Do you often find your days flying out of control? You plan daily to complete so much work but get distracted from your goal and start focusing on a low priority task or tend to delay the work. Do you want to regain control over your time? Do you want to get more productive in your work?
If yes, the right productivity method can make a huge difference in your work. A distraction-less workflow can take you from feeling unfocused and unproductive to feeling in control, efficient in your work, and prepared to take bigger projects.
There are several ways to follow, and many new methods are being developed and shared all the time. As we know this is not one size fits all kind of thing, you need to try several techniques to find the best one for you to improve your productivity and become more efficient at what you do. With thousands of articles available across the internet about productivity, it can be very time consuming, which you should be using to get the things done.
To help you with this, we have arranged a complete productivity guide and listed some of the most powerful productivity methods in one place.
Before we start, we need to understand the definition of productivity:
What is Productivity?
In simple words, productivity is a measure of the efficiency of a person to complete a task. Often, people assume that productivity is getting more things done every day. But, it is to get the important tasks done consistently and efficiently. And, no matter what you are working on, you always have other important things to do.
Being productive means maintaining a steady speed on most of the important things and not maximum speed on all things.
Why Productivity Matters?
The more productive you are, the more efficient and faster you will complete your tasks. With this, you will complete more work each day, and you will be left with more time, which you can utilize to focus on other tasks. With more productivity, you will be able to move towards your goal faster.
What are the Benefits of being Productive?
Productivity defines your living standards. With more free time, you can earn more. Improve your productivity by using various methods because it matters most in the end. When you work efficiently on the right things, you get better results and have better growth. Here are three additional benefits of improving productivity:
In an article called ‘Self Confidence for Competence,’ Bernice Milburn Moore shared how competencies boost your self-confidence. The better you are at something, the more self-confident you become. With better productivity, you can develop more competencies. This leads to improved self-confidence.
2. Better Engagement
The more passionate and involved you are about your work, the higher is the level of work engagement.
Some Common Challenges in Productivity
Before discussing the techniques to improve productivity, you need to understand the common challenges in productivity. If you don’t address these challenges, no method to improve productivity will benefit you.
The modern-day workplaces have several distracting places. In any office building, you can see many people in meeting rooms, drinking coffee, walking around, or chatting about the football game last night. Moreover, we carry the biggest distraction in our pocket that continuously beeps to grab the attention. As a result, we get interrupted every five minutes due to one reason or another.
2. Personal Reasons
Many people work for 10 hours a day or even more, leaving only a little time to spare in the evening. As a result, we hardly get time for all personal demands like family, relationships, paying bills, groceries, working out, etc.
3. Lack of Training
Everyone wants to stay focused at work and calm in personal life. There is a huge need to make a work-life balance. We don’t consider productivity as a skill that we can learn when it can be learned through proper training.With productivity improvement techniques, all these challenges can be solved. We need to understand what is standing in our way to become the most productive. For most people, the above three challenges are reasons for low productivity.
How to Improve Productivity?
- Stop Complaining About the Amount of Work You have
People complain when they feel powerless to get what they want. Complaining is an excuse for not doing anything to resolve the situation. So, before you talk about the situation, you should analyze the complaints.
“Nobody wants to help you when you keep complaining” – Stephen Hawking
Everyone looks for people who can positively impact their lives and inspire them to do better. If someone keeps complaining about the problems, they have a negative outlook on the situation.
Generally, we spend five hours every day on daily routine tasks, like household chores, getting ready, working out, eating, etc. With a full-time job, we cannot complete everything we planned for the day. So, how to manage the time better to do most work without complaining?
- Don’t overload your daily schedule.
- Work on important tasks.
- Take the daily routine tasks into account.
- While working, don’t think of the pending tasks. Just focus on the current task.
- Thinking about other tasks will drain your mental energy. Complete one task and switch to another.
- Be busy, and don’t stress or complain about it.
- Eliminate Unimportant Activities
The most productive people regularly evaluate their tasks and check what tasks they can eliminate as their main focus is on results. They understand that success is not about the number of tasks you complete but the significance of completing the task. You can:
- Multiply your time by evaluating everything you need to do in a day with eliminating mindset.
- Cut yourself off from unnecessary distractions, like games, Netflix, or TV, and prepare yourself for an effective mode of working.
- Organize and prioritize the tasks that are important and need to be completed to fulfill urgent commitments.
