Are you stuck in a productivity rut? Do you find it hard to stay focused on completing a single task? Are you trapped on the hamster wheel of procrastination? Same here!
In today’s blog, we’re going to look at ways to jump-start your productivity. If we’re not being productive then our lives and routines can lack focus or any real sense of accomplishment. Work starts to pile up and then we end up working longer hours, feeling more stressed and tired and ultimately, burning out.
Having worked from home for the past 21 months, I understand how easy it is to lose focus and become unproductive. With many of my colleagues furloughed for extended periods of time, I spent a lot of hours keeping things afloat for my company. All too soon, the line between work and home became invisible as I continued working late into the evening.
Working so intensely led to a reduction in my energy levels. When things started to return to normality, I began to ease back a little and take more time for myself. Without tight deadlines and goals to work towards, procrastination took over and I started constantly putting things off.
Looking around for ways to refocus my mind and start being productive again led me to discover the following tips that helped to jump-start my productivity and get back on track:-
Make a List
It may seem like a pretty obvious place to start but writing down all of your tasks can really help to get things into perspective. Start by looking at all of your upcoming projects for the next week and list them. Then, break down all of the things you will need to do for those projects. Allocate these tasks to certain days of the week so that you give yourself time to get every step done and hit your deadlines.
I’ve found that it’s a good idea to end every day by making a list of all of the jobs that you need to get done the following day. You can then slot in your project work around your day to day commitments such as answering emails and attending meetings. The point is to make good use of your time and keep on top of everything so that you don’t find your work piling up in the background and end up having to work all hours just to get it done.
For list organisation purposes, I generally prefer to write them all by hand as I believe that the physical act of writing helps you to commit important tasks and information to memory. There’s also nothing more satisfying than crossing an item off the list when it’s done! However, many people have now taken to using apps like Trello or Asana to keep track of every stage of a project or their daily task lists. Ultimately, it’s up to you what you use but the main goal is to get yourself organised.
Do the Most Important Tasks First
After I’ve made my list for the day or week, I like to use Brian Tracy’s ‘ABCDE Method’ from his book ‘Eat That Frog‘ to prioritise my tasks. You simply go through your list and place one of the letters beside each item in order of importance and urgency. Putting an ‘A’ against a list item means that it’s a very important task and something that you absolutely have to get done, such as a report for your boss or responding to an urgent request.
Placing a ‘B’ against something on your list means that it’s a job that you should get done but there will only be mild consequences if you don’t get to it, such as returning a non-urgent phone call or responding to a low priority email. ‘C’ is defined as a task that would be nice to do, like texting a friend or going out for lunch with them. ‘D’ is for ‘Delegate’ and the idea is that you should delegate as much as possible in order to free up your time for completing your ‘A’ tasks.
‘E’ is for ‘Eliminate’ which means that it’s a task that should not be on the list as completing it will make no real difference to your workload. It may be a task that is no longer required or something that you have continued to do out of habit. Once you’ve applied the ‘ABCDE’ method to your list, you’re ready to get going with your most important tasks right at the top of your priority list. It’s essential that these big ‘A’ tasks get done first as they have the most impact on your time and productivity.
Allocate Time to Your Tasks
One very useful productivity tip that works well is to allocate a set amount of time to every task on your list. Working to a time deadline can help you to focus your mind and get you into the habit of getting things done quickly and efficiently. Using the ‘ABCDE Method’ in tandem with time allocation can help you ensure that you’re using your time wisely and focusing your energy on completing the most important tasks.
For instance, if there are a few ‘A’ tasks for you to complete in a day and several ‘B’ tasks, you may want to allocate an hour to each of them and 5 – 10 minutes to each of your ‘B’ tasks. The temptation will be to get all of your ‘B’ tasks done first and go for the ‘quick wins’. Don’t – it may seem like the easy option but ‘B’ tasks can grow rapidly throughout the day and you could find that you end up with little time to get your important ‘A’ tasks done.
Switch Off Distractions
Many of us experience a variety of distractions throughout the day. Some of these, such as colleagues dropping by your desk for a quick chat, are difficult to avoid. However, there are certain tactics that we can adopt to help minimise distractions as much as possible.
If you’re working from home, it’s likely that your main distractions are going to be digital – your phone, the television, music playing etc. Switch them off or put them away, particularly if you’re working on important ‘A’ tasks. Your friends on WhatsApp aren’t going to miss you if you put your phone in the drawer for an hour.
If you’re working on something in your office, let your colleagues know that you’re not available for a few hours. If you find it difficult to concentrate with people talking and working around you then take yourself off to a meeting room or a quieter area of the office. You could even try putting a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your desk to encourage people to stay away from you whilst you’re working.
We hope that these tips will help you to jump-start your productivity today and get you on the way to achieving your goals. Remember to write lists, organise your priorities and focus on your big tasks first. Once you discover what works for you, you can flex it up as you see fit.
Ultimately, the importance of achieving greater productivity is to help you reduce your stress levels, get your work done on time and get motivated to achieve all of your dreams. Life shouldn’t be stressful, so get productive and free up time for yourself to enjoy it.