Hey, let’s admit, our routines are stressful, we tend to procrastinate and most of us are trying ever so hard to meet the tough competition the world is throwing at us. We are constantly required to be productive, charged, innovative, happening, and available. With such expectations, life has become pretty fast-paced and before we know it, we succumb to burnout that leads to increased procrastination and in some serious cases - depression or anxiety.
The problem is, we’ve got it all wrong - this productivity thing. They tell us to wake up at 4 a.m. They tell us to time each of our minute. They tell us to schedule every breathing moment. They tell us to work harder and harder making it sound like as if we don’t do enough. They give us stories of successful leaders who apparently do nothing else but plan and work while being super productive. Those leaders are like demi-gods doing it all right. They lead us into believing that we are not worth it and that we have to try harder if we want to be successful in life.
Well, I’m here to tell you that this is all wrong. Productivity isn’t about working harder - it’s about working smarter. It’s not about waking up at 4 a.m., it’s about choosing a time that works best for you. It’s not about being more productive, it’s about taking it one day at a time.
So, if you’re stressing over productivity levels this week, here are 7 great tips to increase your productivity at work without losing your mind or your motivation.
Don’t Check Work Emails or Messages Until its Official Work Time
The problem with most of us is that we allow technology and work to invade every waking (and sleeping) moment of our lives. Checking the phone at 3 a.m., responding to emails promptly, spending an hour at night fixing schedules and getting only 6 hours of eye-shut. This is not just stressful but is also counter-productive. And the first step to a productive work day week is to shut off your mobile data plan at night. You don’t want to have messages bugging you all night.
Keep your morning ritual simple. Freshen up, get ready for work, have your breakfast, go to work, keep your coffee mug with you, and then start reading your emails one by one followed by checking messages on your mobile. Allow yourself this one hour of catching up and reading important stuff while sipping your favorite beverage. This one hour will help you mentally prepare for the day.
Reduce Clutter in Your Life
Clutter is known to affect your brain negatively and may cause you high levels of anxiety and depression. The irony though is clutter isn’t just physical material anymore - it’s your desktop loaded with files and folders, it’s your browser tabs open 10 at a time, it’s your constant inflow of information. You’re always dealing with an overflow of information, from the latest news to what your friends are doing over the weekend to keeping up with industry trends and the list goes on. While cleaning your desk may be a great move, it’s not enough when everything else you’re dealing with is equally cluttered. Clean up your mobile device of irrelevant apps, limit the notifications you get, limit the social networks you’re active on. Clean your desktop and organize your folders, delete unnecessary files, give your machine a clean sweep. Finally do the same for your actual desk. You’ll feel a lot more relaxed thanks to the free time you will have.
Meditate to Your Favorite Instrumental Music for 15 Minutes a Day
This meditation advice is way different from what you generally read and it’s even more fun. Ever feel one of those moments during the day when you’re super sleepy and zombified? Well, the remedy to that is pretty simple. Listen to your favorite instrumental music and tune out of your current environment. Close your eyes and just focus on the tune of the music. It’s equal to taking a power nap, which also works wonders for your brain. When following this advice, you can envision any comfortable image that may relax you. There are no restrictions, envision whatever works best for you here - think of mountains and hilltops, of beaches and islands, of huts and scenic landscapes or simply of yourself achieving a goal you’ve always wanted to achieve and celebrating over it. Imagine a journey or a story and each day progress on the story with this 15-minute meditation. You’ll automatically notice your eyes wanting to open after 15 minutes and you’ll be pretty productive and positive throughout the day. If you continue with this for a whole week, you’ll notice a change in your behavior and personality - you’ll be more calm and productive.
Say No to Multitasking
Everything at work is important and needs to get done. However, not everything has the same priority neither the same deadlines. If you want to be productive and effective, then avoid multitasking. Do not juggle 4 tasks at a time. Prioritize your tasks and if you are unsure which task holds more importance then discuss it with your team or supervisors and have an ETA for every task. Multitasking may be a talent provided you can get multiple tasks done in a day without compromising on quality or efficiency. If you attempt to work on too many things on the same day, you’ll lose out on efficiency and quality. You’ll come home feeling more stressed and unproductive even though you feel you may have done a lot. Some people naturally multitask because they end up feeling bored or unproductive when they work on one task for a long time. The boredom, however, can be overcome by taking short breaks instead of starting other tasks. If you feel the same pressure to start a new task, take a 10-minute break and read up on something good or play a game.
Make Good Use of Project Management
Project management has been a lifesaver for companies and individuals alike. It has helped companies manage ultra-complex projects through the use task scheduling, task assignment, ETAs, progress times, etc. Choose a project management tool you like - there are plenty of them out there. Freedcamp, Basecamp are the most commonly used free options for individuals and teams. You can also make use of Google Suite, which is a powerful platform as it integrates everyone over mobile or desktop enabling chats on documents, real time collaboration, reminders, and plenty of other abilities. To start with, create deadlines and task priorities on a GoogleSheet and enable Google Calendars to help you stay on track of your project. You can also opt for more powerful but paid programs like Atlassian and SharePoint both of which are great for managing tasks more efficiently. Make a list of tasks you have to accomplish using one of the these programs and enable it to send you regular reminders. As soon as you get the project done, mark the project as accomplished and give yourself a treat!
Beat Procrastination by Enforcing Accountability on Yourself
If procrastination is a problem for you then beat it by enforcing pressure. How do you do that? Commit to a deadline on your own for completing a task. If not applicable, ask a colleague or team member to bind you with a deadline. Understand that lax timelines do not work well for you so try to get yourself on a deadline just so you can protect yourself from the dangerous lures of procrastination. You need to be held accountable for your tasks and if you know this accountability is hard to come by simply because of your procrastination, then you need to have it enforced. This may sound pretty harsh, but nothing gets procrastinators moving more than a tight deadline. In fact, they are the most productive when they have to meet crucial deadlines and oddly enough, there is no compromise in the quality of their work!
Do Not Think of Work After Work Hours
This may be difficult advice to follow but you need to stop thinking about work after work hours. Don’t work on that new project overnight. Don’t send emails after 5. Don’t worry about anything other than your life after work hours. The purpose is for you to stay focused and work hard during work hours. In doing so, you will accomplish most of your tasks during the first four to five hours of the workday. Seriously, no one can work incessantly for 8 hours straight, so don’t stress about it. Do your best during the day and rest during the evening, pursuing a hobby you love, a skill you want to learn or a side hustle you want to work on. The evening time after work is YOURS. Use it well.
Productivity is about how efficiently you accomplish one task. It is not about staying connected all day long or having a super busy schedule. So, have a great week taking a break and still being able to be productive!