“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is urgent is seldom important” – Dwight Eisenhower
To understand this further, you can follow the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize your tasks based on their importance and urgency. Eisenhower’s strategy of organizing and prioritizing the tasks, and taking actions are very simple to understand. This can be understood further using the decision matrix. You can separate the tasks based on four possibilities:
- Urgent and Important: Tasks that you need to complete immediately
- Important and not Urgent: Tasks that you can schedule for later
- Urgent and not Important: Tasks that you can delegate to someone else
- Not Urgent and not Important: Tasks that you can eliminate
Urgent tasks are those that you feel the need to react to phone calls, texts, emails, or news stories. According to Brett McKay, important tasks are those that contribute to our long-term mission, goals, and values.
Separating these tasks is simple, and continuing doing this can be very tough. The Eisenhower matrix provides a clear framework for making decisions repeatedly. The hardest part of this strategy is maintaining consistency.
- Use 80/20 Rule
Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, stated the 80/20 rule. According to this rule, 80% of the results in any situation will come from 20% of the efforts. Highly productive people:
- Try to identify the most important 20% of their work to maximize efficiency and results.
- Find ways to cut down the other 80% tasks in their schedule.
- Dedicate more time to the things that make more impact.
You can also implement this rule in your daily schedule to improve your productivity. The 80/20 rule by Pareto will help you focus. Now, you just need to take the right action to resolve your problems.
4. Lack of Training
The famous investor and the billionaire Warren Buffet introduced a 2-list strategy to maximize the focus and mastering the priorities. The method uses a simple 3-step productivity strategy to master your priorities. This method can be very useful for making decisions and make yourself committed to doing one thing right away.
Let’s understand the famous strategy through a story:
Mike Flint was the personal airplane pilot of Buffet for 10 years. Once, he was talking about his career priorities with Warren Buffett. He asked Flint to go through a 3-step exercise. The 3-step strategy is:
Buffett asked Flint to write down the top 25 career goals. Flint took some time and listed down what he was asked to do. You can also list your own goals for a short timeline. You can write 25 things you want to accomplish next month or week.
Buffett then asked him to review the list and circle top goals. Flint, again, took some time and made his way through the list. He circled his top 5 most important goals. If you are following the same strategy, you need to pause right now and complete these two steps before you move to the third step.
At this point, Flint has prepared two different lists. List A, where he had circles 5 items and List B with the remaining 20 items. Buffett asked him to work on List A with five goals right away. Buffett asked Flint about the second list, where he didn’t circle.
Flint replied that the five goals that he circled are his primary focus, but the other 20 are in a close second. These are still important, but he said he would work on these alternately as he sees fit as these are not urgent. He still plans to dedicate efforts to these tasks.
Buffett replied to this, “You got it wrong. Whatever you didn’t circle, just became your avoid list. You won’t give any attention to these 20 tasks until you succeed in the top 5.”
5. Implement Ivy Lee Method for Daily Routine to Improve Productivity
This is a simple and straightforward productivity strategy. Complete your most important tasks first every day. Let’s understand this method through a story:
In 1918, one of the richest people in the world, Charles M. Schwab, arranged a one-on-one with Ivy Lee, an in-demand productivity consultant, to increase his team’s efficiency and find a better way to get things done. Lee asked for 15 minutes with every executive. Schwab asked what it would cost him. Lee said that he would not charge anything unless it works. He further said to send the paycheck after three months for whatever amount he will feel worth for the work.
Ivy Lee Method
What did Lee discuss with each executive during his 15 minutes? Lee simply explained his daily routine to achieve high productivity:
- At the end of each day, list-down the most important tasks that you need to complete the next day. Don’t list more than six tasks every day.
- Prioritize these tasks in order of their importance.
- When you arrive at work the next day, only concentrate on the first task. Until the first task is incomplete, don’t move to the second.
- Approach the remaining tasks in the list the same way. At the end of the day, move the unfinished task to the list for the next day.
- Repeat the same process every day.
The approach sounded very simple. Schwab and his team of executives at Bethlehem Steel started to implement it. After three months, Schwab was so overwhelmed with his company’s progress that he called Ivy Lee into his office phone and gifted him a check worth $25,000. The check is equivalent to more than a $400,000 check today. The Ivy Lee method to prioritize the to-do list appears very simple. But, how could something that simple be worth such a huge amount?
How is this method effective in improving productivity?
