Productivity Tips – Be More Productive With Less Effort
Every one of us is gifted the same twenty-four hours every day. It’s how you use those hours, though, that makes all the difference in your own productivity.
Work productivity is not the same as being busy or doing as much as possible in a short period of time. In fact, experts define productivity as being actively engaged in meaningful work, whereas the quality of output is equal to or greater than the amount of time spent on it.
Being productive is using your time wisely to create high-quality output while being free of time-wasting distractions or interruptions.
If you are like many people, implementing some key productivity tips and time management techniques may be all that it takes for you to reach new heights in your professional life.
That is why I am sharing my best productivity-boosting tips that are simple enough for you to implement today.
Organize Your Daily Tasks With a To-Do List
Create a master list with all of the tasks you need to accomplish to reach your goals. You will then base your daily to-do lists on these tasks as well as the daily personal and work-related tasks you need to accomplish.
Whether you keep your “to-do list” in a notebook, on a calendar, or on an app for your phone, writing down the tasks that you need to complete is an excellent way to keep yourself organized and become more productive.
There is simply something about writing down a list of tasks that makes a person more motivated to complete them and scratch them off the list one by one. When a to-do list is in your head it is little more than something to stress over. When a to-do list is written down, though, it becomes a plan of action.
Write Your List the Day Before
Before you end each workday, plan ahead by writing down your to-do list for the next day. Check off the things you accomplished today and determine which of the same tasks or other tasks need to be done tomorrow.
Planning out the next day’s work ahead of time in this manner allows you to prepare your mind for the upcoming work and also enables you to dive right into your to-do list the moment the workday starts.
Alternatively, you can spend a few moments before you go to bed making or reviewing your to-do list. As you sleep, your subconscious mind can actually start working on new ideas and help solve complex problems that will improve productivity throughout the day.
Prioritize Your To-Do List
Once your list is created, rank your items in the order you plan to complete them. Put a number one next to your first task, a two by your next task, and so on until all of your items are ordered.
The timing of some of your tasks will be dictated by items already scheduled for you throughout the day, such as meetings, appointments, a lunch break, and conference calls.
Time management of other items will be up to you, so here is where you will apply important productivity hacks. One of the most crucial productivity strategies I can recommend is to begin your day with your most important tasks first.
Tackle the Most Important Task First
If you are able to complete your most crucial task right out of the gate, you are then able to continue your day knowing that the worst is behind you rather than spending the day stressing about a task you may be dreading.
I call this productivity tip eating that frog. If you eat that frog first thing, the rest of the day can only be better.
Given that stress and worry are the enemies of productivity, tackling the toughest task on your to-do list first-thing is an effective way to become more productive.
Important tasks are those that have a tight deadline and are either due that day or soon after. If each of your tasks has equally important deadlines, the most essential task is the one that will get you closest to achieving your most important life goals.
Your first task of the day might also be one that someone else is waiting for you to complete so they can take the next step in a project or do the next thing on their to-do list.
Group Similar Tasks Together
I also recommend task batching, a time management technique in which you group related tasks together to be completed within the same time frame.
You might group similar tasks by the level of effort they take, the type of actions you need to perform, or by the project.
Task batching increases productivity by minimizing context switching. Context switching is what your brain has to do when you go from one task to another task.
Research reveals that it can take your brain an average of 23 minutes to refocus productively on a task once you are interrupted. That is a lot of time wasted.
The benefits of grouping similar tasks together include deeper work productivity and heightened levels of focus. People who task batch are less stressed, less frustrated, and require a lower mental workload to be productive. This productivity strategy saves the amount of time you spend working on one task and decreases burnout.
Break Up Large Projects Into Bite-Sized Tasks
Having big projects looming over you can feel overwhelming and lead to procrastination. Instead of looking at large projects as ominous, break them into small tasks that you can tackle one at a time.
Start at the beginning and determine what needs to be completed first. Schedule out the remaining tasks so they will all be completed by the deadline. Giving yourself a few days or weeks to complete a large creative project will reduce stress and help you feel productive each day you are checking off the smaller tasks.
Start Early on Your Most Dreaded Task
Just as big projects can throw us into a productivity pit of procrastination, dreaded tasks are even worse. We can tend to put them off for long periods of time, telling ourselves over and over that we’ll do them later.
The problem that arises all too often is we spend more hours worrying about being productive on these tasks than we actually spend completing them. The stress that results lowers our productivity and impacts our mental and physical health.
Instead of putting off tasks you do not want to do, discipline yourself to get them out of the way immediately and challenge yourself even to complete them a day ahead of schedule.
Use the productivity strategy of setting deadlines to your advantage. Few things are more motivating than deadlines, and you can take advantage of this by setting realistic, self-imposed time limits on the tasks you need to complete.
