Studies, like this one and this one, show that productivity and economic growth go hand in hand. When it comes to personal finances, productivity can lead to getting more done in less time, and thus, opening the door for more opportunities. This not only result in an increased chance for career advancements but also to a healthier and more fulfilling life. When you already feel so pressed for time, though, how could you possibly become any more productive? You might find the following ways to be more productive throughout your day helpful:
7 Ways to Be More Productive
Think about something you want, anything. It can be a new car or to learn a new hobby. Now consider all the possibilities of what may be preventing you from achieving such — a lack of money, perhaps, or being too exhausted at the end of the day that you can’t even fathom adding anything more to your plate? Increasing your productivity throughout your day may be your answer. Here are a few ways you can accomplish this:
1. Shorten Your To-Do List
It may feel counter-intuitive, but deep down you know that a longer list filled with more meaningless than meaningful details is only causing you to be more stressed and distracted.
What to do instead: Focus on the things that you know need done today (and worry about tomorrow’s to-do list tomorrow). If you do find yourself having a list full of necessary tasks that actually need completed, delegate more as you are able. This can include delegating chores at home more as well. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed. They say less is more for a reason, and that reason is productivity.
2. Multitask Less (And Prioritize More)
Using multitasking as a selling point during an interview may seem like a good idea, but research from Stanford University in recent years shows that it hurts your performance as well as potentially harming your brain, according to this October 8, 2014 article by Forbes contributing writer Travis Bradberry.
What to do instead: Take one task at a time, and work on the most important ones first. Prioritize your newly refined to-do list and see which items have an upcoming due date. It may also be helpful to complete the items that you know will take less time than those larger projects. Also, when you dedicate yourself to each task, try to make it a point to really commit to it and not become distracted.
3. Turn Off the Distractions
Speaking of distractions, one of the simplest ways to be more productive is by shutting off distractions around you. These distractions come in all shapes and forms; even people can cause interruptions.
What to do instead: When it comes to electronics, turn off your computer or phone when you’re not using them. If you need to keep your phone to be able to be reachable by family members and the like, put it across the room or somewhere out of reach that you are not glued to it for several minutes at a time. As you find articles that stand out to you while working on your computer, avoid reading them right away and save them for later like your lunch hour. If co-workers are the main culprit for taking you away from work, bring headphones that you can pop in when you want to stay on task instead of being drawn into gossip.
4. Time Block Your Tasks
While to-do lists are still valid and helpful, they can also lead us astray as you dive into your list each day. They do not allow for improved time management as much as we would like all the time.
What to do instead: Time-blocking is the process of scheduling out your tasks in dedicated time slots throughout the day. All you need to do is take your to-do list and place each item in a time slot on a calendar. You should also dedicate a time slot or slots to checking your emails, as constantly refreshing and looking at your inbox can also be a distraction throughout the day. This process solves that time-management issue many of us struggle with; not to mention, it is great for staying focused. To take this one step further and turn this concept into a daily habit, you can incorporate a timer to remind you to move on to the next project after each time slot.
5. Clean Your Workspace
A messy workspace likely means files and papers you regularly need are difficult to find. Working in disorganization like this can also be stressful and even cause you to waste money buying supplies that you did not realize you already had. A 2015 Harvard Business Review study found that people working at a messy desk are less efficient, less persistent, and more frustrated.
What to do instead: Keep the things you use everyday within a close proximity and get rid of unnecessary clutter. What papers or files can you discard today? Purchase some storage boxes and label files and folders as needed. If you don’t use it everyday, chances are, you can put it into storage. Make it a point to go through office items each quarter (at a minimum) to avoid an overwhelming accumulation throughout the year.
6. Plan Ahead As Much As Possible
If you start out each day not knowing where to start, you end up wasting time trying to figure it out. This includes packing your lunch and knowing what’s on the menu for dinner. How many times have you decided to make a certain meal only to find that you don’t have all the ingredients, causing you to make a trip to the grocery store or end up ordering out to eat? The good news is this can be avoided.
What to do instead: Pre-plan these important parts of your day as much as possible. This can be as effortless as putting leftovers into a container for tomorrow’s lunch. This will prevent you from forgetting to pack your lunch in the morning and, ultimately, save you money from ordering out.
Additionally, determine your work lists the day before so that you’re not worrying about what you’ll be doing. By planning ahead, you’ll be able to hit the ground running at the start of each day.
7. Take Breaks
There is only so much you can do in a day and only so much your mind can handle. There comes a point when you start to move slower and have a hard time working through problems due to mental exhaustion. In a March 5, 2016 WorkLifeHub article, Philip Masterson writes that not taking breaks leads to burn out, losing sight of your goals, and even weight gain, among symptoms.
What to do instead: When you find yourself at a mental roadblock, pull yourself away from work for a moment or two. Go for a brief walk, take a break to exercise (if possible), go get some tea or coffee, or simply meditate. Relax your brain and break up the monotony so that you can find the fresh perspective you need to stay on top of work.
These are just some of the ways to be more productive throughout your day, but these little tweaks can make a world of difference. Remember to also get a good night’s sleep and eat right as health and nutrition play a large role in our productivity too.