- It is simple to work: The primary evaluation of the method shows that it is too basic, and it doesn’t account for all the nuances and complexities of life. The method doesn’t explain what one should do in case any emergency arises. Complexity is often considered a weakness, as it makes it difficult to return on track. And, you can handle emergencies and unexpected distractions when required to and return to the prioritized list as soon as possible. Just use simple rules to guide complex behavior.
- Ivy Lee’s method forces you to make tough decisions: You can even keep five tasks per day. However, when you have too many things to do, it is best to trim the list and eliminate everything that isn’t necessary. Limitations can make you better. The method is similar to Warren Buffett’s 2-list strategy that requires you to focus on five critical tasks only and ignore everything else. When you are committed to nothing, you will be distracted by everything.
- It removes Friction of Starting: The biggest obstacle to accomplishing most tasks is to start working on them. Getting out of your bed can be hard, but as soon as you start to run, it will be easier to complete the workout. The method forces you to decide your first task a day before. The strategy can be helpful as you will know what you need to do as soon as you reach work, and you won’t have to think where you should start your work.
- You can focus on a single task at a time: Multitasking is what everyone is running towards. However, with fewer priorities, you can concentrate better and complete one task sooner. Excellent experts from every field have one thing in common – focus. You can’t focus on multiple tasks at one time as you will be dividing your time into different tasks simultaneously.
6. Avoid Multitasking – Fewer Priorities Results in Better Work
The word priority means different today. Greg McKeown explained how the meaning of the word ‘priority’ has changed over time in his best-selling book, Essentialism. In the English language, the word came into existence in the 1400s. It was initially singular and meant the very first or priority thing. The word stayed singular for over five centuries until in the 1900s when it was pluralized when people started talking about priorities.
Illogically, everyone has started to believe that we can bend reality by changing the word into plural form. Now, we believe in having multiple first things. While we try to prioritize multiple things, in actuality, nothing gets the priority.
We need to understand that multitasking is a myth. We can only focus on one thing at a time. While we think we are multitasking, in reality, we are forcing the brain to switch back and forth from one task to another very quickly. This won’t be a problem if our brains could transition from one task to another seamlessly, but the truth is it can’t. When the brain switches from one task to the next, we are forcing the brain to pay a mental price, known as switching cost in psychology terms. It is a disruption in performance due to the switching of attention between multiple tasks.
A study published in the Journal of Information Management found that generally, a person checks the phone every 5 minutes, and it takes approximately 64 seconds for the brain to resume the previous task after this distraction.
One can say a phone can typically waste at least one out of every six minutes. Hence, it can be rightly said that doing more things doesn’t bring out better and faster results, but doing better things brings better results. When you do just one thing, you will be driving better results.
7. Stop Procrastination
Have you ever struggled with how to stop procrastinating? Almost everyone has struggled with this at some point in time.
It can feel good at that moment, but there is a long-term cost of the short-term delay. It can take a toll on our emotional, physical, and financial health and, in the end, our productivity. Don’t let procrastination take over your life.
You can follow the following steps to eliminate procrastination in your work:
- Breakdown big tasks into small
- Change your working environment
- Create a detailed timeline with specific deadlines
- Eliminate procrastination pit stops
- Get yourself organized
- Share your goal with others
- Avoid distractions
- Reward yourself for achieving small goals
Follow the above steps to stop procrastinating as it can affect your productivity badly.
8. Manage Energy and not Time
If you invest some time thinking about the tasks, you will realize that some tasks are better done at a certain time. Evaluate the amount of energy required to complete the task and arrange them according to the energy levels you will be having at different times of the day. You will have the most energy during the day, and you can complete those tasks that require high energy in the morning. You can leave tasks that require very low energy to the end of the day.
9. Prepare night before
Spend a few minutes of your time every night to organize your to-do list for the next day. It will hardly take 10-15 minutes of your time and save hours of your work the next day.
10. Avoid using your Phone
Phones are the biggest distractions. Avoid using your phone. You can turn your phone off, leave it with your colleague, or place it out of sight. When your phone is away from you, you are eliminating the urge to check Facebook, WhatsApp, text messages, Instagram, or any such thing. This will reduce the likeliness of slipping into half work where your attention is divided towards unproductive things.
Carefully evaluate your daily activities and look for the tasks or things that you can eliminate, delegate, and prioritize to gain control of your daily schedule. You need to determine the challenges that are resulting in reduced productivity before you use any technique to improve your productivity. When you have figured out the reasons for low productivity, you can use the methods that fit best for you and regain control of your productive self.
Winners don’t do different things. They do things differently. – Shiv Khera