All of us have different temperaments, skills and methods of work. That’s why one person needs, say, 5 minutes to cope with a task, while another one will tinker with the same job for half an hour or even longer. This blog post compiles life hacks, tips and tricks that have helped other people optimize their workflow, which means that, by following them, you will raise your own productivity. Everybody wants to be able to spend less time getting more work done, so let’s learn how to accomplish this.
Here is a good theory with which I completely agree.
Focus on one task at a time. Yes, it really sounds trivial, but the first suggestion is very basic. Consider this. Your brain works in a somewhat similar way to computer RAM. How does productivity and the “one task” play into this? You fill your brain with assorted clutter and don’t focus on the essentials. That is the reason why you are wasting time. For example, you pay attention to quite a wide variety of information: China’s economy is slowing down – added to the RAM. EU Bailout program didn’t work – added to the RAM. Yankees lost their game yesterday – added to the RAM. Now, please answer the question as to what happens if you open too many programs on your computer and they stay open for a while? Your computer gets super slow. The same happens with your brain and, in turn, adversely affects your productivity. The brain gets overloaded with unnecessary information and you can’t be productive while you’re working on the important stuff, so you waste time. That’s one of the reasons why top performers such as Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs always wear the same stuff, day in and day out. They save the energy that’s needed for decisions like clothing, for more important decisions like products etc. So, the solution to this problem is simple: do one thing, do it well, finish it and then move on to the next thing.
I know that big bosses will argue the above theory, saying that this is just a kind of excuse for not being efficient and wasting time. But, as practice shows, multitasking is not for the average person, it’s a myth. Being able to be equally efficient performing multiple tasks simultaneously is for super heroes or a genius. Unfortunately, not all of us can boast super powers and we need to focus on one thing at a time in order to be really productive.
Know what you’re doing. It’s simple, but most people don’t really know what they’re doing on any given day, or even at any given moment. Setting a clear goal for the day means you’ll be able to focus, you won’t be overwhelmed, and you’ll recognize when you’re wasting time.
Know when you’re done. Your day should have an achievable end point. If you’re working towards an achievable goal, you’ll be more motivated to push through, and less likely to procrastinate. When you reach your goal, which should be a realistic one, you’ll actually be able to feel good and enjoy the rest of the day.
Try to turn tedious work you are reluctant to do into a game. Our personalities have different sides. A child is one of these sides. It’s easier to coax a child, who is always ready to play. Call the tedious task a game and ask your inner child to play it for five minutes only. Most often the work absorbs your concentration and you forget about time. And don’t forget to reward yourself when the work is finished. On what is your personal time focused? Movies, browsing online stores, anything else? Having finished doing the stuff you dislike, relax with the fun stuff (your time drain) for a short while, but limit the time of your “reward”.
Don’t procrastinate! Do the hard work first. Most of the tasks you dread doing will eat up your time if you allow yourself to think about them. Break down the hard work into smaller tasks and get started immediately, not in 5 minutes.
Determine what time of the day you are most active and attack the most challenging tasks then, as they are likely to get done in less time.
Group similar tasks together. Using an assembly-line procedure for repetitive tasks works well. Instead of taking each item from start to finish take all the items and do the first step, etc. You’ll be able to do more in less time.
Use schedules/calendar tasks and tracking software. Tasks that are not scheduled (where and when do you think this is going to get done) are likely not to happen because you’re over committed. There are plenty of such tools on the Internet (like Google calendar & TimeCamp, to name just a couple). When working out, blogging, client meetings, leadership team design time are all calendared and scheduled you know that you can get them done. Time tracking software will help you be aware of how much time you spend on various activities. It’s the best way to see which tasks need more or less attention and helps you stay more productive. The results will help you to set priorities and avoid distractions.
Put some thought into what needs to be done – preferably the night before. “Sleeping on it” works, and so does looking at the next day and the next week the night before, so you are mentally working through your schedule. A little thought helps; blocking out time to try to call someone when they’re not likely to be around is a formula for inefficiency.
Take several courses and read some online tutorials about planning and project management.
Create FBS’s (functional breakdown structures) and WBS’s (work breakdown structures) for the tasks that you are trying to complete. Get the templates for these from an online source or from books about project management.
Complete the tasks in question as closely as possible to the breakdown structures that you have created, while still leaving some room for flexibility.
Make a concerted effort to minimize any external distractions from the tasks at hand. Keep web browsing, personal phone calls/texts and BS’ing to an absolute minimum when you are working.
Stay on task. Unless you are required by management to take on additional workloads, do not start new tasks until you have completed your planned ones.
Try to approach your work in as calm and focused a manner as possible. The more relaxed and stress-free you are, the more able you’ll be to complete your required tasks.
Make breaks every couple of hours. Here is a list of activities that energize your body, mind and spirit. Choose whatever best suits your nature and lifestyle.
Get enough sleep. There are all kinds of studies showing that sleep deprivation hurts productivity, but it’s worth doing a little experiment for yourself if you’re not fully convinced. Change your sleep habits to get 8 hours per night for a solid week. I am sure that the result will surprise you. You will have more willpower to resist distractions and feel a marked increase in overall happiness.
You must learn to say no to others to be able to say yes to yourself. Helping others is great but not when it causes us stress trying to complete our own tasks. Learn to be more assertive and not take on too much work if possible.
If something takes less than three minutes, do it now. By adopting this rule, you will clear a lot of things from your “To Do” list very quickly. It also gives you a sense of satisfaction and achievement, which only fuels your productivity.
Organize your work space. Your ability to focus your thinking is directly related to your ability to eliminate your visual distractions. This means removing all the clutter on your desk and in your office. It also means facing away from your windows. Both types of visual distractions can be major derailments of your train of thought and concentration.
We guess there are enough tips for one article. Please share your experience if you are using some of them. If you think that our list is not complete, please add it with your comments.
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Helga Moreno is a learning junkie, requiring a new dose of fresh information every day. She is always keeping her notepad at hand in order not to miss a single thrilling event happening in cyberspace. She diligently puts down all her thought in order to share the most interesting of them with web community in general and TemplateMonster’s readers in particular. For more inspirational posts check her G+ and Twitter accounts.