How often are you drained by 2pm and need another coffee or three? Figuring out the ideal circumstances for being productive and focused starts with changing your habits. Charles Duhigg, a New York Times best-selling author, explains that true productivity gives you a feeling that the work you're doing at a given moment is what matters most to you at that time.
We often glorify "busy" but don't focus enough on "productivity." Start with finding what is important, and follow through by ensuring those goals are achieved. Revitalize your workday, and take charge of your time with these four methods.
1- Take breaks, and move around.
Working on a single project without a break will quickly lead to a decrease in productivity. Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his team at Florida State University have determined that our bodies move from alert to physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. It is important to get up from your desk, walk around and give your eyes a fresh perspective, especially if you are working on a computer. Taking a 5- to 10-minute break every hour and a half has also been shown to make a 4.5-hour workday equivalent to a full 8 hours. I'm on board with working smarter for a shorter workday; what about you?
Working from another location for a change of scenery is also beneficial because it helps reignite your motivation. This change doesn't need to be drastic – start with moving to another desk or working from a different room. If you have the option, take a few hours to work from a coffee shop or the library. Find the locations where you feel most productive, and rotate between them.
2- Make changes to technology.
Think about how many distractions are in our hands, and no wonder productivity has decreased over time. We have the world at our fingertips but not necessarily to help us check something off the to-do list – unless you have "stalk my ex" or "look for houses I will never buy" on that list. Start with turning off your notifications while you're working. This can easily be done with do-not-disturb mode, or take it a step further, and turn off notifications, period.
Rescue Time is a resource to help you see where time is being spent. Try using it for a few days, and get an overview. Start to remove distractions, and set aside time throughout the day or in the evening to enjoy social media.
3- Plan ahead.
There are numerous ways to stay organized, and planning ahead will vary for each person, but these options can all be successful if implemented correctly. Don't let your emails and other distractions turn you away from your goals; make sure your plan is already in place. Keep in mind, there may be better ways to do something. Stay open to that. Productivity isn't limited to a routine, but it will be achieved more often when you have a plan in place.
- Block-schedule: Set aside a specific amount of work time for various tasks.
- Theme your week: Give each day a specific theme, and stick to that. You can spend a few hours catching up on emails or calls in the morning, but then move on to what you need to do for that specific day. For example, Monday is spent on marketing, Tuesday's focus is recruiting, and Wednesday is meant for company culture, etc.
- To-do list: This is the most basic way of planning out your workweek but can be most effective for certain personalities. Start with your high-priority tasks, and work your way down the list. If lists are your method of organization, keep more than one! Short-term for things you must do and long-term for big goals; avoid the long agenda that won't work out.
4- Collaborate effectively.
Harvard Business Review tells us that more than three-quarters of an employee's day is spent communicating with colleagues. Ensuring that collaboration is productive can be difficult, so be sure to follow through on whether tasks are being completed in a timely manner. When working in a group, it is easy to get distracted instead of focusing on the task, so use the planning methods above to drive the team toward the end goal.
In order to collaborate productively, make sure all team members are on the same page.
- They should have personalities that work well together.
- Each employee needs to be trained and informed on the project.
- Roles should be predefined and explained.
If these tips lead you to working "smarter not harder," don't waste those extra hours of free time on technology. Prepare for tomorrow, and move forward efficiently.