List of top productivity tips to help you do more in less time. Overcome the distractions and focus on your goals with these simple productivity tips.
Bonus material: Class is in session. Learn game-changing lessons from world-class experts like Chris Voss, Marie Forleo, James Clear, and more.
Have you ever wondered how some people seem to do so much more than everyone else in one day? How do they make it look like they have everything figured out and held together?
Have you ever wanted to become more productive? Ever wanted to have more to show from the hours in the day? The truth is, we all have. Even productive people want to be even more productive. It’s not just the procrastinators that do.
We’ve rounded up some amazing productivity tips for this year. They will get you meeting deadlines and exceeding expectations in no time. All you have to do is follow our simple tips for improved productivity, and the results will speak for themselves.
The Science Behind Productivity
In simple terms, productivity is how efficient you are at doing a certain task. It is the amount of time you put in versus how much you get from this time. However, time is a very valuable and limited resource. It runs out quickly and that’s why we end up complaining there aren’t enough hours in the day.
If you look at it this way, it’s clear that to be more productive, you don’t need to put in more time; you need to be more efficient.
Many studies have tried to measure productivity, how to increase productivity, or how to inspire it. None of them have come up with answers worthy of being set in stone. Still, productivity is something that can be improved and, although there are many productivity tips out there, some tips have been found to work better than others.
Read on to see our top picks for productivity tips you can use now.
1. Set Realistic Goals
Setting realistic goals applies to yourself as well as tasks. It’s one thing to want to be more productive because you tend to procrastinate or not work as efficiently as you’d like. However, it’s another to want more from yourself than is humanly possible. We tend to think everything needs to be ‘Go! Go! Go!’ all the time, and that’s not exactly good for us.
Expecting too much from yourself will only set you up for disappointment, and disappointment is not a friend of productivity.
When you set your productivity goals, try to stay grounded. Understand you cannot function at full capacity 24/7. We all have our productive moments, but we all also need our downtime.
Try to set and schedule your goals accordingly and sprinkle in some rest and fun while you’re at it. Set realistic tasks that take into account full productivity times, as well as rest and mind-clearing moments.
This will help you avoid burnout and make you more efficient in the long term.
2. Dive Deeper into What Makes You Productive
Each of us has specific things that make us productive. Some listen to music to increase their productivity; some need peace and quiet. Some can work from pretty much anywhere; others need a dedicated space and zero distractions.
For me, it usually is muting out my environment with an ambient mixer like Noisli and many others you can easily find online.
No one knows what works best for you other than you, so list the things you’ve noticed that can improve your productivity. Knowing exactly what you need to make yourself more efficient will make you more likely to pay attention to those details.
Try to give yourself at least some of those advantages (if not all) the next time you need a boost. It could be just keeping a piece of candy or a snack nearby, putting your hair in a bun, or listening to Mozart. It could mean that you need to get out of the house or office and work in a coffee shop.
3. Be Strategic About Your Schedule
The Pareto Principle is widely known and applied and is the foundation of the 80/20 rule.
In business, it is said that 80% of sales come from 20% of clients. The same goes for productivity. A good productivity method is to build your schedule around the 20% of tasks that carry the most weight in getting you closer to your goal.
Once you identify one of these major tasks, make it your priority and the most important part of your schedule. Dedicate enough time to it and don’t mix it in with other less important tasks.
Source: Dean Yeong
Multitasking may be popular, but it turns out it is not very efficient.
Whenever possible, automate and outsource. You can use SaaS tools to automate your email marketing campaigns, look for help on Upwork, leverage CRM tools, connect tools and processes, and use your time to focus on what really matters.
Since we mentioned emails, say you have 10 emails that you have to handle in one day manually, as you want to personalize them as much as possible.
You know which ones are more important, and they usually take more time to answer. Choose one of them and focus solely on it. Avoid any interruptions or distractions for the time you set out to do that task. This will enable you not only to check off an important task on your list; it will also allow you to gain momentum.
4. Take Your Scheduling Seriously
Once you set up a clear schedule by prioritizing your tasks, don’t let yourself be sidetracked. Commit to the schedule you’ve created, and avoid letting other people or other tasks dictate how to change it. Letting yourself be drawn into other tasks will throw you off your game and getting back will be difficult.
When you start working on a task, make sure you finish it. Are you writing a presentation and see a new email in your inbox? If the subject does not start with “Urgent,” ignore it. For any serious tasks, you have to hold several variables in mind, juggle many thoughts and ideas, and form them into coherent code, text, or images. When you reply to an email, take that phone call, chat with a colleague, you completely lose this train of thought and it can take 5-15 minutes to get back into that productive state again.
It may be hard to do this sometimes, but you will need to learn to say no. About this, Warren Buffett famously said that “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
5. Make Big Tasks Smaller
Starting work on a big task can be daunting. You can often feel overwhelmed, even anxious, by the work involved and delay it altogether. The good news is that getting started is probably the hardest part. So, that’s what you’ll need to learn to manage.
To give you the boost you need to start work on a large project, try to break it down into smaller tasks. They are more manageable and less intimidating. Once you start ticking off the smaller tasks, you will build momentum, and it will be easier to complete the whole project.
