Try These Tips to Maximize Your Productivity
Today, more people than ever before are working from home, working part time, or working in gigantic office buildings with gorgeous yet impractical open floor plans. All of these unusual working conditions often makes it hard to get anything done. Maybe you work better with other people around, but you work remotely most of the time, or maybe you’re stuck in a trendy office desperately wishing for walls around your desk.
There are ways that you can maximize your productivity and focus your attention on the task at hand. All it takes is a little bit of effort in finding what works for you. Here are some tips that we think will help maximize your productivity. Try a few out and see how they work for you.
Fidget (within reason)
There’s a reason why fidget spinners had such a moment in 2017 — it’s because they can actually work. Sometimes, people find it helpful to focus on listening when their hands are occupied. Don’t worry, we’re not telling you to go out and buy one of those insanely annoying light up ones, or even one that’s shaped like a traditional fidget spinner at all.
If you want to practice this in front of other people, find something discrete, like a paper clip, or even a little metal puzzle, and fidget with it away from your co-worker’s eye line. Chances are, if your hands are busy, you’ll find it easier to focus.
Use the Pomodoro Method
The Pomodoro Method is a method of structuring your work day. You spend 25 minutes solidly working on one task, then take a five-minute break. Every three cycles, you take a longer break. It’s simple, but it’s the repeated usage that makes it effective. You can even find special timers on the App Store that will keep time as well as track how many focus cycles you’ve done in a day. Tracking your productivity will encourage you to set goals for good habits, and the apps makes it easy to see whether you’re on track.
Make a list that you can actually achieve
While making a to-do list is important and is a great first step in making sure that you achieve all your goals for the day, many people find that if their list gets too long, things start to seem overwhelming, and they can get off track. One of the best ways that you can start your day is by making an overall to-do list, then separating off three tasks that you can get done right away. Put your larger to-do list aside, and just focus on getting those three tasks done. Then, once you achieve those, take another three off your list, and go from there.
Learn to say “no”
Many people, especially those with families or people who work in busy offices, put a priority on helpfulness over productivity. There are always people wanting to ask you questions, claiming that they’ll “only take two minutes,” but what people don’t realize is that two minutes is long enough to derail even the most productive person.
The next time someone tries to grab your attention, kindly but firmly tell them that you’ll get back to them as soon as you’re finish the task at hand. As long as you follow up, you’ll be forgiven.
Don’t procrastinate small tasks
It may be tempting to put off small tasks if you’re tired and just want to sit down at the end of a long day but try to always do that task in the moment if you think it can be done in two minutes or less. It’ll take longer for you to write it on a list than to just buckle down and do it, plus it’ll help clear your brain space to focus on larger tasks.
Listen to music that helps you focus
Many people find working with music beneficial, but if you’re listening to the radio or a playlist and a good song comes on, it can be really distracting. Aim to limit distractions by listening to music without lyrics, like classical or ambient music. There are even apps and services like Focus@Will, which curate different channels of ambient music designed around certain moods. There’s a monthly fee, but they claim that they help people focus four times more than usual with their specially designed playlists for every type of thinker and situation, so it may be worth trying out.
If a site or app is super distracting, block it
If you’re always distracted and continually get sidetracked checking social media or the news whenever you’re supposed to be working, it might be helpful to consider blocking some websites from your browser during work hours. There are certain browser extensions or apps that you can download that block websites like Facebook and Reddit from your devices while you’re working, or set limits on how long you can browse at a time. If you don’t let yourself get sucked in to what’s going on outside of your work space, you may find that you’re much more focused.
Work near natural light
Another way to help increase productivity and minimize distractions is to work near natural light. Natural sunlight regulates your body’s internal clock, helps promote a better sleep cycle, and helps us maintain a better quality of life. Once that’s removed, it only takes a week or two of working in a windowless room for people to feel irritable and foggy. Try and mitigate this by working near natural light at all times, or if you can’t, take regular breaks to stretch your legs and enjoy the sun outdoors.
Use a password keeper
Another thing that eats up our time and is completely unnecessary is memorizing passwords. It seems like nowadays every website requires a log-in, and they can get complex to try and remember. Instead of struggling to remember all of your different passwords, download an app or program like Keeper Password Manager or 1Password, which will do the work for you. Most of them offer a browser extension that will automatically insert the correct username and password whenever they come across a login page.
Get similar tasks done at the same time
Sometimes you’ll get on a roll, crossing off items from your to-do list left and right, when you get to a new item and it completely stumps you. Even if you eventually get it done, the blip in productivity can be disheartening, and it’s easy to give up after that.
Next time try grouping similar tasks together and accomplish them all at once. Folding laundry and cleaning out your closet are mutually compatible, as are tasks like tidying up and dusting. Once you’re on a roll with one, it’s easy to segue right into the next one, and you’ll finish in no time.
Try a stand-up meeting
This is more beneficial for a workplace setting, but the next time you find yourself bogged down in endless meetings that seem to be much more drawn out than they need to be, suggest that you do your next meeting or team check in standing up. If you discourage people from sitting down and getting cozy, chances are they’ll get to the point much faster.
Another way that you can make your life easier and more productive is to use templates for paperwork and documents that you reproduce again and again. Instead of building it from scratch every time, take a few minutes after you finish a version to erase everything but the bones of it, and save it to your computer as a template. This is a useful trick for everything from work documents to sick notes for your children. Just open, customize, and print!
While multi-tasking has been consistently praised in the past as a fantastic way to get a lot done in a short amount of time, more recently people have been taking a look at this habit and realizing that while we may get a lot done, often our work is incomplete, unfocused, and sloppy.
Forbes estimates that only about two percent of the population are effective multi-taskers. The rest of us aren’t able to refocus our brain that quickly, and thus produce sub-par work. Instead, focus on improving your time management.