If you are able to treat these time limits with all of the seriousness that you would treat an official deadline, then your productivity is sure to benefit.
Learn to Say ‘No’
Nothing kills your productivity quite like biting off way more than you can chew. Overcommitting to more work than you are actually able to complete leads only to stress and worry — which can make it difficult to complete any work at all.
While you don’t want to sell yourself short on the amount of work you can complete in a given time, you also want to avoid taking on more than you can handle. It’s a fine balance, but an important one to find if you want to be at your most productive.
Protect Your Priorities
So how do you know what to say no to without letting coworkers down, limiting your opportunities at work, or disappointing loved ones?
The key is to know what your priorities are. Your priorities are the things you value most in life and ideally they are directly related to your life goals.
If one of your main goals is to save money for a down payment on a house by the end of the year, and you have determined it will take a certain amount of extra earnings each week to do so, then you must say no to extra requests that pull you away from your income earning goal.
If your goal is to submit your first novel to a publisher in two months, then you must prioritize and devote your most productive hours to writing and ask for the support of family and friends while you focus on the important tasks you need to accomplish.
Take the time to ponder what your priorities are and write them down your priorities. Highly productive people have a clear vision of where they are headed based on their values, and they set and take action daily on goals that will get them there.
Delegate Tasks to Others
Another way to manage your productivity when you have too many tasks or responsibilities is to delegate work to other team members.
Determine which tasks require your specific talents, knowledge, and skills and which can just as easily be completed by others. It may be difficult at first to delegate to others, but both you and your team members can benefit from using this productivity booster.
When you give a responsibility to another person, it gives them the opportunity to learn new skills, form new ideas, and grow their knowledge base. In turn, it allows you to devote your most productive time to the tasks that make the best use of your unique abilities.
Delegating is usually a win-win situation for everyone involved when it is done equitably and strategically.
If you need to pay someone for taking on your work, your increased productivity inevitably makes up for extra money spent on wages and initial time on training.
While multitasking may seem like an easy way to boost your productivity, it tends to end up accomplishing the exact opposite purpose. Any time you split your attention between multiple tasks, both your productivity and the quality of your work are sure to suffer.
Stanford University research shows that not only does multitasking decrease productivity, but it also increases stress, negatively affects your mood, and decreases motivation.
When you multitask, your attention is divided between two or more tasks, never giving full attention or deep thought to one task. This lack of concentration makes it more difficult to process information efficiently or even to fully understand what you are listening to, reading, writing, or doing.
As a result, you are prone to make more mistakes, decreasing your quality of output and costing you precious time and effort correcting errors or worse.
Multitasking also makes it difficult or impossible to remember things because you are never really concentrating on the information in the first place.
Instead of multitasking, give one task your full attention until it is completed before moving on to the next. You will find your productivity and your quality of life both increase.
Recognize Your Productivity Peaks and Valleys
We all have a natural rhythm that determines when we are most alert and therefore most productive.
Many people are at their most productive in the early morning hours. Others, though, may do their best work late at night or in the middle of the afternoon. Determine when you personally are at your most productive and use those hours to their full advantage.
You can use several different techniques to find out if you are a morning person or a night owl, such as productivity tools or tracking your time and activities over a week or month to see what patterns develop.
Chances are, however, you probably know if you prefer to wake up early or stay up late, and you can tell when your energy lags during the day or evening.
Schedule your most intense and analytical tasks during your most productive hours and save menial or mind-numbing things for when your energy and focus usually lag.
Follow a Schedule
Based on your productivity peaks and valleys, create a daily and weekly schedule and follow it. Creating a schedule helps prevent you from wasting time, allows you to set aside time for your most important duties, helps prevent procrastination, and allows you to set realistic expectations of what you can complete during the day.
Many people are most productive when they schedule specific times to make phone calls and answer emails. As these items can tend to cause numerous interruptions throughout the day, it is often best to schedule a block of time in the morning, afternoon, and evening when you will attend to them.
This practice also helps you take advantage of grouping similar items together and avoid the pitfalls of multitasking. Following a regular schedule also helps you establish a routine and create structure and discipline in your life, which are also keys to productivity.
Give Yourself Regular Breaks
When writing your schedule, it is important to add regular breaks throughout the day. Although taking time away from work may seem as though it would make you less productive, breaks actually increase productivity.
If you have a desk job or sit in front of a screen for the majority of your day, getting up to walk around increases blood flow and reenergizes tired muscles.
A break away from your work helps you retain the information you have been concentrating on as well as allow new ideas to flow into your mind.
Make your breaks productive by moving around, rehydrating, or eating a healthy snack. Even a microbreak can be productive. When you find your energy waning or your mind wandering, close your eyes for one minute or stretch for 20 seconds.