6. Meet Only When You Can’t Call or Email
Meetings can take up a lot of unnecessary time, from the time it takes you to get there, to the small talk while you wait for someone who is late, to the side conversations that should be between just two people. Try to limit the meetings you take and the time you spend on them. If you find yourself in the middle of a meeting that seems to never end, do your best to bring it back on track and draw the conclusions that will help end it in a reasonable time.
Some meetings, if not most, don’t even need to be meetings at all. Whatever meetings you can turn into a call or an email will save time and allow you to focus on more important tasks. If there is a discussion or presentation to be held, consider using a webinar software like Easy Webinar (more options here). The time you (and your colleagues) will save on organization and travel is just outstanding.
If you do need to go to several meetings that can’t be avoided, you can try to schedule them more efficiently. A good productivity tip you can use is to schedule a group of meetings together instead of having them scattered on different days and at different times. Schedule several meetings one after the other and dedicate a day only to that. Then, you can resume your work on your other tasks without having to pick up and leave in the middle of doing them.
On the other hand, if meetings are part of your every day, try to schedule one day a week without any meetings. Make that your “focus on tasks other than meetings” day and schedule everything else around it. Some workplaces have instituted a company-wide meeting-free day each week.
7. Learn to Manage Distraction and Interruptions
Distractions can come in all shapes and sizes. Phone notifications, calls, unscheduled visits, too much noise – it can be anything. Learning how to manage or work around them is the best strategy.
Notifications are easy. Your phone and your computer will have “do not disturb” options. Put your phone on silent mode, mute notifications on your laptop. It’s an easy way to stay focused without interruptions.
If co-workers are constantly disrupting your work, protect your productive time, and learn to say no. This doesn’t mean that you should turn into a grumpy loner. You can tell your co-worker that you are not available right now, and you’ll get back to them when you take a break. Or explain that you are working on a project that needs to be finished, tell them the time you plan to finish it, and that you can get back to them right after that. Some workplaces have flags you can put on your desk, indicating that you’re in the middle of a project, and please wait until the flag is removed.
Jumping from the task you are on to check your other emails is also a distraction. It’s OK not to read them the minute they hit your inbox. Focus on what you were doing and check the emails when you finish or take a break.
8. Don’t Be Surprised if You Are Not Always Efficient
Any productivity strategy must acknowledge you won’t be consistently efficient all the time. First of all, you need to account for the times of day when you know you are most productive and schedule more difficult tasks around that time. Some are at their most efficient and productive selves in the morning. But, that’s not a universal law. I find I am more productive around midday, so I schedule everything accordingly.
Next, accept that your brain can’t function without a break. One of the most popular productivity techniques is Pomodoro. The “classic” Pomodoro states that you should work in 20 minutes blocks, but for some tasks that is just not enough so there are many variations. What seems to work well for more complex tasks is allowing yourself at least 10 minutes of rest after 60-90 minutes of intense work. You may also find that a 10-minute break is not enough. That’s OK. Use that time to focus on simpler tasks and get those out of the way when you don’t function 100%. Getting rid of the small stuff in this downtime helps you clear up your to-do list. It will also help you feel less overwhelmed with everything you have to do.
9. Visualize The Time Running Out
Are you familiar with Parkinson’s law? This law states that the task will take as much time as you will give it.
There is an additional point that I want to tell from personal experience (probably coined by somebody already). It is about the (lack of) pressure of time running out.
When we live our lives, it may seem that there is so much time. Are these familiar:
- The end of the semester is three months away, that’s a lot of time…
- The deadline is in two weeks, I will make it, no problem…
- I can start doing X tomorrow, it is only June…
Suddenly, all the time runs away, and you wonder where did the month go? Where did the year go? The time goes by, but nothing has moved for you. In five years…five years will pass.
What helped me quite a lot was to realize how fast the time was running by. So I started using time countdowns like this one. I set up a date and time when I have to submit something, and the countdown starts, it is online, so you can check it anytime from anywhere.
Seeing how the time flies past makes you concentrate on the task at hand.
10. Talk to Yourself
I know it sounds funny, but hear me out. This is an efficient productivity tip I use whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by a task. Self-doubt and feeling overwhelmed are natural feelings, especially when the task is complex and time-consuming; sometimes, you just need an inspirational boost to keep you going. But the truth is you’ve got this, so why not say it to yourself?
You can choose to be overcome by stress and anxiety or choose to use them as fuel. A tight deadline or a complex project can become motivating instead of daunting when you reframe the way you see it.
Positive self-talk and visualizing your goal can go a long way. Giving yourself the confidence that you have what it takes to do the task and succeed will give you the confidence you need to start. After that, visualizing your goal will help you advance and reach that goal. Though it may sound silly, reading inspirational quotes listening to podcasts with some positive reinforcement helps (just do not get stuck in purely listening; you need to act after).
I guarantee that telling yourself things like “I’ve got this” or “I can do this” will not make you look crazy. It will improve your productivity and help you conquer task after task until you reach your goal.
You can apply these tips for productivity in any order you want or just choose the ones that work for you. And remember: mastering being more efficient at work means more time for other things. So, say goodbye to procrastination and hello to a new and improved you.
Vlad is a blogger and founder at Costofincome.com, a blog about creating online business and various digital business tools.