Productivity is the constant watchword of the workplace. No matter where you are or what you do, one of the most important things about working is making sure that you’re as productive as possible. Now, when we say that, we don’t mean just churning out work non-stop. That’s not productivity, that’s indiscriminate production. Productivity is about being in the best possible state to produce good work at a good rate without overloading yourself. Obviously it isn’t a total breeze to achieve this state, or you wouldn’t be reading an article on how to be more productive. However, there absolutely are ways to cultivate a manner of working that means both you and the work you do can flourish.
Identify a problem
The first step to fixing any problem is recognizing what the problem is. If you’ve realized that you’re not productive enough, you need to identify why exactly you’re struggling. After all, it’s not going to do you any good to create six perfectly organized notebooks for each of your different projects if the problem is that you’re not getting any sleep. Perhaps you take too many breaks. Perhaps you let yourself get lost in admin, or spend too much time thinking about what to do instead of doing it. Each of these is a different bar to productivity, and requires a different solution. Trying to fix problems of productivity without a good idea of what your problems actually are is only going to leave you tilting at windmills. Take a step back and think hard about what exactly it is that’s holding you back. Once you’ve figured out what it is, you can start attacking the problem in earnest.
When you find yourself being unproductive, it can be tempting to go into overdrive and start tackling every task you have at once, in an effort to make sure the work gets done. This is an extremely counterproductive way to work. Trying to split your focus between a large number of tasks is going to make you slower, less precise and frankly, more stressed than you were in the first place. Taking each task one at a time, and giving it your full focus, will mean that you get it finished much faster and – most importantly – will help maintain the quality of your work. It’s vital to keep the number of active tasks you have down to an absolute minimum, so you can give each one your full attention.
Form positive habits
It’s hard to be productive if the habits you’ve gotten yourself into leave you hard-wired to be distracted and unfocused. Snacking, daydreaming, chatting, taking too many breaks – all of these can be almost reflexive actions that cost you more time than you would ever realize. Obviously you’re just a human, so you can’t – and shouldn’t – try to cut these things out of your life entirely. For instance, breaks are an excellent way to cool off when feeling overwhelmed, give your brain a little rest, and leave you ready to resume your work with gusto. However, a structured approach to breaks could actually make you more productive, as it cuts out an excess of time lost while helping you to stay feeling energized and on top of things. Forming good habits is an excellent way of gearing yourself towards a sustainable model of productivity.
Organize your work
Know what you need to do. That might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by just how many people meander around their tasks without any direction – which cuts productivity down harshly. Make sure that you know what needs doing and when, so that you can properly organize your tasks, and sort out what you’re going to give priority to. It’s important to tackle priorities early in the day, for instance. It’s a bad idea to do easy jobs first, and then focus on bigger or more important ones later in the day when you start flagging. Tactically organizing your tasks can actually help you get more work done while making things easier – increasing productivity without overwhelming yourself.