Who better to write about this than someone who has struggled with productivity but has also figured out how to break out of that struggle? Nobody. So we’re in luck.
I’ve always managed to get my work done on time. But that journey from Point A to Point B has generally looked a lot more like an explosion than a neat, diagonal line between the two. But little by little, I’ve been able to build a work-life defined more by efficiency and less by procrastination.
Here are my top five productivity tips for you to do the same right now.
A Time-Waster’s Guide to Stop Wasting Time
Download Time-Tracking Software
Stop what you’re doing and download Toggl now. (Well, finish reading this please and then download it.)
When I don’t realize how much I’m wasting my time, all is well. I remain in the fantasyland of distraction running through my head—or on my phone screen—and don’t give too much thought to the work I should be doing. But when I know I’m wasting my time, that’s a different story. I hate wasting my time. And the easiest way for me to put my money where my mouth is and stay accountable, is with a time-tracking app.
Apps like Toggl allow you to be more productive at work and less stressed. It automatically tracks your daily activities and provides you reports on your work and projects through an app or browser extension. You’ll thank yourself later for downloading when you see how much time you save. Remember: Work smarter, not harder.
Take Short, Planned Breaks
We have our standard breaks – lunch… (wait, is that it?) – but we aren’t robots. And humans simply do not have the attention span to sit and focus on one thing for eight or more hours a day. We need breaks.
Attempting to grind non-stop on one piece of work throughout the day will result in a day of lackluster levels of productivity. Instead, take a more focused approach to work. Plan time to look at social media, go on walks, make phone calls, check email, and other things that take you away from high-intensity projects so that your focus is sharper when you are working.
I’ve learned that planning non-work time is just as important as planning work time. Try working in 90-minute intervals with breaks in between. This is an undervalued aspect of time management that can fundamentally improve and increase your productivity at work.
We used to highly value the ability to juggle multiple tasks at once. But then we learned something—multitasking not only erodes productivity, but it can even decrease your level of performance across all projects. Focus on one thing at a time. When that’s finished, move on to the next thing. Or, if it isn’t finished, take a complete break from it and come back to it later. But don’t work on two things at once.
Make To-Do Lists
I might be the world’s number one to-do list advocate. Every day before work, I hand-write a list of each task that needs to be completed. This includes important tasks like a client deliverable, but it also includes personal tasks, like going for a run. Each time I’m able to cross off an item on my list, the sense of accomplishment drives me to continue crossing things out. I love ending the day with a fully crossed-out checklist. It might be nothing more than a mind trick, but in terms of productivity, it’s a game-changer.
Build a Proper Work Environment
Overcoming procrastination can sometimes simply mean ensuring you have a place you like to work. Dreading your workspace isn’t the best formula for a productive workday, especially when working from home.
We don’t all have the luxury of a home office, but you can start by formally separating your work area from your leisure area. If you hang out with your family on the living room couches, work from the kitchen table instead. Refrain from writing from your bed. Try not to have the dog on your lap while you churn out code.
I like going to a local coffee shop to get work done because my mind knows that I’m there specifically for work. When I stay at home, I stick to my desk because I know that my desk equals work time.
Different things work for different people. Music is good for some, terrible for others. Some people swear by coffee, others hate it. Experiment with different productivity ideas in addition to the above list. Staying productive doesn’t have to be a constant battle with a proactive and strategic personal approach.