bit of discipline when you first get started, but over time it will become second nature to you and your productivity will skyrocket.
Don’t forget to share this article with anyone you know that might benefit from having a little extra productivity in their life.