“Productivity isn’t about being a workhorse, keeping busy or burning the midnight oil. It’s more about priorities, planning, & fiercely protecting your time ” – Margarita Tartovsky
We all get the same 24 hours with each day. Yet some people managed to seamlessly get so many things done in a day while others struggle to get even a few things done. Why is that, you asked? The ‘trick’ lies in how we each use the time that we have been given.
Fortunately for us, productivity is no rocket science and there are plenty of simple yet effective things we can do, or in this case, stop doing in order to make the most out of each day.
To start, here’s a list of 5 things you can work on minimizing in order to effectively increase your productivity and get more things done:
1. Working on the easy tasks first
Most of us have a tendency to cross off the easiest tasks when we are just starting out the day. However, if you are serious about increasing your productivity, you’ve got to start tackling the hardest tasks during the first hours of your day.
Generally, our peak of performance occurs in the mornings so don’t waste that focus and energy on menial tasks. As psychologist Dan Ariely found, we tend to be most productive in the first two hours after becoming fully awake. Knowing this, be sure to prioritize the most challenging project/ tasks. As we also tend to delay working on things we believe to be difficult, by making our most challenging tasks a priority, we significantly reduce the chance of that pesky (and often inevitable) procrastination!
Once you get it done, you can move on to less challenging tasks and you’ll finish the day with a more satisfied and accomplished feeling knowing that you did everything you’ve set out to do. As George Lorimer, a renowned American journalist & author said ‘Wake up with determination and go to bed with satisfaction.’
I’ve shared my former love of multi-tasking in a previous post (Staying Focused Amidst Chaos) and I must admit that this one tough habit to quit.
Though it may seem that you’re saving time by doing several tasks at a time, studies show that it can actually reduce your productivity by up to 40%!
As tempting as it is to get more than one task at a time, you’re much better off focusing your attention on single-tasking. This way, you are more likely to not only to get it done quicker, the results of your efforts will likely to be of a higher quality!
3. Constantly checking emails and/or social media
Gone were the days that I would check new emails as soon as they hit my inbox. So is my habit of constant checking of social media accounts.
Unless your job actually demands that you check each email (customer service agents etc.) or social media (social media managers) post as soon as they’re received or shared, there is definitely no need for it as it can be a huge distraction and fuels procrastination.
Instead, schedule short sessions dedicated to checking emails and social media into your calendar at the beginning of your workday, the middle of it and at the end. This way, you’re still getting around to responding to important emails and messages in a timely manner. Better yet, it will help to curb the time you spend on them so you have more time to spend on the main tasks of the day.
4. Striving for perfection
Type A personalities are likely to refute and immediately dismiss this tip. As a ‘recovering’ perfectionist myself, I can totally relate. That said, over the years, I’ve become more convinced that perfectionism is actually a ‘trap’.
While there’s nothing wrong with setting the bar high and giving everything you do your very best, perfectionism is far beyond that. It’s about setting excessively high-performance standards often accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and high concerns regarding others’ opinions.
So, when we drill it into our heads that we need to achieve perfection in order for anything we do and/or create to have any value, we end up encouraging our fear. We shrink our creativity and our enthusiasm to innovate. We become plagued with fear, terrified to create anything new or different.
More importantly, even if we managed to muster up enough courage to start something, we’re likely to not follow through or to complete it.
Give each task the very best you can and once it’s done, believe that it’s good enough. Striving for perfection is a waste of time as it takes away time and energy on everything else you’ve got to get done.
5. Not taking breaks
We’ve all had those hectic days where we skipped lunch to chase a deadline or two and it’s completely understandable. However, we must make sure that it doesn’t become a habit.
We’re not robots nor are we built like robots – and that’s a good thing. That said, we need to act accordingly. Be kind to yourself and don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion day in and day out because no matter how much you love your job, you will ultimately burn out.
Give yourself a much-needed break throughout the work day (in addition to your lunch break) even if it’s just 5-10 minutes to clear your head.
Take a quick walk outside, brew yourself some fresh coffee or check-in with your loved ones. Whatever you do, choose to do something that gives you joy (and not work related), you’ll find yourself feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the remainder of your to-do list with more energy & focus!