Experts have different opinions on how often you should take a break during work, so experiment to find out what works best for you. While some say the most productive people work for about an hour and take a 15-minute break, others suggest working 75 to 90 minutes before resting.
Prioritize Your Health
The healthier you are, the more productive you can be. Healthy individuals are less likely to get sick and have to miss work or suffer from ailments that keep them performing at their best.
Healthy people are generally happier and able to strike a good work-life balance. This means they can devote highly productive focus during work time while looking forward to personal time after hours.
Nurture Your Personal Life
Devoting time to your family and your personal interests improves your mental health. When you are taking the time to nurture relationships with the people who are most important to you, you are less likely to be distracted by worries or feelings of guilt that you are not spending enough time with them.
When you create your daily and weekly schedules, make time for loved ones at meal times, in the morning and evening, and on the weekends when you are away from the office. Do not bring your work home whenever possible. Remember that more time spent working does not equate to productive accomplishments.
Nurture your personal interests as well, such as hobbies and activities you enjoy. Feeling fulfilled outside of work makes it easier for you to be productive when you are on the clock.
Get Regular Physical Exercise
Staying active is also key to being healthy and staying productive. Many people enjoy starting their day with exercise first thing in the morning. It enhances your energy levels, makes you feel calmer during the day, and can improve your ability to focus.
Regular exercise helps you maintain good posture, which is important for your energy levels when sitting at a desk or standing for long periods during the day.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
While small, regular breaks during the day enhance your mental well-being, sometimes longer breaks are needed — like a long weekend off or a full vacation. Be sure to make full use of the vacation days that are built into your benefits. Taking time away from work allows you to feel refreshed, gain a new perspective, and increase your productivity at work.
If you are self-employed, you must give yourself time off regularly as well. It can be tempting to work around the clock when you work from home or at your own place of business. But remember to delegate and to schedule time away so you can be more productive with the time you set aside for building your business as well as enjoy the success you are creating.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is a crucial component of your productivity. When you are sleep deprived, your brain is not able to function at its full capacity. This leads to increased errors and sluggish performance.
Protect your sleeping hours so that you can come to work refreshed and rejuvenated. Sleep experts recommend most adults get at least seven hours of sleep for optimal well-being and health.
Getting enough sleep will restore your brain function and allow you to be fully alert and engaged at work.
Get Rid of Distractions
Today, we live in a world that offers up one interruption and distraction after the other. If you want to be as productive as possible, it’s essential to eliminate as many of these interruptions as possible.
To work efficiently, turn off distractions from your devices that tend to waste time, such as social media and email notifications. Reduce the pop-up notifications on your computer to only the essential, time-sensitive ones.
When needed, close yourself off in a room and – if you are able – leave your phone in another room. Take whatever steps you can to minimize distractions from your environment so that all that is left is you and the work that needs to be completed.
Improving Productivity When Working Remotely
Today, the modern workplace is a home office for many. As such, it takes special skill and attention to create a distraction-free work environment.
Make your family or housemates aware of your work schedule and ask them to minimize interruptions when you are working, choosing instead to talk to you during your breaks.
If you prefer the hubbub of a coffee shop or shared workspace to do your work, be sure the activities of others around you do not keep you from being productive.
Recent research shows that productivity can increase by 77% by working from home since the pandemic as more people discover the value remote work has in boosting productivity and overall well-being.
Use Email Management Tips and Productivity Tools
To reduce the time emails take away from your day, unsubscribe from lists or newsletters you do not read, or send them directly to a folder so they do not crowd your inbox.
Practice the one-minute rule when answering emails to save time: If will take a minute or less to answer an email, do it right away.
Use smartphone apps to organize your daily and weekly tasks. Take advantage of productivity tools that help you manage distractions, organize your calendar, and manage projects.
Keep a Clean Space
A tidy workspace promotes productivity by keeping you organized so you do not waste time trying to find important documents or supplies. Often our environment influences our state of mind as well. When your work area is clean and organized, your mind feels more organized and efficient as well.
Practice the Two Minute Rule
Productivity consultant David Allen created the two-minute rule to increase productivity levels. The rule states that if something takes you less than two minutes, then do it now.
Following this rule decreases procrastination and efficiently checks off more items from your to-do lists. It can take more willpower to force yourself to get things done when it is more tempting to put them off, but doing so will decrease the amount of time you feel stressed or feel overwhelmed from having too much on your plate.
Start Giving Yourself More Time With These Productivity Tips
I hope you will use the productivity strategies to help you increase your success at work as well as personally. Find the ones that work the best for you and begin today to increase your productivity. And to help you get an extra boost, download my free Personal Development Plan Template to help you optimize your success and achieve your goals.
About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.